Montessori vs Mainstream

Choosing the right education for your child can be stressful, there are so many methods to choose from.

Making the choice between mainstream and alternate methods can be an effort for parents. Will it make a difference? Will Montessori really help MY child? Aren’t some mainstream education centres progressive and catering for diverse learners.

There are many variables to consider – here are just a few things to highlight the contract between mainstream education and a Montessori education:


Mainstream staff are addressed by their titles, Mr or Ms followed by their surname, this reiterates the hierarchy and teaches students to respect their elders. Staff in a Montessori environment are addressed by their first name as it teaches students that the Directress and student are co-constructs of the learning experience. The Directress guides the learning for the child.

Language and Behaviour:

Students in mainstream education are not required to make self-directed decisions to guide their own behaviour. Behaviour management is proactive and reactive based. The language used in a mainstream environment stems from a behaviour management position. Behaviour management is the term used to describe positive or negative interactions between students. A proactive method is called PBL (positive behaviour learning) is used in many state schools in which students are rewarded (with stickers, awards and, praise) for tasks and behaviours.

The Montessori philosophy prides itself on being child-led. This is true for Montessori’s use of the team ‘behaviour guidance’. We believe that behaviour is guided with the assistance of the directress to teach the child socially appropriate and safe behaviours. The language used us choice and reflective based. Educators pose questions that assist the child to direct their own behaviour. Providing explanations as to what consequences could result: It swinging on your choice a safe or unsafe thing to do? What would happen if you lost your balance? Students are taught to be self-reflective and engage in appropriate behaviours through discussion, and guidance from the educators.


A mainstream environment is brightly coloured with set craft activities hanging or pinned from the walls. This is to allow the students to feel welcome and excited to engage in their classroom. Mainstream classrooms have set routines and group activities where each child is required to participate.

In a Montessori environment, walls are minimalistic and serene. This is to promote a calming environment for the students. Furniture and equipment are child-sized and accessible to all students. Montessori sue mostly wooden objects as resources and activities due to a relaxing environment. This philosophy argues that overstimulation (including the overuse of decoration) of the environment caused disruption to the learning of students. If material is to be added to the environment, it is done with the assistance of the students in a co-constructed manner. As a part of the cultural section of a Montessori environment, art and craft is readily available to all students, however, creativity and individuality are encouraged and there is no mass production of a singular piece of work. Students are invited to participate in group discussion and lessons, however, the students choose whether to participate or to engage in an alternate learning experience.

Educational Outcomes:

In a mainstream environment, each child is required to undertake a series of examinations and assessmets to assess their capabilities in specific areas of study throughout the year. These are called standardised testing as most are not flexible in their content, process and product, assessing the level of knowledge obtained through abstract means.

In a Montessori environment, students are assessed on their conceptual and abstract knowledge of a task, with the option to produce the desired learning in multiple ways. Students can use words, pictures, concrete resources to explain a concept and prove competency. Students’ achievements are their goals are documented to assess what concept the child is ready to learn next, or what areas need more focus.


Mainstream education is easily accessible to all families as it is the most common method of education in Australia. Mainstream education offers nationally constructed curriculum and a wide variety of childcare centres, primary education and high school.

Montessori offers limited quality centres, as Montessori is not a trademark and independent centres can claim to promote the Montessori philosophy without the knowledge or belief in the pedagogy. Due to the lack of trademark, there is no governing body to assess the standards of the ‘Montessori’ centre and responsibility falls on the management team and directress to ensure quality Montessori education.

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