The massive Hurricane Matthew severely battered the Southern region of Haiti, leaving thousands of people homeless and hundreds dead. The number of deaths is likely to rise as the flood water subsides and emergency workers are able to assess the extent of damages. The heavy rains and strong winds ripped the roofs of many buildings and flooded roads and farms. Many areas remain cut off. Still recovering from the earthquake of 2010, Haiti certainly did not need another disaster.
Jeremie has had the most damage and is cut off from the rest of the country because the main bridge to the Southern Peninsula has collapsed. The two Montessori schools there have extensive damage and one has completely lost its roof.
The town of Leoganne was also flooded, and one of the schools there lost part of its roof, and the second one has severe water damage. The school in Jacmel also suffered water damage.
The problems now beside food and shelter is water borne diseases such a cholera, and diseases that are carried by mosquitoes such as malaria, dengue and Zika.
Many relief agencies and non-governmental organizations are actively delivering emergency food, water and other supplies to the hardest-hit areas, but the needs will be massive. Haitian government and foreign military forces are helping with logistics and communications. We will soon share information on where people could donate help if they wish.
The Peter Hesse Foundation will try to help these damaged Montessori schools of its partner teachers to start to bring back a sense of safety and normalcy to those traumatized children.
Haiti bridge down
Haiti Port Salud
Congratulations Graduates! Another promotion of Montessori teachers prepare themselves for the task of educating Haiti’s future generation. On Saturday 9th July students celebrated their passage from students to teachers. This means that many children will benefit from a quality education during the lifetime of their careers as teachers.
In contrast to the 80 percent of teachers in Haiti who are teaching without having received any teacher training.
Astronaut visits the CENTRE MONTESSORI D'HAITI.
Students and teachers of the Montessori teacher-training centre in Liancourt, Haiti, were honoured by a visit from NASA astronaut Dr. Michael Barratt, Carol Guy-James Barratt's brother in law, who shared his experiences as an Astronaut with them.
In 2009 Dr. Barratt lived in space for a period of seven months aboard The International Space Station, a large spacecraft that orbits the Earth.
Dr Barratt made a second voyage into space as a Mission Specialist on the final flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery. One of Dr. Barratt’s most memorable moments was seeing Earth from space for the first time. He describes our planet as both “beautiful and fragile”.
ASSOCIATION MONTESSORI INTERNATIONALE (AMI) Board-Member Guadalupe Borbolla visited Haïti.
Mrs. Guadalupe Borbolla, paid a visit to the AMI Educateurs sans Frontières Montessori Project of the Peter-Hesse-Foundation in Haiti, to get first-hand impressions of the quality of Montessori education for both the teacher training program and the children's houses. During her visit - from the 19th to the 23rd January 2016 - Mrs. Borbolla visited three children's houses of our Haitian partners, our former student-teachers, and sat in on two teacher training sessions at the Centre Montessori d'Haiti in Liancourt, Artibonite.
As an ESF project we will continue in our efforts to bring quality Montessori education to Haiti's children.
Carol Guy-James Barratt, Montessori-Director and Partner of the Peter-Hesse-Foundation in Haïti
Short progress-report from the CENTRE MONTESSORI D'HAITI in Liancourt, Haiti, November 2015.
Each year the number of children who receive high quality education increases as we train more teachers and open more schools. Today I visited a school in Croix-des-Bouquets which was started by a teacher who graduated our training programme in July of this year. She started the school with 35 children in October 2015. She is expecting this number to grow next year. The new children will be taught by teachers who is currently in the new promotion of student-teachers which began in September. We look forward to the graduation of the new teachers in July 2016 when they will take their place among teachers who are already trained, and working, to spread quality education to Haiti's at-risk children.
Student teachers practise to work with didactical materials
Children in open air cafeteria on world environment day
Green progress in the CENTRE MONTESSORI D’HAITI
Photo-Documentation of the progress in the CENTRE MONTESSORI D'HAITI in Liancourt.
Left sides: center opening on 7 December 2012 / right sides: beginning 2015.
Water tower 2012
Water tower 2015
Teacher's house 2012
Teacher's house 2015
classrooms, Dorms and back gate 2012
classrooms, Dorms and back gate 2015
In front of 1st classroom 2012
In front of 1st classroom 2015
Inside dorm 2012
Inside dorm 2015
GRADUATES FOR THE ACADEMIC YEAR 2014/2015
Twenty-seven student-teachers graduated the Montessori programme for the academic year 2014/2015. The graduation ceremony took place on the 11th July 2015. We are projecting that over 500 more children will benefit from a better quality of instruction from the newly graduated teachers in the coming academic year.
ANNUAL IN-SERVICE TRAINING
Our yearly in-service training started on the 20th July and took place over a period of two weeks during the school vacation. The training toook place at our residential training center in Liancourt.
Thirty-eight teachers from twelve schools in respective parts of Haiti - Jérémie, Carrefour Feuilles, Tabarre, Gonaïves, Leogane, Kenscoff, Santo, Maïs Gate, Bois d'Avril and Liancourt - attended the training.
