Everything you need to know about Montessori in Singapore, mama!
Ask five people what they know about “Montessori” and you’re apt to get five different responses. No grades? Mixed-age classes? Something about a pink tower? There are easily hundreds of Montessori schools in Singapore, yet very few fully adhere to Montessori’s core principles!
With schools around the world and a slew of famous alumni including the founders of Google, Amazon, Wikipedia and, uh, Puff Daddy, Montessori has a reputation for encouraging curiosity and “outside the box” thinking in children. It’s a child-centered educational method developed over 100 years ago by sassy mama Maria Montessori – Italy’s first female doctor! According to The American Montessori Society, the Montessori method
“…is a view of the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child – physical, social, emotional and cognitive.”
In short, kids are sponges, and with just a little push (and the trust that they’ll want to learn and explore when given the freedom to do so at their own pace), their minds will flourish.
A “true” Montessori school possesses the following core traits:
- Mixed-age classrooms that facilitate peer learning (younger kids learn from older kids, and the older kids reinforce their own learning by teaching the younger kids)
- Uninterrupted blocks of work time (typically in 3-hour intervals)
- Children can choose their own activities (with guidance and encouragement from teachers)
- Specially-designed learning materials (NOT toys!)
- A deliberately arranged classroom environment (nary a desk in sight!)
- Teachers trained at official Montessori training centres certified by Association Montessori Internationale (AMI)
- No grades or tests
- Focus on four key areas: Practical life, Sensorial, Language and Mathematics
What makes Montessori so great?
With children in many ways left to their own devices, Montessori is thought to foster independence, leadership skills and self-control. A 2006 study by Science Magazine found that by the end of kindergarten, Montessori children
“…performed better on standardized tests of reading and math, engaged in more positive interaction on the playground, and showed more advanced social cognition and executive control. They also showed more concern for fairness and justice.”
Of course, Montessori might not be the right fit for every child, particularly those who need more structure in their day, or thrive in a more play-based atmosphere. As with any important decision, do your research, mama!
How does Montessori differ from other European educational philosophies, like Waldorf or Reggio Emilia?
Dissertations could be written on this subject, but the super-short version is that Montessori emphasises “work” (albeit at a flexible pace, but still within a framework supported by a teacher and specific learning materials). As adults we might still see this as play, but Maria Montessori apparently had little use for “imaginative play” (that is, fairy tales, dragons, flying cars and the like). She felt there was plenty to imagine and dream on a more reality-based plane.
Waldorf is “play-based” with an emphasis on imagination and creativity that’s still based around a dependable routine. Waldorf is notable for excluding all electronic media, and waiting until first grade to begin teaching reading.
Reggio Emilia takes a meandering, project-based approach – meaning student interests help determine what’s covered – with great emphasis on exploration. If a student asks a question, where a Montessori teacher might guide them toward an answer, a Reggio-Emilia teacher might say “let’s find out together”.
This article has the best comparison of the three styles of anything we’ve seen.
So how does it work in Singapore?
Because Montessori is more of a philosophy than a rigid curriculum, any school can call itself Montessori, even if it barely adheres to the core principles. They would certainly seem to be at odds with Singapore, where testing, grades and a strict classroom environment play a huge role in the educational system (and rules and parameters tend to guide daily life in general!). Parents who fret about how their child will perform in P1 are understandably nervous about a system without grades or testing – how can I ensure my child is on the right track?!
All that said, there seem to be many satisfied parents out there (based off local parenting forums, which we’d highly advise checking out) who feel Montessori instilled critical thinking skills and independence in their kids as well a strong foundation in reading, writing and math. Some children might struggle adapting to the rigidity of desks and homework at first, but kids are highly adaptable, and on balance the strong foundation and educational curiosity seem to win out.
Make sure to reach out to any school you’re investigating to speak with current and former parents, mama. Montessori schools typically encourage parents and prospective parents to observe classrooms to get a feel for the program and how it might work for their child.
Below we’ve listed some of Singapore’s best-known and well-established Montessori schools; this list is not exhaustive, and is not an official list of endorsed schools. As you’ll see, hardly any Singapore Montessori schools meet all of the core criteria listed above. The tradeoff is that many have created an environment thought to help kids more easily transition into Singapore’s traditional educational system (in particular, many have fantastic Mandarin immersion programs), while still incorporating the flexible style and unique materials of the Montessori method. The bottom line is, no two Montessori schools are exactly alike!
Other Helpful Resources:
Association Montessori Internationale (established by Maria Montessori)
A Montessori mother’s perspective
Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three
Montessori materials to purchase for the home: www.nienhuis.com/products
Brainy Child Montessori
Conveniently located on Orchard Road, Brainy Child’s international staff has all received Montessori training (though some were trained locally at MMI, which is not affiliated in any way with AMI). Classes are semi-mixed in age (kids are grouped by 1.5-3 years, 3-4 and 5-6, as opposed to the traditional 3-6), and the school utilizes traditional Montessori materials.
