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Montessori Early Childhood
Programmes in the Torres
     Strait, Australia
Australia’s Indigenous Peoples

Aboriginal         Torres Strait Islander
Physical evidence of occupation 2,500   40,000-60,000 years of occupation
years ago.

Settled from Papua New Guinea           Settled via land bridge from SE Asia

Village based fishing and cropping      Hunter-gatherer economies - seasonal
economies                               movement through estates
First contacts with Europeans though    Spread of European colonies from
trading from mid-late 1800s             1788 decimates aboriginal populations.
Contact with missionaries preceded      Missions often established to protect
colonisation – Christianity embraced    survivors.
early and enthusiastically.
Wellbeing in early childhood
The Australian Early Development Index measures outcomes
for children in the areas of:

• Physical health and wellbeing

• Social competence

• Emotional maturity

• Language and cognitive skills

• Communication skills and general knowledge
2009 outcomes
  Vulnerable in one or more     Vulnerable in two or more
            areas                         areas

  National      Torres Strait   National      Torres Strait
  average         average       average         average

                   59.9%



                                                 39.2%

   23.6%

                                  11.8
Health outcomes
• Low birthweight twice as common for Aboriginal and
  Torres Strait Islander babies as for other Australian
  babies.
• Ear and hearing problems more than 3 times as
  common among Indigenous children.
• Oral health -higher levels of tooth decay and lower
  levels of access to dental care.
• Life expectancy estimated to be 11.5 years lower for
  males and 9.7 years lower for females.
Aims:
• All children in Australia will have the
  possibility of attending a Montessori program
  regardless of their location or socio-economic
  circumstances.
• Bring hope to those who have been unable to
  break a cycle of dependence and who live in
  poverty in Australia.
Challenge and response
• How can we break the cycle of welfare dependency
  when so many have failed?
   – Family life and the socialisation of children are the
     foundation of any society, and fundamentally affect the
     future of both individuals and the community itself.
   – Early childhood provides the maximum point of leverage for
     growth and development, including the development of pre-
     literacy and numeracy skills and dispositions.
   – The child, and the value accorded children by almost all
     adults, is the key point of leverage for maximum family and
     community engagement.
   – Generational change starting with the child
   – Commitment in perpetuity
MCF partners with Torres Strait
organisations

                           • Tagai State College
                             to provide
                             Montessori
                             programs for
                             children aged 3-6 &
                             6-9

                           • Torres Strait
                             Islanders’ Regional
                             Education Council
                             to provide birth to
                             age 3 programs
TheStrait Start programs – birth to age 3
A Montessori approach to the early years
The first years of life
• … the early years … have the most important influence of any time in the
  life cycle on brain development and subsequent learning, behaviour and
  health. The effects of early experience, particularly during the first three
  years, on the wiring and sculpting of the brain's billions of neurons, last a
  lifetime.

• The evidence is clear that good early child development programs that
  involve parents or other primary caregivers of young children can
  influence how they relate to and care for children in the home, and can
  vastly improve outcomes for children's behaviour, learning and health in
  later life.

• The earlier in a child's life these programs begin, the better.


   Mustard, J. Fraser; McCain, Margaret N. 1999. Reversing the real brain drain: Early years final study report.
                                                            Ontario. Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
The family is fundamental
Sharing knowledge and skills with
parents and caregivers
Prepared environments foster
development through sensorial
experiences
Movement
emotional development – identity
                        ABOUT STRAIT START
Practical life activities
Independence
Concentration
Social competence
Connected to culture, community and
environment
Establishing, maintaining, supporting
and growing our work
• What makes a difference?
  – Community engagement, which is particularly
    complex in Indigenous settings
  – Slow delicate complex work of building trust,
    relationships and shared understanding and
    commitment
  – Working towards sustainability through training
    and government engagement
Guiding Principles
• Help me to do it by myself
• Trust, observation, reflection, respect
• Long-term commitment
• Sustainable and scalable infrastructure and resources
• Community engagement around the child
• We must become less as the children, families and
  communities become more
• Independence
Mentoring
• Non judgemental, supportive, friendly and open,
  observant, effective communication, sensitivity to
  personality needs of coordinator
• Cultural awareness and knowledge; being prepared to
  seek this knowledge and awareness
• Non interfering but able to sensitively raise awareness
  of coordinator to issues they may not see
• Knowledgeable and experienced in Montessori 0-3
• Ability to be in the background, to act with humility and
  a sense of humour
• Ability to work out ways to empower the coordinator
Government engagement
Research
• We want to know what impact the Strait Start
  program has over time on:
  – the perceptions, attitudes and practices of parents
    and carers to fostering the development of children
    though family interactions and environments.
  – the development of children across key
    developmental domains (emotional, social, language,
    physical, cognitive)
  – the level of children’s engagement with and
    performance in formal schooling.
The research process
• Collating baseline data
    – Existing and future school data on:
         • Attendance
         • Literacy
         • Numeracy
    – AEDI
    – Human Development Index
    – LSIC

• Documentation of programs
    –   Background
    –   Rollout
    –   Challenges and responses
    –   Reflections
• Qualitative data
    – Background material
        • Ethnographies
        • Community profiles
        • Family profiles
    – Ongoing collection
        • Classroom observations
        • Regular family and community interviews
• Quantitative data
    – Background material
        • AEDI
        • School performance data
    – Ongoing collection
        •   Annual testing using some AEDI tools
        •   Range of tests (children)
        •   Long-term tracking using school performance data
        •   Health and well-being measures