This year the emphasis was on language. The teachers were taught how to make the language materials, which they will take them back to their classrooms. A combined effective of 1217 children will benefit from the language materials which the teachers will take back to their schools.
An advanced Math seminar also took place over the two week period. It was conducted by Patricia Gwin, Association Montessori Internationale trained. Mrs Gwin has been coming to Haiti to conduct a series of seminars for teachers during the school vacation periods
World Environment Day 2015
The Centre Montessori d'Haiti marked World Environment by teaching children about gardening in small spaces. The information was presented to the children by the current student teachers who have themselves planted the gardens as a part of their internship. The children got to experience the joy of harvesting a number of fruit and vegetables such as beetroots, lettuce, peanuts, sweet peppers etc. The student teachers replicate these gardens when they start teaching in their own schools.
Basic commitment and key-purpose of the Peter-Hesse-Foundation:
Regionally and globally the learning- and teaching-process must be radically improved. Good quality Education for All is a universal human right.
The human process of learning starts very early in life and must be child-centered. The children's individualities and their creativity must be respected. This is costly - and therefore remains a dream today. It is, however, a vision which could be realized. Such new/improved learning must and will enable tolerance, solidarity and compassion in our "ONE world in diversity". This will also enhance humanity's collective consciousness.
Such improvements in learning and teaching correspond directly with the answers which I had received in 1989 when asking, what is my / what is our life's purpose: "The whole (ALL) must grow/develop through learning".
Peter Hesse - January 19, 2015
Documenting the results of the fifth donated work-camp of a group of German building volunteers in their 2015 Easter-vacation.
Short video from the final work of German volunteers in Liancourt, Haiti, in their Easter holidays 2015
UPDATE from HAITI - April 2015:
The Peter-Hesse-Foundation continues to implement programs to improve the quality of early childhood education for at risk children in Haiti by training teachers at our residential training center in Liancourt, Artibonite, by establishing preschools in different parts of Haiti for qualified teachers who graduated from our training centre, by providing technical assistance to the preschools established by our graduate teachers and by providing in-service training for preschool teachers at our training centre in Liancourt.
Our teaching training center, "CENTRE MONTESSORI D'HAITI" in Liancourt is currently training a promotion of 27 Montessori student teachers. These student teachers would complete their training in July 2015. We are projecting that over 500 children will benefit from a better quality of instruction from the newly trained teachers in the coming academic year.
This academic year the Peter Hesse Foundation helped to set-up new Montessori programs in two schools in Goanives with an effective of 110 children in both programs, adding to the network of preschools which were assisted by the Foundation that benefit an average of over 3845 children yearly.
The Foundation held in-service training seminars for cultural subjects and Math as well as workshops for teachers to make their own materials. Thanks to our completed dorms we were able to accommodate teachers from 12 existing Montessori schools, in addition to the student-teachers who live at the training centre.
We also made site visits to 5 existing Montessori schools to provide technical assistance and to assure the quality of education in those schools which have a combined effective of 249 children.
We are keeping the promise to be environmentally friendly, by greening our teacher training center and implementing activities that make a positive difference in protecting the environment. Student teachers learn that it is their social responsibility to protect and care for the environment essential to our health, quality of life and survival. All student teachers are required to plant and to produce an environmental album with activities that they can implement with children in their schools when they become teachers.
This year we proudly raised one month of running costs of the teacher training center by renting the dining pavilion and other parts of the premises to small organizations in the surrounding areas for their own seminars and events. We hope that that we can increase the amount of clients next year. This is a baby step in self sustainability. We hope in the future that the center can fund itself in part.
Making a Difference? Carol reports from Haiti in November 2014
There are moments in Haiti where I feel that I could totally give up. Moments when I wonder if I am making a difference. The drive from Port-au-Prince to Liancourt is evidence of everything that is wrong. There is garbage on the sides of the road, the smell of hot oil and charcoal fires permeates the air, as roadside vendors continue to use wood or charcoal to prepare food, adding to further deforestation by cutting trees for fuel.
As I drive along the road weaving in and out of the heavy and totally unruly traffic, glad that the car is air conditioned, and I do not have to breath in the black smoke coming out of the exhaust pipes of most cars, I can't help but notice the amount of children on the streets who are engaged in some kind of work such as carrying buckets of water, washing cars, vending, or just begging. I feel overwhelmed.
Three hours later, I arrive at the Centre Montessori d'Haiti and my despair begins to wear off as I enter the gates of a very different environment. I have a meeting with the staff. We plan the syllabus for the school year, and afterwards the conversation turns to the earthquake and the hurdles involved in building the centre. On of the teachers talk about how much the trees that we planted have grown. "Let's take a picture".
She stands next to the citrus trees, and I take a picture. My frustration diminishes some more.
Citrus trees in May 2013
Citrus trees in November 2014
The next morning, I awake, and the student-teachers are watering the plants.