Dating back to 1995 with six sparkling locations around the island, Brighton uses Montessori materials with a curriculum based off the four key areas (practical life, sensorial, language and mathematics). Classes are not mixed-age, however, and teachers are not necessarily trained at AMI-certified centres.
Brighton Montessori Fort Road, 16 Fort Road, Singapore 439077
Brighton Montessori Frankel Avenue, 125 Frankel Avenue, Singapore 458235
Brighton Montessori Mountbatten Road, 764 Mountbatten Road, Singapore 437764
Brighton Montessori River Valley, 370 River Valley Road, Singapore 248279
Brighton Montessori Sunset Way, 41 Sunset Way, #02-01/02 Clementi Arcade, Singapore 597071
Brighton Montessori The Grassroots Club, 190 Ang Mo Kio Ave 8, #02-01 The Grassroots Club, Singapore 568046
Tel: (+65) 6588 3883, www.brightonmontessori.com.sg
Early Years Montessori
Set in a cute little bungalow in Sunset Way, Early Years takes a “project-based” approach to its curriculum, which also features a strong bilingual Mandarin-English programme. Classes are not mixed age (instead they’re the traditional N1-K2), while staff are trained by AMI or “equivalent” organisations.
Early Years Montessori, 16 Sunset Drive, Singapore 597475, (+65) 6469 1572,
Considered one of Singapore’s few “true blue” Montessoris, Greentree was founded more than 20 years ago by a Directress with both AMI and AMS certifications (in fact she’s an AMS trainer herself). Classes are mixed age group with a focus on all core areas, and feature the full bevy of traditional Montessori materials. There’s also a strong bilingual Mandarin component, and there’s even an Infant program for babies from birth up to 18 months.
Greentree Montessori Children Hub, 45 Jalan Mata Ayer, Singapore 759130, (+65) 6756 4382, [email protected]
Greentree Edufamily, #03-11A Sembawang Shopping Centre, Splash Park, 604 Sembawang Road, Singapore 758459, (+65) 6483 3128, [email protected]
House on the Hill Montessori Pre-School
Recently opened in 2011 in a lovely heritage building near Dhoby Ghaut, this school is officially affiliated with Nienhuis Montessori in Holland, one of the most well-established Montessori schools in Europe (with strong AMI ties) and a leading producer of Montessori materials – there’s even an exchange program with Nienhuis teachers. Classes are mixed ages (1.5-2.5 playgroup and the traditional 3-6 class); some teachers have AMI training and all receive additional in-house training. The school’s got a great online reputation with parents who rave about their specially-designed nutrition program.
As the only school in Singapore recognised by The American Montessori Society, Inno Montessori’s commitment to the fundamentals of the methods offers parents an authentic Montessori environment. Children aged 18 months to 6 years old are welcome for half- and full-day sessions.
Inno Montessori, 217 East Coast Road, #04-01/02/03, Singapore 428915, Tel: (+65) 6634 0922, www.innomontessori.com
With four locations across the island (three infant/childcare centres and one dedicated Kindergarten), Josiah was founded on Montessori principles characterized by independence, freedom within limits, and respect for children’s natural psychological, physical and socio-emotional needs. Children enjoy the prepared environment with Montessori materials, and at the Kindergarten (ages 3 to 5) and Toddler (18 months to 3 years) levels have mixed age classrooms.
Josiah Aperia (Infant and Childcare Centre), 12 Kallang Ave, #03-37 Aperia, Singapore 339511, Tel: (+65) 6702-2177 (infant care) and (+65) 6702-3902 (childcare centre)
Josiah Changi (Infant and Childcare Centre), 1 Changi Business Park Crescent, #01-05/05A/06, [email protected], Singapore 486025, Tel: (+65) 66341780
Josiah Suntec ( Infant and Childcare Centre), 3 Temasek Boulevard, #03-374 to 378 Suntec City Mall, Singapore 038983, Tel: (+65) 6336 6906
Josiah Tampines (Kindergarten), 5 Tampines Street 32, #02-01 Tampines Mart, Singapore 529284, Tel: (+65) 6260 1312
Little Hands Montessori Kindergarten
All teachers at this Paterson Hill School have formal Montessori training (though not necessarily AMI), but classes are not mixed age. They do make use of traditional Montessori materials, with extra support around reading to prepare students for local and international school curriculums.
