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A method of schooling that focuses on personal development rather than exams produces more mature, creative and socially adept children, scientists have found.
Psychologists in the US found that across a range of abilities, children at Montessori schools out-performed those given a traditional education.
Five-year-old Montessori pupils were better prepared for reading and maths, and 12-year-olds wrote “significantly more creative” essays using more sophisticated sentence structures.
Some of the biggest differences were seen in social skills and behaviour.
Montessori children displayed a greater sense of “justice and fairness”, interacted in an “emotionally positive” way, and were less likely to engage in “rough play” during break times.
The schooling system was invented in the early 1900s by Maria Montessori to educate poor children in her native Italy.
There are more than 5,000 Montessori schools in the US, and around 600 in the UK, where they are privately funded.
The method discourages traditional competitive measurements of achievement, such as grades and tests, and instead focuses on the individual progress and development of each child.