I breathe a sigh of relief knowing that these environmentally friendly practices would be passed on to the children they will teach.
Later on that day I drive to Gonaives to visit the two new schools that started this year October 2014.
I see the children working and I am humbled, and I think "Those little ones are like the trees. It will take some time, but we will eventually see the results."
I reminded myself that this year alone we have added 103 new children to the programme.
I guess we can't solve all the problems, but we can help to make a difference in the lives of many.
Thirty-one students are currently training at the CENTRE MONTESSORI D'HAITI in Liancourt to become Montessori teachers. We take pride in each additional teacher trained, since it means more children will benefit from quality education and a chance for a better future.
103 new children will benefit from MONTESSORI education this year.
Carol Guy-James Barratt reports from Haiti :
On Friday 19th September, I was happy to visit two schools in Gonaives, to help them to plan for starting their Montessori programs. Between these two schools, a total of 103 children will attend - one more victory, since teachers from both schools were trained in Liancourt. Not only have these young women found jobs, they can change the future of 103 children this year alone, and in many more years to come.
August 2014 – In-service training in Liancourt, Haiti.
Montessori teachers make materials and plan activities for their schools.
15 Haitian teachers from 9 schools attended a two week In-service training held at the CENTRE MONTESSORI D'HAITI in Liancourt by Carol Guy-James Barratt, assisted by a US-volunteer. We were especially glad to have teachers from the two schools in Leogane. Their schools are almost back to normal after being completely destroyed by the earthquake. Also attending were teachers from Mais Gate, Croix des Bouquets and Jacmel, as well as teachers from the two schools in the Liancourt area. In September 2014 there will be two new Montessori programs starting in Gonaives. The teachers who are going to teach in these new schools were also present. The teachers made language materials and planned activities for their classes starting in September 2014 as part of their In-service training.
Graduating class of 2014 in the CENTRE MONTESSORI D'HAITI:
Graduates of our reopened Montessori teacher-training center in Liancourt; Haiti celebrated their achievement with family and friends on Saturday 2 August, 2014.
We expect that these new teachers will provide quality education to approximately 400 children in the coming school year. It was an emotional moment at the end, when the graduates had to say goodbye to each other. After one year of living at the Montessori centre they will now return to their respective towns and villages, some to work in existing schools, some to start new Montessori classes.
Full documentation on the reconstruction of the Montessori teacher training centre under “Rebuilding under the Earthquake”.
The Montessori development in Haiti
– an overview – a short summary of the Montessori development since our first training year in 1986/87 – and a letter from a former preschool child, now a student in France – from the book VISION WORKS..., 2008, by Peter Hesse, pages 122 to 132.
4 pages PDF
The Peter Hesse Foundation Montessori initiative in Haiti - by Carol Guy-James Barratt
The Peter Hesse Foundation began its Montessori initiative with the objective of improving the quality of early childhood education in Haiti. To be able to do this effectively, the Foundation launched its efforts in two directions: training teachers and establishing preschools.
A teaching training center, “Centre Montessori d’Haiti” was created in 1986 to train teachers to teach children between the ages of 2 1/2 to 6 years old. A Montessori demonstration preschool, where student teachers could experience the Montessori method in action, was attached to the center.
Today, the Montessori initiative has evolved into a network of preschools and teacher training centers, directed and run by graduates of the “Centre Montessori d’Haiti”.
The Peter Hesse Foundation continues to support its Haitian Montessori initiative by granting scholarships to individuals who will work as teachers for at risk children. Currently, there are two courses available to teachers: Certificat d’Aptitude Professional and a Montessori preschool course. The Foundation assists qualifying graduates with furniture and didactical materials to open Montessori preschools and provides on-going technical support to these schools. So far, the Foundation has helped over 50 schools that benefit an average of 3845 children yearly.
New Montessori teacher-training manual "Montessori Workshop".
In 2007, the German Peter-Hesse-Foundation has published two teacher-training manuals, written by Carol Guy-James Barratt: in French "Atelier Montessori" (please see French section of our homepage) and in English "Montessori Workshop" (pdf 4-page flyer) - ISBN 978-3-9811650-1-2.
The French version was written specially (but not only) for use in our Montessori-teacher-training in Haiti. Besides being used in future Montessori projects for deprived children in French and English speaking countries in the world, the books are being sold for € 59,- each by "Nienhuis Montessori, Industriepark 14, NL-7021 BL Zelhem, The Netherlands". E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org , www.nienhuis.com.
Education in Haiti
More than 55% of Haiti's children still do not attend school. Government lacks the economic capacity to provide free education and less than 25% of existing schools are government funded. Private schools outnumber public schools by 65% at the elementary level and 85% at high school level. These private schools are run by religious organizations, non-governmental aid organizations and private individuals.
The quality of instruction varies considerably, since there is no standardized
testing except at the end of the high school cycle. The quality of instruction
is further compromised by:
- overcrowded classrooms. Classrooms are usually packed with 50 or more children to one teacher
- a shortage of books and visual aids
- poorly prepared teachers. More than half (57 %) of the teachers have less than high-school-level education and only 0.9% of the teachers have any kind of teaching diploma.
