Frequently Asked Questions For Enquirers(FAQs)

Is Montessori education only for infants?

Although Montessori education is commonly associated with the pre-school age, there are some 22,000 Montessori schools around the world.  Montessori education goes in cycles; birth to 18 months, 18 months to 3 years, 3 – 6 years, 6 – 9 years, 12 – 15 years etc.

In America there are schools that carry the Montessori Method up until 15 years.

What differences can be observed in a Montessori classroom?

The differences will depend on the age group but two are likely to stand out whatever the age.

First it may be hard at first to spot the adults as they seek to be a discreet presence, spending much time closely observing the children rather than being the focus of the children’s attention.  In Montessori education children choose what they learn and teach themselves using the materials designed for this purpose, in contrast to traditional education where the work is chosen by the adult and taught to the child.

Secondly the independence shown by the children whether it be a 3 year old selecting her own activity, working with and putting it away on her own, or an 8-year old planning his own research trip to the museum.

Who was Maria Montessori?

Dr Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870.  She was the first woman to qualify in Italy as a doctor.  Her early work centred on women’s rights and social reform and evolved to encompass a radically innovative approach to education.

In 1907 in St Lorenzo in Italy the first “Casa dei Bambini”, was opened by Dr Maria Montessori.  This first Montessori school was for children from a working class background, these were certainly not children of the rich.  Dr Montessori worked hard and made several important observations, the most striking was that children from deprived backgrounds could excel to their full potential in a nurturing environment.

Is Akwi Montessori School a nursery or primary school?

AMS offers Montessori education for Level 1 (Key Stage 1), the 3 – 6 years age group and Levels 2 & 3 (Key Stage II) the 6 – 9 years age group.

The materials provided in Key Stage 1 (3-6) are equivalent to other Montessori schools around the world.  The learning environment for Key Stage 2 is equipped with some standard Montessori materials and some locally made materials to suit the Cameroon curriculum.  All children are allowed the freedom expected for Montessori classrooms but the older children (Key Stage II) do have time for structured lessons

Why do children at AMS take tests and exams when other Montessori children do not?

AMS trains children to adapt in Cameroon if they choose to remain in the country.  The current education system in Cameroon relies heavily on examinations to ascertain the child’s level of academic achievement.  It is therefore necessary for the children at AMS to sit examinations at school in order to prepare for their future experiences.

When do children at AMS start taking tests and examinations?

Montessori said that competition is good only when the children gain confidence.  At 5/6 years, the children sit their first assessments.  They do not have to prepare for these assessments because working comes naturally to them.  These children are grouped and coached on how to answer questions and follow instructions.

Those children older than 6 years (Key Stage II) take 5 tests per year, in an effort to find out their strengths and weaknesses.  The results are discussed with their parents and the children are not ranked.

In traditional schools children are assessed every 6 weeks and ranked.

How can I support my Montessori child at home?

Montessori children are very knowledgeable and would benefit more if their parents and adults around them dedicate time to interact with them at all levels.  Parents are encouraged to engage with the school staff to discuss how best to support the child’s development.

Parents can visit the school to observe their child/children but prior appointments have to be made with the school.

What is the ratio of pupils to teachers?

Average class sizes are set by governments.  Montessori education supports the children’s independence and responsibility.  With many adults around, young children in particular stop thinking and wait to be told what to do.  At AMS currently we have a ratio of 6 children to a teacher.

Why is the Montessori Method only taught in private nursery schools?

In many parts of Scandinavia, Montessori is freely available to all.  In the Netherlands it is a major part of state education.  It has been adopted as part of the state system in Thailand.

In the US it has been adopted by some state schools.  In the UK the government has recently been flirting with Montessori education and has introduced it into two state schools.

How many Montessori schools in Africa?

Montessori centenary World Book published in 2007 to celebrate 100 years of the Montessori movement around the world indicates that there are Montessori schools in Egypt, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Cameroon.

Exactly 100 years on, Montessori education arrived in Cameroon to children similar to those Dr Maria Montessori first worked with in the slums of Italy.  Akwi Montessori School was opened in September 2007.

Is Akwi Montessori School privately owned?

AMS was founded by Dr Estella Tembe-Fokunang in 2007.  She is a Clinical Pharmacologist who later trained and obtained a Diploma in Montessori education (birth to six) from St Nicholas Training Centre in London in 2001.  Following a career within the pharmaceutical industry in Europe for over a decade, Dr Fokunang decided to return to her roots in Cameroon to set up and run a Montessori school.

Do Montessori children suffer when they enter mainstream?

Experience from other countries show that it depends on when they leave Montessori.  Those who leave at 4 years are usually bored and feel restricted in a traditional classroom.  Those who leave at 5/6 years of age and older usually adapt quickly to their new environment because they are socially adaptable and flexible in their thinking and have a well developed intellect to use in a traditional school.  The main problem is that of boredom because they have understood so much of what is being taught.

What happens upon graduation from AMS?.

The children in Key Stage II will have enough opportunity to respond to structural questions as expected in official examinations (First School and Government Common Entrance examinations) at the end of primary education.  Children who are mature and knowledgeable enough to attempt these state examinations will be registered.  Children who pass the Common Entrance into secondary schools will proceed to a secondary school of choice.

How are teachers trained?

In Cameroon today, there are no specialist training centres for early years education.  At AMS, the teachers are selected from a pool of newly qualified trained teachers of the traditional methods.  The teachers receive basic Montessori training in the theory and use of some key Montessori materials before the start of the academic year.  The bulk of the practical aspects of training are carried on and off the job.  In addition, the trainee is also asked to address his own prejudices and reassess his understanding of the adult’s role in education.  After one year at AMS a teacher is considered knowledgeable enough to assist a montessorian.

Full training can be obtained from institutions around the world either through distance learning schemes (e-learning) or full time courses now available (MCI, London).

What does the name Akwi mean?

The founder of the school named it after her mother in honour of her wisdom to educate all her children (including her girls).  Akwi,  like Dr Maria Montessori was a woman ahead of her time.

Is AMS a bilingual school?.

Akwi Montessori School is an Anglo-Saxon institution however, in the 3 – 6 years learning environment, the materials are presented either in French or English.  Reading cards are presented in both languages so that children can formalize their learning in both languages.

The older children in key Stage II are taught French as a subject.

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