The government has set a target this year to start Montessori classes in 70 government schools of the federal capital.
As part of its promise of upgrading the education system, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in February last year inaugurated the first ever Montessori classes at the Islamabad Model School for Boys, F-8/3. Initially, the Montessori classes were started at five schools, including, Islamabad Model School for Boys F-8/3, Islamabad Model School for Boys F-7/1, Islamabad Model School for Boys F-10/4, Islamabad Model School for Boys Sohan and Islamabad Model School for Boys, Khanna Daak.
During a interview with Pakistan Today, Parliamentary Secretary for Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) Maiza Hameed said that the programme was launched with the help of the private sector (schools and NGos who specialize in early childhood education) and last year the Montessori programme was piloted in 11 schools and this year the target was 70 schools including the 11 of last year.
She said, ‘This year we have already established Montessori sections in 66 schools with the help of private schools and NGOs, where 1,460 students are enrolled in all 66 Montessori sections’.
Maiza said that because of the untiring efforts of Maryam Nawaz, Prime Minister Education Reforms Programme (PMERM) was working successfully.
‘Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. Montessori developed many of her ideas while working with mentally challenged children. Her first school, La casa dei Bambini, was opened to working class children in the slum neighborhood of San Lorenzo in Rome. Her approach was characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development. Children can learn through their own experience and at their own pace. They can respond at any moment to the natural curiosities that exist in all humans and build a solid foundation for life-long learning’.
It may be noted that under the Right to Free and Compulsory Act 2012, the federal government is bound to provide pre-school education.
To a question whether students are being charged, Maiza replied, ‘Well the students are not being charged, but in some cases, communities are providing support to the programme in terms of generating finances for the learning resource. Some partners (private schools) have not only provided the furniture for then Montessori sections, but also took care of the soft board and learning resources’.
On teachers shortage, she said that different strategies were being adopted, last year we did get teachers on contract for the schools, but this year for the month of April and May, we asked the partners to provide the teachers, from August when the schools would reopen we were exploring the option of getting them from Prime Minister’s Internship Programme and if the quality of interns are not up to the mark, we may get contractual teachers on board (re-designation of existing posts).
To a question about any written agreement with a private school chain, Maiza said, ‘There is a formal public private partnership MOU that is signed with the partners, the MOU is vetted by the Law Division. Despite the fact that provision of furniture, teacher and all learning resource is then obligation of the Government as per the MOU, all partners have come forward in supporting us in all these spheres as well’.
About preparation of syllabus, she said that since they do not have any prescribed content/syllabus for these levels available in the public sector, hence they consulted national curriculum for early childhood education 2007 and Early Childhood Learning Developmental Standards (ELDS) and in consultation with partners, developed learning outcomes for the students. We didn’t want to prescribe the pedagogy to partners instead we told them that we will evaluate these children based on the agreed learning outcomes.