- learning in a foreign language without comprehension. Children speak Creole at home, but are expected to speak, read and write French at school.
The public education system does not include preschool. All existing preschools are private. This means that most of the economically disadvantaged children are excluded from education at the most crucial stage of their development, when the wiring and sculpturing of the brain, that builds the capacity for learning, takes place.
Traditional Haitian schools are in desperate need of modernization. Here children do not learn to solve problems or think creatively. Rote learning is very much the norm and knowledge is measured by how well a given text can be repeated word by word. Individual thinking is discouraged, since educators still believe that “children should be seen and not heard”. Curiosity and questioning are often viewed as confrontational or rebellious by teachers and, therefore, dealt with harshly. This kind of education stifles analytical thinking and limits the next generation from participation in policies that affect their lives. Given Haiti’s background of violence, political turmoil and civil unrest, a different kind of education is necessary.
Montessori Preschools assisted by the Peter Hesse Foundation
In the spirit of help for self-help, the Peter Hesse Foundation assists Montessori
graduates to open Montessori schools for at risk children, if the local community
provides support to enable the school to become financially sustainable.
The Foundation will train teachers, provide Montessori materials, furniture and, in some cases, renovate or construct a building for the functioning of a school.
So far, the PHF has helped over 50 schools in different parts of Haiti.
The Foundation also provides ongoing technical support, in-service training and site visits to the established schools. Visits are made to individual schools according to the amount of technical help that the school needs.
Each year during the “Grandes Vacances” -the 5 week school vacation- the Foundation conducts workshops and seminars to allow teachers to create learning materials, revise teaching techniques and exchange teaching experiences. This period is also used for special interest seminars such as using the internet, teaching French as a foreign language, gardening, environmental friendly practices and techniques in art and other subjects that are pertinent to raising the competency of teachers.
Why use the Montessori Method in Haiti?
The Montessori Method proved to be a suitable solution to allow teachers with a low level of education to be functional in the classrooms, since the Montessori materials, when used correctly, are self explanatory and children can derive information from them without depending solely on the teacher.
The materials also help to bridge the gap between language and the acquisition of skills, since using the materials does not require extensive explanation. Rote learning is unnecessary since the materials promote comprehension. The materials also compensate for the shortage of books that is the norm in most Haitian classrooms and is cost-effective, since they do not need to be replaced frequently.
The Montessori environment is orderly in contrast to the makeshift environments that most Haitian children are used to. In depressed urban areas, a household may consist of extended family members and various relatives sharing a very small living space, and children are given the last consideration in the social pecking order.
In the Montessori environment, children are respected and are free to pursue activities of their choice. This freedom allows children to feel good about themselves while promoting the development of powers of deliberation, initiative, independent choice and self-discipline with the emotional compliments. In the Montessori environment, each child is an active participant in a group and can contribute to the group in a positive way.
The Montessori Method promotes peace. Haiti has a history of violence and Haiti's children desperately need an environment that is safe and secure. The Montessori environment provides a place absent of corporal punishment where children can feel safe. Mutual respect for each other and the environment promote fundamental qualities of social awareness and social behavior for the benefit of the group. Habits of social behavior learned at a time when the children are constructing their personality will last throughout their lives. The window to instill in its citizens the respect and thoughtful approach to problems is during those early years when the child's personality is still forming. These children will become the decision-makers and leaders to create a society of respect and cooperation essential to Haiti's survival.
What is Montessori Education?
The fundamental tenet of Montessori education is to allow children to learn in a social environment that supports the unique development of each child. As opposed to the more traditional “Kindergarten”, which involves group learning, Montessori emphasizes individual learning. Children learn better on an individual level, since not two children are alike and children will be ready for different experiences at different times.
Montessori recognizes that children go through different stages of development during which they can most easily master a particular learning skill. These developmental stages occur at different times for different children. Individual learning gives each child the chance to master a particular learning skill relevant to his/her developmental stage.
Montessori emphasizes children's developmental age and not their chronological age, since age does not determine a child's ability. Classes are structured within a three year age range. This gives children a chance to work at their own pace without being judged as quick or slow in comparison to their specific age group. When children work in mixed age groups, they will have a graded series of models for imitation and the opportunity to reinforce their knowledge by helping each other.
The holistic Montessori curriculum helps children develop the physical, cognitive
and emotional competence and positive attitude towards learning that is required
for school success.
The learning environment ensures the development of self-esteem and provides experiences from which children can create their knowledge.
How was the Montessori Method conceived?
The Montessori Method was developed by Maria Montessori, the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome Medical school in 1896. After graduation, she began working at the university's psychiatric clinic with retarded children, who in those days were considered to be insane. Her dissatisfaction with the way these children were treated prompted her to study all existing works on educational theory. To further her knowledge, she returned to the university of Rome and undertook formal studies in philosophy, psychology, and anthropology.
