The system of education developed by Maria Montessori, noted Italian feminist, anthropologist and physician, is the single largest pedagogy in the world with over 22,000 public, private, parochial, and charter schools on six continents, enduring even as other teaching methods have waxed and waned. Despite its international diffusion and longevity, research into the pedagogy is glaringly absent from mainstream educational literature.
The purpose of this study is, first, to explore Dr. Montessori's involvement in international conferences and examine how the exchange of ideas by participants may have influenced her pedagogy. Second, this study investigates the implementation of Montessori pedagogy in two countries, the United Republic of Tanzania and the Russian Federation, focusing on the interplay of teacher training, classroom practice, and culture.
This comparative multiple case study was designed to differentiate what is universal in the Montessori pedagogy and what is country specific or culture bound. Observations in classrooms guided by a checklist of ten essential elements, interviews with teachers, trainers and leaders of Montessori associations, and historical and contemporary documents are the primary sources of data.
The results of the data indicate that limited economic resources, the quality of training, government regulations and availability of Montessori books translated into the Kiswahili and Russian languages influence the implementation of Montessori pedagogy in the United Republic of Tanzania and the Russian Federation to a greater extent than culture. Montessori pedagogy as implemented in Tanzania is thriving and is providing much needed quality education for young children. Several factors influence its implementation, but poverty permeates through all the classrooms and is the most significant. Montessori pedagogy as implemented in Russia also is thriving, in spite of the challenge of consistent training. Impressive efforts such as the work of the Belgorod Montessori Study Center to develop the theoretical understanding and practical applications of cosmic education and Michailova Montessori School's experiment in integrating into a self-managed government school may determine whether Montessori remains on the periphery of pedagogy or moves to the center, influencing future policy.