Gurukul and Montessori Education System

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~ Risha 

What is Montessori Education?

The education system is a subject that clouds most of our minds. We’ve either grown accustomed to it or question it once in a while. If one pondered upon it, they’d think to themselves; the current education system will be the blueprint for the future. That is, in fact, very true. The education system is the building blocks of our future. It shapes the individuals who hold the reins of society.

Dating back to be one of the oldest education systems in the world, Gurukuls were the pioneers of Indian education. A spiritually driven system of education in ancient India, Gurukuls (guru: master & kula: family) were the foreground for the sanctimonious guru-shishya relationship. It followed an approach where the teacher focused on the student’s development such that they have extensive knowledge about the world along with the necessary skills so that they live a cultured and disciplined life. Life at a gurukul started with an early morning Gangasanan, Suryanandanam at sunrise, followed by the chanting of the Gayatri mantra and Suryanamaskar. As begging is a part of the celibacy fast, pupils are sent out to ask for alms after the recitation of texts. At the end of one’s education, the teacher would receive Guru Dakshina as an offer of acknowledgement by the student. It may be monetary or a duty that the student carries out. The age-old system of Gurukuls have been mentioned in various scriptures and is known to exist in the Upanishads as well. Swami Vivekananda and Dayanand Saraswati revived the modern-day system of gurukulas in the colonial era. Apart from India, the Gurukul system is also followed in countries such as Belgium.

On the subject of alternatives, one can also think of the Montessori method. Developed by Italian physician Maria Montessori, this method is built to view children as naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning. Acting as a fundamental model of human development, the Montessori method aims to shape independent individuals into society, primarily by focusing on discouraging testing and grades. The Montessori method follows two principles; 

  1. Children and developing adults engage with their environment through a psychological self-constructing approach.
  2. Montessori in her research found that children, especially under the age of 6, had an innate path of psychological development. Thus, when they were at liberty to choose and act freely within an environment would do so accordingly for optimal development.

Human tendencies such as activity, exploration, orientation, self-perfection, and work, etc., are addressed through this method as they are the driving tools that encourage the development of an individual’s behaviour. Montessori, through her research, also found that education has a significant role to play in world peace and its development. She believed that children allowed to develop and tune to their ways of development would give rise to a more peaceful and tolerant civilization. She can be quoted as saying, “preventing conflicts is the work of politics, establishing peace is the work of education”. It is believed, according to this method, that there are five planes of development; from birth to 6 years of age, 6 to 12 years of age, 12 to 18 years of age and 18 to 24 years of age. Based on this, the curriculum is prepared accordingly, as every plane requires different learning modes and developmental peremptory.

Similarities between Gurukul and Montessori Method

The similarities between the two systems are quite a few. In principle, both systems take a similar approach to foster individuals who’ll grow up to be independent in their way of thinking and taking actions in various facets of life. Like Gurukul, Montessori aims to create a learning environment with more extracurricular, one-on-one sessions with the teacher, better enrolment in schools, an increased level of independence among the students. The method of the gurukul system is centred on thinking, hearing, meditating, and introspecting. It helps the students to build an ability to think critically and clearly. Research has also verified the efficacy of Montessori materials used for children in elementary settings as it is believed to have made a significant contribution in gathering skills of five and six-year-olds who had an attention deficit. As a result, children receiving tutelage under this method are said to show higher performance from the point of view of orientation skills and coping with increasing complexity in the problems than those who come from a traditionally taught classroom. In both systems, students are also exempt from traditional tests and exams, inculcating an environment such that a child learns according to their capacity.

Differences between Gurukul and Montessori Method

While the gurukul system takes on a traditional approach of reading up on ancient scriptures, Vedic texts, and taking on a holistic approach overall, Montessori assumes using certain materials suitable for this method to hone a child’s inner developing self. Differences also include, in a traditional gurukul setting pupils are required to leave their homes for the period until they complete their education, whereas, in Montessori, it is similar to that of the modern schooling system.

How alternative education systems can be implemented

Due to a lack of research and awareness about the alternate methods, the consensus has a rather sceptical opinion of it. In a survey done, over 47% of people were unsure whether the integration of the gurukul system with its modern counterpart would be a success. At the same time, over 64% of the respondents were positive about the implementation of an alternative system (gurukul). Today there are many schools that provide alternate methods of education with highly trained professionals. There are schools where either gurukul or Montessori methods are implemented. In comparison to the current system, however, they fall short. So in order to have a more student-friendly system, certain aspects of various alternate methods can be implemented, which helps in transitioning or easing into a different approach to create students with quality instead of quantity.

The existence of various pedagogies is testimony to the fact that education evolves with time. What was once effective could prove to be indifferent to a certain group of people now. Therefore, as a part of reforming education, the system as a whole has to be tweaked or changed. In the words of Margaret Mead, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”


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The content writing domain consists of passionate and creative change-makers who are willing to create a difference in society through their writings and blogs. They write on a range of topics from India to the world and beyond. The team also helps in a range of write-ups and content required for the SKCF webpage and events.

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