Montessori became director of the State Orthophrenic School of Rome in 1899. Influenced by the pioneers in special education, Jean Itard and Edouard Seguin, she spent the following two years in experimental work, using and creating didactical materials to teach the mentally retarded children at school. Her work was a success and most of the children were able to pass the state education exam given for normal children.
The fact that retarded children could learn when given the right stimulation prompted Montessori to wonder, what normal children could achieve if given a similar opportunity. This led her to look more closely into the natural development of normal children.
In 1907, Montessori opened her first “children's house”, applying to young children of normal intelligence the methods and materials she had developed for older retarded children. She spent a great deal of time observing, reflecting and taking notes on what children did with the materials and how they reacted to the social and physical environment. It was in this context that the Montessori Method of education developed through observation of how children learn naturally.
Her approach to finding an effective method of education sprung from 45 years
of observation and work with children. As a doctor, a philosopher, a psychologist
and an anthropologist Montessori was able to look at education from various
She discovered that children from birth to age six possess unusual sensitivity and mental powers for absorbing and learning from their environment. She observed that at this time children are most open to active learning.
Montessori changed the way the environment is set up to accommodate early childhood learning. Some of those changes filtered off into preschools that are not Montessori schools and have become commonplace today, for example child-size furniture, didactical materials and concepts such as individualized learning and combined age groups in open classrooms.
Montessori continued to observe children around the world and found that the principles of development she had recognized, were inherent to children of all races, cultures and social standing.
How do Montessori classrooms function?
Montessori classrooms operate on the principal of freedom within limits based
on respect for the environment and everyone within it.
Children are free to work at their own pace with curriculum materials they have chosen, either alone or with others. The teacher relies on observation to determine which new activities and material to introduce to individual children or to small or large groups. The environment is structured to encourage self directed learning to take place with and alongside the community of the classroom.
The materials in the classroom allow children to learn new information through
their senses by their own activity. Current brain research shows that in early
childhood the brain develops through stimulation of the sensing pathways:
seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting. The materials, therefore, enhance
Each piece of material is designed to achieve a specific outcome; when children work with the materials they must think and solve problems in order to achieve the prescribed result. The experience of working with the materials contributes to logical abilities that are the foundation of academic learning.
Montessori teachers act as facilitators and guides, creating scenarios and introducing activities that are relevant to the need of every child. Observation is a major part of their work, since they record and interpret observations in order to assess the development of individual children and to plan instructional activities.
Teachers move around the classroom directing individual or small groups of children and giving lessons as the need arises.
How can an authentic Montessori classroom be identified?
Montessori is a word in the public domain. Unfortunately, this means that any school can use the word “Montessori” without actually using the method.
Authentic Montessori classrooms should contain certain elements that work together in order for learning according to the Montessori philosophy to take place.
There should be a teacher trained in the Montessori Method who understands the philosophy and can explain the theory behind the activities that are taking place in the classroom.
The classroom should contain a diverse set of materials (not toys) arranged on low shelves according to the subject, for example language, math etc... Children should be able to choose materials for themselves, work with them and replace them on the shelves, when they are finished.
The daily schedule should be programmed to allow three continuous hours in which children are free to use the materials without interruptions. During this period, the teacher should be able to oversee all children while they are working on a broad array of tasks. Children should be grouped in mixed ages and abilities. As well as individual work social interaction for cooperative learning and peer teaching should take place.
In a Montessori classroom assessment of children's progress is ongoing. The teacher should be able to show notes on any given child's progress at any time.
What happens after Montessori?
Most children leave Montessori preschool with the ability to read, write and calculate and have a foundation in geography, history and other subjects. This, however, is a side effect to the immeasurable personal strides made in the development of their potential.
Children leave the Montessori preschool equipped with the basic skills necessary
for a lifetime of learning. They would have developed the habit of concentration,
initiative, persistence and the ability to discriminate and judge.
Most of all children would have developed a sense of self-esteem and high self-expectations.
Although a sense of self esteem and high expectations cannot be measured, it is one of the most important emotional achievements necessary for success. This innate belief in themselves allows children to easily face and overcome the challenge of learning new things in any environment.
The role of the Montessori teacher
Teachers play a critical role in the success or failure of a Montessori classroom.
Montessori teachers act as facilitators of learning, and their basic role is to maintain an environment in which children can learn new information through their own activity, develop a sense of self-esteem, high self-expectations and social skills.
Teachers must have the ability to organize activities, guide children's learning and maintain discipline in order for their classrooms to be successful.
“The power of observation” is one of the most important qualities that determine how successful teachers are in implementing the Montessori philosophy in their classrooms.
The Montessori Method is driven by the concept of individual learning, and Montessori teachers must have the ability to introduce activities that are relevant and adequate to the needs of individual children.
Teachers will not function effectively if they cannot make accurate observations and respond to cues provided by each child. Teachers must be able to record and interpret observations in order to assess the development of individual children and to plan instructional activities.
