In meeting the high standards of education, the values of international schooling have become the fundamental in raising the children. As a consequence thereof, there are now many international schools using English as the language of instruction, ranging from early childhood to primary level, offering a variety of curricula.
In spite of the different approach each of these schools has to offer, Jakarta Montessori School (JMS) has since its establishment in 1986 come up with a unique system designed for children aged 18 months to 12 years in a way that the school lets its students explore objects around them through learning and playing simultaneously.
The following are excerpts from an interview with the JMS principal, Carol Engmann:
Q: How unique is the curriculum applied in JMS?
A: We treat every child as a unique individual. Children at our school work from their inner drive to reach their social and emotional development. We believe that children are born intelligent. They simply learn in different ways and progress at their own pace. Our approach is uniquely designed to recognize and address different learning styles, helping students learn to study most effectively. Students progress as they master new skills, moving ahead as quickly as they are ready. In other words, JMS is a child-centered school as we focus on children development that produces more mature, creative and socially adept individuals.
Q: Can you elaborate more on the role of JMS as a child-centered school?
A: We develop activities based on children’s learning. Using their sensory perception, students work individually or in a small group. We are a child-centered environment because our curriculum approach is designed to meet the needs, interests, abilities and different stages of development of our students. Children in general possess an absorbent mind, a universal character that makes a child different from an adult in the way he or she learns.
Q: How potential such a universal character for children’s learning progress?
A: It’s very potential for a child’s fundamental development, indeed. Every child’s mind is just like sponge. Starting from absorbing surrounded objects, a child will easily get into the sense of consciousness. He or she can learn and pick up the knowledge expeditiously. A child at JMS could be taught by experience about safety as early as toddlers. Using games and activities, a teacher can help his or her school mates how to be aware with hot pans and kettles, electric appliance, and so on. We teach children to develop the self-discipline they need to avoid problems that they are likely to encounter later in their independent life. Particularly for children aged 3 to 6, they have the potential to acquire sufficient knowledge of the world. A child during these ages has a mind like an empty tank, which it can be gradually filled up as he or she develops better self-awareness of his or her surroundings. Through repeating each experience over and over again, the child will reinforce the information in his or her consciousness.
Q: How does JMS relate its curriculum to gaining general knowledge like language and science?
A: Let’s start with the language first. With all classes conducted in English, the school’s language program begins upon entering school. Our fun language activities such as Sound Games, the Sandpaper Letters and the Moveable Alphabet are sophisticatedly designed to help students to read and write. We use phonics as an approach to teach beginners to read and pronounce words by the spoken sounds, how to access sounds accurately and later associate sounds with their visual representations, which is the alphabetic system. We are aware that there are only 26 letters in the alphabet, though English has 44 sounds; each of which differs from the others. Our effective approach is designed for children to master the phonemic awareness, an essential skill for children to be aware that some words start with the same sound in spite of different symbols, such as the words “cake” and “kite.” Using Sandpaper Letters, a child can feel the letters as he or she touches the sandpaper. Each letter is traced in the way it should be written. Through the use of different colors, the visual exercise of the Moveable Alphabet is an interesting activity where children are encouraged to form a word using variation of moveable letters.
Q: How about other subjects?
A: We have designed an array of fun activities to draw children’s attention to the sensory property of objects within the environment; size, shape, color, texture, sound, to name a few. As for math, we have developed a series of concrete math learning materials. Students learn many mathematical concepts quickly and enthusiastically. Children at JMS learn to perform mathematical operation of large numbers from an early age, working with numbers from the tens to thousands and even millions. To explore children to learn geography using motoric skill, we have developed land and water farm models. Having emphasized on utilizing children’s gross and fine motoric skills, independence and concentration, our Montessori teachers inculcate in students a love of learning.
Q: What qualification does a teacher at JMS need to possess?
A: Prior to teaching at JMS, our teacher needs to earn Montessori foundation certificate. JMS provides a Montessori Teacher Training Program that affiliates with Montessori International Center in London. In addition, we regularly conduct refresher courses and workshops to both maintain and enhance the quality of our teachers.
Published in The Jakarta Globe, July 22, 2009.