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Lyne lawrence.unescoamimcf strait startfinalll

  • 1. Montessori Early Childhood Programmes in the Torres Strait, Australia
  • 3.
  • 4. Physical evidence of occupation 2,500 40,000-60,000 years of occupation years ago. Settled from Papua New Guinea Settled via land bridge from SE Asia Village based fishing and cropping Hunter-gatherer economies - seasonal economies movement through estates First contacts with Europeans though Spread of European colonies from trading from mid-late 1800s 1788 decimates aboriginal populations. Contact with missionaries preceded Missions often established to protect colonisation – Christianity embraced survivors. early and enthusiastically.
  • 5.
  • 6. Wellbeing in early childhood The Australian Early Development Index measures outcomes for children in the areas of: • Physical health and wellbeing • Social competence • Emotional maturity • Language and cognitive skills • Communication skills and general knowledge
  • 7. 2009 outcomes Vulnerable in one or more Vulnerable in two or more areas areas National Torres Strait National Torres Strait average average average average 59.9% 39.2% 23.6% 11.8
  • 8. Health outcomes • Low birthweight twice as common for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies as for other Australian babies. • Ear and hearing problems more than 3 times as common among Indigenous children. • Oral health -higher levels of tooth decay and lower levels of access to dental care. • Life expectancy estimated to be 11.5 years lower for males and 9.7 years lower for females.
  • 9. Aims: • All children in Australia will have the possibility of attending a Montessori program regardless of their location or socio-economic circumstances. • Bring hope to those who have been unable to break a cycle of dependence and who live in poverty in Australia.
  • 10. Challenge and response • How can we break the cycle of welfare dependency when so many have failed? – Family life and the socialisation of children are the foundation of any society, and fundamentally affect the future of both individuals and the community itself. – Early childhood provides the maximum point of leverage for growth and development, including the development of pre- literacy and numeracy skills and dispositions. – The child, and the value accorded children by almost all adults, is the key point of leverage for maximum family and community engagement. – Generational change starting with the child – Commitment in perpetuity
  • 11. MCF partners with Torres Strait organisations • Tagai State College to provide Montessori programs for children aged 3-6 & 6-9 • Torres Strait Islanders’ Regional Education Council to provide birth to age 3 programs
  • 12. TheStrait Start programs – birth to age 3 A Montessori approach to the early years
  • 13. The first years of life • … the early years … have the most important influence of any time in the life cycle on brain development and subsequent learning, behaviour and health. The effects of early experience, particularly during the first three years, on the wiring and sculpting of the brain's billions of neurons, last a lifetime. • The evidence is clear that good early child development programs that involve parents or other primary caregivers of young children can influence how they relate to and care for children in the home, and can vastly improve outcomes for children's behaviour, learning and health in later life. • The earlier in a child's life these programs begin, the better. Mustard, J. Fraser; McCain, Margaret N. 1999. Reversing the real brain drain: Early years final study report. Ontario. Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
  • 14. The family is fundamental
  • 15. Sharing knowledge and skills with parents and caregivers
  • 16.
  • 17.
  • 18.
  • 19. Prepared environments foster development through sensorial experiences
  • 20.
  • 21.
  • 23. emotional development – identity ABOUT STRAIT START
  • 24.
  • 26.
  • 28.
  • 30.
  • 31.
  • 33.
  • 34.
  • 35. Connected to culture, community and environment
  • 36.
  • 37. Establishing, maintaining, supporting and growing our work • What makes a difference? – Community engagement, which is particularly complex in Indigenous settings – Slow delicate complex work of building trust, relationships and shared understanding and commitment – Working towards sustainability through training and government engagement
  • 38.
  • 39.
  • 40.
  • 41.
  • 42. Guiding Principles • Help me to do it by myself • Trust, observation, reflection, respect • Long-term commitment • Sustainable and scalable infrastructure and resources • Community engagement around the child • We must become less as the children, families and communities become more • Independence
  • 43.
  • 44.
  • 45. Mentoring • Non judgemental, supportive, friendly and open, observant, effective communication, sensitivity to personality needs of coordinator • Cultural awareness and knowledge; being prepared to seek this knowledge and awareness • Non interfering but able to sensitively raise awareness of coordinator to issues they may not see • Knowledgeable and experienced in Montessori 0-3 • Ability to be in the background, to act with humility and a sense of humour • Ability to work out ways to empower the coordinator
  • 47.
  • 48. Research • We want to know what impact the Strait Start program has over time on: – the perceptions, attitudes and practices of parents and carers to fostering the development of children though family interactions and environments. – the development of children across key developmental domains (emotional, social, language, physical, cognitive) – the level of children’s engagement with and performance in formal schooling.
  • 49.
  • 50.
  • 51. The research process • Collating baseline data – Existing and future school data on: • Attendance • Literacy • Numeracy – AEDI – Human Development Index – LSIC • Documentation of programs – Background – Rollout – Challenges and responses – Reflections
  • 52. • Qualitative data – Background material • Ethnographies • Community profiles • Family profiles – Ongoing collection • Classroom observations • Regular family and community interviews • Quantitative data – Background material • AEDI • School performance data – Ongoing collection • Annual testing using some AEDI tools • Range of tests (children) • Long-term tracking using school performance data • Health and well-being measures

Editor's Notes

  1.