Appropriate activities help children gain self-discipline. Teachers must provide children with the opportunity to become absorbed in meaningful activities as opposed to meaningless activities that disrupt the class. Children who are self-disciplined are able to regulate their own conduct, and will be able to follow reasonable rules that are necessary for the functioning of the class.
An orderly classroom is necessary to permit constructive activities to take place according to the Montessori Method. Montessori teachers should structure their classrooms so that there is adequate space for walking around, moving and carrying apparatus and working on the floor. The environment should be orderly so that children can easily understand how they can work within it. Everything in the environment must have a place and a purpose. Children should know what the established ground rules are, and teachers should be consistent in reinforcing them.
Children must understand how to use the materials, including taking them from the shelves and putting them back when they are finished. Teachers must demonstrate the proper use and handling of the materials. This is important because each piece of material is designed to achieve a specific learning outcome. If the materials are used incorrectly, the learning outcome will not be achieved.
Maintaining and upgrading the learning environment is imperative to the success of the Montessori environment. Dr. Montessori herself was permanently inventing new materials and activities to meet children needs. Montessori teachers must develop themselves through their own experience and should upgrade and implement new and appropriate activities that would make their classrooms more appropriate for learning.
Through a scholarship scheme, individuals with limited economic resources are financially supported to become preschool teachers and to open their own preschools. Criteria for student teachers are clearly defined, and scholarship students are carefully screened to ensure their future commitment to rural communities. Scholarship students sign a contract which obliges them to teach for 3 years in a poor community after they complete their training. During the 3 year period, they are paid a salary equivalent to other teachers.
Students must complete two years of study to qualify as a Montessori teacher.
During the first year, students participate in a course designed to allow
them to gain the necessary skills needed to function effectively as preschool
teachers. This course does not include Montessori training, but gives a foundation
in early childhood education.
At the end of this course, successful students receive a certificate of "Professional aptitude in Preschool Education”.
During the second year, students participate in a Montessori preschool course designed to allow them to gain the necessary skills needed to function effectively as teachers or assistant teachers in a Montessori preschool classroom. At the end of the course, students receive one of three types of Diplomas, depending on their accomplishment: Assistant, Teacher or Directrice/Director.
The Montessori preschool course
The Montessori preschool course is designed to allow students to gain the necessary skills needed to function effectively as teachers or assistant teachers in a Montessori preschool classroom. Basic knowledge of early childhood development is a prerequisite for this course. Studies will include the Montessori philosophy and practical aspects of its implementation.
Students will have several assignments to complete. The instructor will give
guidelines for these assignments and students will be expected to complete
them on their own. Students must have initiative, self-direction and the ability
to schedule and maintain commitments in order to complete all assignments
and necessary course work which includes:
• completing an internship of 35 days - to gain practical experience in a Montessori preschool
• designing and creating didactical materials - to use that experience and ability to take advantage of existing materials and to create others in response to children's needs
• designing a curriculum suitable for preschoolers. Student teachers will use a theme to design a series of learning activities that incorporate different subjects taught as an interdisciplinary study that teaches children about the world and the interrelatedness of all things. Student teachers will document these activities in the form of a reference manual, which they can later use when they actually begin teaching.
At the end of the course, successful performance will be determined by an evaluation of: proficiency exams both written and oral; teaching performance at internship site; documentation of a preschool curriculum designed by the student and four pieces of didactical material, also made by the student.
Students receive one of three types of Diplomas, depending on their accomplishment:
Assistant (this diploma allows the graduate to assist a qualified Montessori teacher in Haiti)
Teacher (this diploma allows the graduate to teach in a Montessori school in Haiti)
Directrice/Director (this diploma allows the graduate to direct a Montessori school in Haiti and teach in a Montessori school internationally).
The duration of this course is one academic year.
Professional aptitude in preschool education
“Professional aptitude in preschool education” is a course designed to allow students to gain the necessary skills needed to function effectively as teachers in a preschool classroom. The course will encourage students to learn through guided experiences, rather than on instructional sequences that require learning of certain content. The focus on learning through guided experiences will permit students to construct their own knowledge, reasoning and problem solving processes rather than just memorizing the “right answer” and regurgitating information without understanding its meaning, as is the custom in Haiti.
The student teachers will have to work in teams to complete most of the coursework and will, therefore, benefit both from learning and from teaching others. This will give them the opportunity to observe how other student teachers carry out a task and allow them to compare each other's problem solving processes, increase their knowledge, make the connection between facts and organize and convey information more effectively.
A major part of the course will consist of planning age-appropriate activities for the preschool curriculum, such as activities for literacy and language, art and craft, social development and introductory level geography, history and science. Student teachers will document these activities in a portfolio, which they can later use as a reference document when they actually begin teaching. Their portfolios will also include documents for classroom administration that they will plan and create during the course.
