Pre-school Preparatory
October 24, 2015

Pre-school Preparatory

I read an interview with Yahoo! CEO, Marissa Mayer recently and in it, she noted, “You can’t understand Google… unless you know that both Larry and Sergey were Montessori kids.”

Naturally, I was intrigued. My daughter is approaching 2 and by modern parenting standards, I am 1.5 years late in sending her to school. So I googled ‘Montessori’ to understand better.

My search returned a host of results: academic journals, topical forums, opinionated blogs, and so forth. The one that instantly stood out, however, was a line by the great poet, Kanye West.

“And I was thinking ‘bout starting up my own school,
A Montessori;
And the hallway looking like,
A monastery.” 

I was sold. He was probably looking for a word that rhymed with ‘monastery’, but if something is good enough for Kanye, it’s good enough for my child.

Rapper endorsement aside, Montessori education, according to the International Montessori Index, “helps children develop creativity, problem solving, critical thinking and time-management skills, care of the environment and each other, and prepares them to contribute to society and to become fulfilled persons.”

A promising aspiration by any measure, until I read about the typical structure of a Montessori classroom.

“Children aged 3 – 6 are mixed in a classroom, and given the liberty to engage in an activity of their choice, and freedom to move as they wish. “

A description that could easily be mistaken for a civil penalty to an uninformed adult. Although I’m sure things are under control in an actual Montessori classroom. A trained Montessori teacher is, after all, required in order for a class to run. 

Therein, however, lies the concern with Montessori education. The ‘Montessori’ name is not legally protected. So practically anyone can use it. Just like Musang King in the durian market. You simply can’t leave it to chance.

Nevertheless, the list of luminaries who have been products of the Montessori system remains unrivaled. Apart from Larry and Sergey, there’s Anne Frank, Julia Child, Dakota Fanning, Jimmy Wales, Jeff Bezos, and (I’m not too surprised by this) Sean “P. Diddy” Combs.

So I remain interested in the Montessori system, and intend to explore further as one of the considerations for my daughter. I did research further about elementary education Malaysia, and got inundated by the competitive range of international kindergartens and Ivy League pre-schools available. Each, trying to outdo the other in prestige and exclusivity. It’s a jungle out there.

Looking back to 1988 when I went to Tadika Cempaka, I couldn’t recall much of the method that was applied to me for my own early childhood education. All I could remember was my parents having two strict criteria in choosing a pre-school for me: 1) it must be close to home and 2) it must not be too far from home.


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Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

  • Asrif, b. 1983
  • Subang Jaya, Malaysia
  • asrifomar[@]gmail[.]com
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