Education for Peace: Montessori and the IB Curriculum

Education for Peace: Montessori and the IB Curriculum
Kim Harrison, High School Academic Coordinator

Dr. Maria Montessori’s ultimate goal for children and adolescents was that they would become global citizens, provided with an education capable of making them leaders in the pursuit of world peace.

In the 1930s, having endured the horrors of World War I and with World War II looming on the horizon, she made a series of speeches regarding peace and education. Speaking before the European Conference for Peace in Brussels in 1936, she said, “Establishing peace is the work of education. We must convince the world of the need for a universal, collective effort to build the foundation for peace.” Furthermore, she proclaimed, “An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves…the enhancement of [a person’s] value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.” At The Post Oak School, we strive to provide students, from fourteen months to eighteen years, with the tools necessary to collaborate with others to build this foundation for peace.

For adolescents, the need to understand their world so that they can take their places in it as global actors with the agency to make positive changes is paramount. To this end, the High School offers the International Baccalaureate Programme (IB) as the course of study for Upper Level students. Originally designed for the children of diplomats and those in international business, IB expanded from its beginnings in Geneva in the 1960s to an internationally recognized educational program that seeks “to develop inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect,”  (IB mission statement). Like Dr. Montessori, the founders of the IB Organization understood the need for education that could serve young people who were rapidly becoming world citizens. 

At the core of the IB program are three components: the Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge, and Creativity, Activity, and Service. Each component prepares students for personal and academic pursuits beyond secondary education. 

  • The Extended Essay (EE) gives students the opportunity to delve deeper into an academic topic of their choosing, engaging in substantial research and writing an argumentative essay under the supervision of a faculty member. The EE challenges students to manage a large project independently and to develop a line of inquiry into an area of expertise. 
  • In order to engage in the sophisticated cognition necessary for completing the EE and other academic work, Theory of Knowledge (TOK) encourages students to think about thinking. This metacognition class helps students to ask big questions: How do we know what we know? What are different ways of knowing? 
  • Finally Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS) supports students in developing and sustaining their own creative or active pursuits and to branch out to be of service in the larger community.

Though the IB program is much more than its core, it is the core that most resonates with the vision that Dr. Montessori had for peace education. In the only book* that Dr. Montessori wrote that addresses her vision for an adolescent curriculum, she challenges her fellow educators to reform secondary education. She writes, “Schools as they are today are adapted neither to the needs of adolescence nor to the times in which we live. Society has not only developed into a state of utmost complication and extreme contrasts, but it has now come to a crisis in which the peace of the world and civilization itself are threatened.” Though she was writing in the aftermath of World War I, this critique continues to be relevant today. The world that our graduates are entering needs young people who understand how they as individuals can work collectively and internationally to address issues of local and global significance. The IB program, supported by a strong Montessori foundation, provides them with the knowledge, experience, and leadership skills to do just that.

*From Childhood to Adolescence, 1923

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