Maria Montessori, a household name with all those seeking an alternative education to their children, is being remembered with great reverence Friday - on the occasion of her 142nd birth anniversary.
The "Montessori System," popularly adopted in schoolrooms for teaching children to identify their creative abilities by allowing them to act freely and improvise the curriculum, has won appreciation and controversy ever since its introduction in 1907.
The physician, educator, and a noted humanitarian, Montessori is best known for the system of education that bears her name. Born Maria Tecla Artemesia August 31, 1870, Montessori has been a pioneer in her era both in pursuing education and research.
A qualified physician, her work with the mentally challenged children at the University of Rome's psychiatric clinic in 1897 seemed to have sowed the seeds for her school of teaching. Subsequently, her teaching stint while training educators for mentally disabled children helped in developing methods and materials that were later adapted in mainstream education.
The Montessori system, which helps students learn concepts by working with materials instead of direct instruction, has drawn widespread criticism and appreciation.
In the United States, educators and philosophers, including William Heard Kilpatrick and John Dewey, disapproved of the Montessori System as they found it rigid, over reliant on sensory training that left little room for social interaction and play.
The Montessori movement gained traction in the United States only after 1952.
Nominated thrice for the Nobel Peace Prize, Montessori succumbed to cerebral hemorrhage in the Netherlands at the ripe age of 81.
Search giant Google also celebrated her birth anniversary with a doodle that pictures a collection of her educational tools.