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Montessori education in Aotearoa-New Zealand: a framework for peace and social justice
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In the first half of the 20th century, Maria Montessori (1870-1952) created a radical approach to early education that she believed had the potential to aid political and socio-cultural transformation on a global scale. This study utilises critical theory and insights from the reconceptualist early childhood education movement to contextualise the background and examine the currency of Montessori’s vision of social justice for the child and subsequent world peace. The research focuses on the reflections of graduates from the Bachelor of Education (Montessori Early Childhood Teaching), a model of teacher education developed at the Auckland University of Technology. The study utilised socio-biographical inquiry and case study as key research tools. Participants were drawn from graduates in their first, second and third year of early childhood teaching practice. The specialty degree aims to highlight the social advocacy role of Maria Montessori with regard to children’s rights and as teachers qualify and enter the field, the project explores differences and similarities that they meet in the interpretation of Montessori philosophy. Information was also sought on the factors that support or challenge the development and resilience of teachers during their first three years of practice in the field. In particular, the study considers the relationship between the philosophy and practice of Montessori teachers in Aotearoa-New Zealand with reference to Montessori’s vision and explores how a teacher preparation model can be authentically reconciled with a social justice perspective. Case studies in four early childhood centres exemplify how a framework derived from Montessori philosophy supports development of the ‘just community’. This research has yielded information on the development of effective practice in early childhood education using the construct of critically engaged pedagogy. Insights arising from the project may therefore contribute to advancing both the literature and practice of Montessori education and especially in the New Zealand teacher education context.