Montessori Education in Taiwan is still relatively new compared to other countries. This article looks at the history of Montessori in Taiwan.
Table of Contents:
Slowdown of Montessori in China
The comeback of Montessori in China
Spread to Taiwan
The Catholic Montessori Nuns
Xavier University Program in Taiwan
More about Montessori History
Taiwan is a different country from China, but when looking at the history of Montessori in Taiwan, it helps to start with China. In April 1913 - Zhi Hou (志厚) published an article in the Chinese Journal of Education about Montessori. Zhi Hou stated, "In recent years, one approach which was proven to be so successful that initiate a new era of education. Montessori is regarded as the first educationalist after Froebel and Pestalozzi." The roughly 4000-word article describes Montessori and the activities, along with descriptions of the materials used in the classroom.
Did you know?
The Chinese title he used for Montessori was also reflective of the respect he had for her. Zhi Hou gave her the title "女史." 女 is the Chinese character for female, while 史 is used as an important member of the king's council.
Montessori was becoming popular quickly in China. In 1914, a Japanese book named "The Montessori Method," written by Kazo Imanishi, was translated into Chinese. In the Jiangsu province, The Montessori Education Research Institute was established. A Montessori teacher from France (I could only find her last name: Bastil) came and gave a workshop about Montessori to the Shanghai Global Chinese Students Association. That time, she said, "China is in a development stage. China needn’t repeat educational methods that were already proven by experience to be wrong or inefficient by other countries. It should choose the education theory and method that is most beneficial for its own educational needs. The Montessori philosophy is one of the best choices."
Montessori thrived for a few years as a popular form of education, but the political landscape was changing in China. Because while all this innovation was happening, a major change in Chinese politics was taking shape.
The 1911 Revolution saw the overthrow of the last Chinese Emperor, Puyi. In December, 1911 Sun Yat-sen became the provisional president. January 1, 1912 became the first day of the First Year of the Republic. The republic calender is still used in Taiwan today to mark what year it is. In February, 1912 Yuan Shikai, leader of the Beiyang Army in northern China, was able to convince the Qing court to abdicate the Emperor's throne. Emperor Puyi lost his throne on February 12, 1912 and Yuan ShiKai took over the presidency on March 10th. The hope was to rule as a constitutional president. There would be a parliament set up similar to the United States Senate.
In the election for sentate, Sun Yat-sen's new party, the National's People Party (now more popularly known as the KMT) won 249 out of 596 seats. Hoping to form a new government, the KMT appointed Song JiaoRen as a prime minister, who was assassinated in March of 1913. In May of that same year, KMT was banned and the new assembly was forced to elect Yuan as president for five years. He made a series of controversial decisions, including the decision to give much of Chinese control to Japan, and died in 1915, leaving a largely fractured country.
Enter the Warlords!
From 1916 to 1928, China was in a period of history called The Warlord Era, a time when control of the government was divided up among many military groups throughout different regions. China was in serious debt to other nations to a heavily divided nation. What seemed like a promising form of education soon turned into something that was much too expensive to set up and required too much expert knowledge to implement. As time went on, more educational specialists from America visited China, and the programs developed began to look more and more like what was happening in America.
In 1919, protests were breaking out and a cultural revolution was happening. For education, there was a large push to get Western influence out of education. Early Childhood Education was promoted as accesible to all, regardless of income or status. Chen Heqin ECE created the educational the slogan: "Learn to be a person, learn to be Chinese, learn to be a modern Chinese person."
In 1931, Maria Montessori wrote a letter to Zhang MengLin, the then-Secretary of Education in China. She invited Chinese teachers to attend her training. Secretary Zheng replied:
"Dear Madame Montessori,
"Your materials are varied and expensive; it is not quite economic to utilize throughout our country. Chinese pedagogy focuses on designing educational materials that pertain to real-life living, without the need to purchase teaching materials.
Montessori did not begin to rebound in popularity in China until the 1960s when Beijing Normal University Professor Lu Leshan started taking an interest in Montessori after her return from Canada. Her work led to a growing interest in Montessori in China.
Taiwan's main push for Motessori game in the late 1970s. Back then, Taiwan was under martial law. By this time, however, many of the laws and regulations became more lax as Taiwan opened itself up to more opportunities. (Note: I am not saying it was the best time for Taiwan, or even a good time politically, just saying things became a bit freer at that time compared to previous times). Taiwan, which just a few decades before had a pessimistic economic outlook, was beginning to boom in the 1970s and 80s. The 1980s saw a huge uptick in a technology-driven economy for Taiwan that still exists today. This created an environment for for higher-quality education and and educational reforms and ideas. As God sometimes works in mysterious ways, God said, "Let there be nuns!"
In 1969, a nun named Sister Ji YunTin (祭芸汀修女) went to Italy to study Theology. After being introduced to Montessori, she took her training in Italy in 1979 and brought it back to Taiwan. In 1981, Sister Wu Chaio-Jung (吳昭蓉) went to Japan to receive Montessori teacher training. She brought it to her school in Kaohsiung, Lo-Jen Preschool, and began fully implementing Montessori in 1984. In 1986, Sister Yu YunXiang (余芸湘修女) traveled to Italy to take her Montessori Elementary training. Sisters Yu YunXiang, Wu Chaio-Jung, and Ji YunTin are considered the pioneers in the Taiwan Montessori world.
Did you know:
Due to the cost of materials, the people working at the DeLai Kindergarten made their own materials, including the entire bead cabinet.
On June 6, 1984, the China Times had a headline that read, "First National Kindergarten Opens Summer Enrollment for Bilingual Program in Chinese and English." (國幼稚園首開洋學堂 蒙特梭利學校計畫今夏設分校招生 採雙語教學中英文齊下)." (Note: My translation skills are not that great. Anyone can feel free to offer a better translation, but you get the idea). Ms. Lam's Montessori School (臺北蒙特梭利幼稚園) started in 1984. Interest to start a school happened after attending a lecutre titled "The Montessori Method." There are currently several locations throughout Taipei. You can visit their website.
In 1991, The Chinese Montessori Foundation (蒙特梭利基金會) worked with the Montessori Teacher Training Center in San Francisco to open up AMS training for infants and toddlers.
In the early 1990s, Xavier University had students come from Taiwan to Cincinnati, Ohio to take a Montessori training course for 2 summers, followed by an internship year. It was through that program that Sharon Chang (張香蘭) brought over the director, Beth Bronsil (yes. She is related to me), to start up a Montessori Teacher Education Program in Changhua (彰化), which started in 2005 and ran until 2012. The program trained teachers in 3-6 and Lower Elementary (6-9).
Also enjoy reading:
If you enjoy reading about the history of Montessori, take a look at the early Montessori articles or read about the interesting life of Mario Montessori, the only son of Maria Montessori.
I want to give credit to Jane Shyun Chen (陳貞旬) for much of the information about the history of Montessori in Taiwan, both through an article she wrote and online discussions.