Little Woods Montessori Pre-School
Tucked away on a leafy street near Chancery Court, Little Woods adheres to the core Montessori principles of practical life, sensorial, language and mathematics for children aged 18 months to 6 years. Little Woods Montessori is a place where diversity is respected, potential is optimised and a child’s natural sense of wonder is celebrated – a high quality learning environment where happy, confident and lifelong learners evolve! Every child is unique and will be treated as such. Little Woods Montessori offers a bespoke, authentic Montessori educational environment catering to every child’s needs and stages of development, all made possible with their ideal student-teacher ratio. The Montessori directresses are highly experienced, committed and passionate. Children are encouraged to explore their own interests, choosing their own activities within the varied and carefully resourced learning environment.
Montessori for Children
Considered Singapore’s only “true” Montessori by purists, Montessori for Children has two locations, on the East Coast and at Newton/Novena. All teachers are AMI-trained, classes adhere to the mixed-age structure, and classrooms feature the traditional “prepared environment” with classic Montessori materials. There’s also strong Mandarin immersion in all classes.
Montessori for Children Broadrick, 11 Broadrick Road, Singapore 439476, (+65) 6345 0087
Montessori for Children Newton, 43 Newton Road, Singapore 307970, (+65) 6256 3952
[email protected], www.montessori.edu.sg
Modern Montessori International Preschools
MMI is a British company that’s in no way affiliated with AMI, though they do have a training centre in Singapore so many teachers are trained there. There are over 20 MMI preschools across the island incorporating traditional Montessori materials and adhering to the four core values of practical life, sensorial, language and mathematics, but the consensus seems to be it’s very different from a traditional Montessori environment. Classes are not mixed age.
Pink Tower Montessori
This sweet little school off East Coast Road has a full Montessori curriculum and bilingual immersion program, earning raves from parents for its warm and caring teachers (not necessarily AMI-trained, though). Classes are semi-mixed age, with a separate Kindergarten class geared toward preparation for local primary school.
Raffles Montessori (Still Road)
Located in a big house on the East Coast with a lovely outdoor play area, this school’s Directress is AMI-trained, and classrooms feature classic Montessori materials. Classes follow the traditional mixed-age format (3-6), and there’s also a “toddler community” for little ones 18 months to 3 years.
Raffles Montessori Kindergarten (Aljunied)
Located just a 3-minute walking distance from Aljunied MRT station, Raffles Montessori Kindergarten (Aljunied) is recently renovated with beautiful learning spaces for music and art. They follow an AMI-approved curriculum, and run a mixed-age group programme with classic Montessori materials and a strong Mandarin immersion programme for children ages 18 months – 6 years old.
Rosemary Hall Montessori
With two CBD locations and a lovely open-air house in Katong, Rosemary Hall follows the traditional Montessori curriculum of mixed-age classes and practises the core values of practical life, sensorial, language and mathematics. Classrooms feature traditional Montessori materials, and some staff (including the Directresses) are AMI-trained.
Rosemary Hall Katong, 17 Rambai Road, Singapore 424336, (+65) 6445 5765
Rosemary Hall Marina Square, 6 Raffles Boulevard, Marina Square, #03-115, Singapore 039594, (+65) 6221 8638
Rosemary Hall Robinson, 14 Robinson Road, Far East Finance Building, #05-01, Singapore 048545, (+65) 6221 8638
[email protected], www.rosemaryhall.com
The Little House Montessori
Started back in 1994, this bilingual Montessori near Sunset Way is staffed by teachers trained either in-house or at various international Montessori organisations (not necessarily AMI). Little House adheres to Montessori’s mixed age principle, with kiddos aged 2.5 to 6 all in the same classroom. Besides having its own garden for plenty of outdoor play, Little House offers fun features like weekly science experiments, lots of field trips, and a weekly cooking session where every single child cooks their own dish. Every Thursday, 45 little pots of food are taken home; as the school says, “It is the ultimate in Montessori learning”!
Children learn best when they’re at their own pace and are interested in what they’re discovering. Wharton Preschool offers holistic learner-focused Montessori with integrated thematic curriculum for children aged 18 months to 6 years with a low teacher-child ratio. An environment rich in Montessori learning materials and built-in enrichment activities such as multi-sports and yoga ensures a well-balanced learning child! Because the school recognises that each child is unique and learns at his/her own pace, the curriculum is customised to suit every child’s learning needs as they are prepared for primary school; children work in the traditional uninterrupted blocks of time and have the ability to choose their own activities, as is customary in a Montessori classroom (classes are not mixed-age, however, and teachers are not AMI-certified). The Higher Chinese curriculum starting from Nursery 1 also gives students a strong head start to the language.
Wharton @ Serangoon North, 15 Serangoon North Avenue 5, Popular Building, Singapore 554360, Tel: (+65) 6755 3218
Wharton @Upper East Coast, 791A Upper East Coast Road, Singapore 466601, Tel: (+65) 6636 3218
[email protected], www.whartonpreschool.com