Periodic proficiency tests, as well as ongoing formal and informal evaluation
of collaborative and individual work, will help students to measure their
knowledge and judge their own weaknesses and strengths. At the end of the
course, successful performance will be determined by an evaluation of attendance;
completion of assignments, performance in group activities, proficiency exams
and the documentation of knowledge relevant to being able to function effectively
in a preschool classroom.
Students who complete the coursework will be awarded a “Certificate of Professional Aptitude in Preschool Education” with the grade of Exemplary Achievement, Commendable Achievement, or Adequate Achievement. Students who complete less than 70% but more than 60%, will be awarded a certificate of Incomplete. Successful students will continue for a second academic year to specialize in Montessori Preschool Education. The duration of this course is one academic year.
Protecting the quality of Montessori education in Haiti to match international standards is a massive challenge. How well the materials are kept and the philosophy followed depends a great deal on who owns the school and how they feel about the quality of education.
There are two attitudes towards quality. Some feel that quantity is better than quality and enroll as many children as possible, resorting to the Haitian traditional standard of 60 or more children to a class. This sacrifices quality, and the end result is children leave these schools with few skills and unprepared to be successful at higher levels of education. These children will most likely occupy lower paying jobs and will not be able to break the cycle of poverty.
Those who value quality, enroll a manageable amount of children that benefit from individual and small group instruction. These children are more successful in primary school and go on to graduate from high school and continue to higher levels of education - 30% of children from the first promotion of children in the Foundation's demonstration preschool are now attending university. These children will most likely hold higher paying jobs that will allow them to improve the standard of life for their families and themselves.
About 13% of schools helped by the Peter Hesse Foundation have returned to the traditional method. These schools have overcrowded classrooms and teachers who have been taught by rote all through their school lives and tend to slip back into that system. They also instinctively resort to hitting and treating the children as a herd, rather than individuals.
In general, schools that are owned by institutions and change administrators often are the most likely to fail. In some cases schools were converted back to traditional, when the new administrator felt that having 60 children in a classroom meant that more children got a chance to go to school, and that children came to school to learn, not play, and did not need “toys”. Some people who only know traditional teaching methods equate the standard Montessori didactical materials with toys because they do not understand the approach to teaching those basic concepts. In these cases the Montessori didactical material are removed from the class and the traditional blackboard and stick returned.
Teacher-owned schools perform much better. The reason being that the teacher has immediate responsibility and ownership of the school and must raise funds to support the school. This is done by charging school fees to children who can afford to pay (the fees are usually set to match the income bracket of that particular area) and still include children who cannot pay by granting scholarships. About 50% of children attending these schools are given scholarships, as a condition for receiving subsidized materials and support from the Peter Hesse Foundation. This not only assures the sustainability of the school by making it self-financing, but also assures the quality of the instruction, since the teacher will lose the children who can pay fees if the school gets a bad reputation.
The quality of instruction by teachers who have not deviated from the Montessori philosophy remains good. These teachers are important to the overall objective of improving the quality of stimulation and education to preschool children in their areas. Despite the many obstacles, much has been achieved. The real success story is that many children have now broken the cycle of bad learning and have attained increased self esteem, confidence, and problem-solving skills. Parents are now aware that there is an alternative to the traditional school system. This is reflected in the low drop out rate of 7% of children in the schools.
These results are encouraging, and the Foundation will continue to reach more children by providing well-trained teachers to establish schools in their communities. The necessary furniture and equipment and in some cases remodeling or construction costs, will be given to help establish these schools. The Foundation will continue to monitor the quality of instruction by making regular technical support visits and providing concrete guidance on improvements to these schools.
History of the Montessori Initiative in Haiti
Aside from one school for children of the elite, Montessori education was generally unknown in Haiti until its propagation by the Peter Hesse Foundation. In 1985, the Foundation sponsored a seminar for 41 participants from 20 educational institutions in collaboration with FONDEV and the National Pedagogic Institute (IPN) to make Montessori education more accessible to poor Haitian children. Educators attended lectures at IPN in Port-au-Prince and gained practical experience with children in an actual preschool in St Suzanne.
Educators who attended the seminar showed great interest in the Montessori method and expressed their willingness to improve the quality of their instruction.
This feedback encouraged the Foundation to establish a Montessori program that would make an impact on the quality of education in Haiti. In order to do this, the Foundation launched its efforts in two directions: Teacher training and establishing preschools. This led to the creation of the “Centre Montessori d'Haiti” a teacher training center, and an assistance program to set-up preschools for poor children by providing start-up funds and ongoing technical guidance and professional development support for teachers.
In October 1986, in Collaboration with the University Roi Christophe, the first class for children and a teacher-training course began on the premises of the Ecole St. Esprit in the city of Cap Haitian.
There were 38 graduates from the first teacher training promotion, including students from Ecole Normale in Port-au-Prince, who traveled to Cap Haitian and stayed in a hotel to attend the course. Not all teachers had this possibility, so in response to the demand for Montessori teacher training in the capital, the course was moved to Port-au-Prince in 1987. A demonstration preschool was also established there.
The Montessori preschool in St. Esprit continued to function, while two other preschools, one in Trou du Nord and one in Ste. Suzanne, were established through financial assistance from the Foundation. Graduates of the first promotion ran these schools.
The Foundation continued its Montessori activities for 2 years in rented premises at Bourdon. During this time, 54 students graduated from the teacher-training program and 6 more preschools for disadvantaged children were set up by Montessori graduates through the Foundation's assistance program.
In 1990, due to the numerous requests for Montessori training, the Foundation moved its activities to larger premises situated on the corner of Rue Moise and Rue Lamarre in PetionVille above the offices of the bishop of the Episcopal Church. The agreement was that the Foundation would pay the construction costs of a third floor and that this addition would be used by the Foundation for training teachers. There was a five-year contract with a gentleman's agreement to renew at the end of the five-year term. Unfortunately, a new Bishop was elected and the contract was not renewed.
In 1996, the Foundation was obliged to move to other rented premises at the corner of Rue Fremy and Ave John Brown in Bourdon. During this year, instead of training teachers, an evaluation of the 31 preschools and beneficiaries of the Foundation's assistance program from 1985 to 1996 was conducted.
As a result of the evaluation, improvements were made to accommodate the growing number of children in schools that had doubled or tripled in size, by providing additional furniture, materials and building renovations in some cases. Language materials for children, as well as three workbooks for student teachers, were also developed during this period.
In 1997, after the one-year pause, teacher training resumed in the cramped quarters in Bourdon with a promotion of 16 students. To be able to train more teachers, the Foundation collaborated with two other training centers, one in Rue Nathan in La Pleine from 1998 until 2001, and another in Ruelle Waag from 1999 until 2001 to train Montessori teachers.
Between 1986 and 2001, the Foundation trained 531 teachers and assistant
teachers and helped set up 45 preschools through its assistance program.
By this time, the Foundation succeeded in raising awareness in the education sector of Montessori as an alternative teaching method to the traditional style of memorization and of the importance of early childhood education in general.
The result was evident from the number of private Montessori schools that sprang up in and around the capital.
The goal of the Foundation from the very beginning was to train locals to carry out the functions that would enable the Montessori activities to continue only on local capacity. In 2001, the Foundation reached its goal of making the Montessori initiative an independent Haitian-run project when the management of the Foundation's teacher-training center, the “Centre Montessori d'Haiti”, was officially handed over to Haitian trainers in Rue Clermont, Bois Vernat.
When the Montessori initiative started in 1986, it consisted of a single teacher-training center, the "Centre Montessori d'Haiti” and one preschool class. Both, the teaching training program and the preschool class were directed and run by Trinidadian-born Carol Guy-James Barratt, the Foundation's representative. Today the teacher training courses and all preschools are managed and run by Haitians. To ensure that the quality of the teacher training is maintained, student teachers from all training centers submit to an exam given by the Foundation at the end of each academic year. Qualifying students receive teaching diplomas issued by the Foundation.
In 2002, the Foundation launched a mobile training program to reach potential teachers in rural areas who are unable to come to Port-au-Prince to attend the teacher-training course. The Foundation does this by allocating a trainer to a town or village outside of the capital to train a promotion of teachers. The trainer then moves on to another location after having trained a pool of teachers in that town or village. The mobile training takes place parallel to the training in Port-au-Prince and follows the same curriculum. Students sit the same exams issued by the Foundation.
Mobile training took place in Liancourt in 2002, Oswald Durand from 2002 to 2004, Cap Haitian from 2002 to 2005 and in Kenscoff in 2006. In October 2004, Oswald Durand decided to have a permanent training center, conducting their own exams and issuing their own diplomas without the collaboration of the Foundation.
In 2004 the Foundation developed a new teacher-training course “Certificat d'Aptitudes Professionnelles en Education Préscolaire“ (CAP) to enable student teachers to be more successful in the Montessori program and to gain skills to function effectively as teachers in any preschool environment. This course was added especially to help student teachers from disadvantaged backgrounds who have had less schooling than their better-off counterparts. These teachers are important to the overall objective of improving the quality of education to preschool children in their areas. The CAP course lasts one academic year, followed by an additional year of specialization in Montessori preschool training.
By 2006, a total of well over 600 participants have been through the Montessori training courses. Over 3000 children benefit yearly from over 50 schools started through the Foundation's assistance program. During its 20 year engagement, the Foundation has also developed language materials with the didactical approach of teaching French as a foreign language, since children are expected to read and write in French when they enter primary school. Didactical materials for science were also developed, as well as 3 workbooks for student teachers.
A teacher's guide in French, "Atelier Montessori", will be published by the German Peter Hesse Foundation in 2007. The book explains the Montessori philosophy and how it functions in the preschool environment. It gives detailed descriptions of the didactical materials, their use and benefits. This book will serve as a training manual for student teachers, as a reference for teachers working in Montessori schools and as source of information to parents. The book will also act as a quality control tool, since it provides information on how Montessori schools are supposed to function.
Carol Guy-James Barratt