City Montessori School wins UNESCO Peace Education award
LUCKNOW, India — City Montessori School, a large private school with a Bahá'í-inspired curriculum that stresses world citizenship and religious tolerance, has been awarded the 2002 UNESCO Prize for Peace Education.
Awarded annually by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the honor was given to City Montessori School (CMS) this year "in recognition of its efforts to promote the universal values of education for peace and tolerance and to renew the principles of secularism at a time when these values and principles are increasingly being challenged," according to UNESCO press release dated 6 June 2002.
Founded in 1959, the school has a reputation for a high level of academic excellence -- and for a distinctive program of moral and spiritual education.
"For more than 40 years it has educated students to respect the values of tolerance and peace and sought to make them citizens of the world," said the UNESCO release. " The school's founders, Jagdish and Bharti Gandhi, inspired by the non-violence of Mahatma Gandhi, founded their school on four fundamental principles: universal values, excellence, global understanding, and service to the community."
The founders are also Bahá'ís -- and they are quick to add that the Bahá'í teachings have greatly inspired their work and the school's curriculum. "We have been following the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, and these teachings have led us to work more and more for world peace," said Bharti Gandhi, contacted by telephone after the UNESCO award was announced.
Mrs. Gandhi said when they founded the school, she and her husband were followers of Mahatma Gandhi. Both accepted the Bahá'í Faith in 1974, and since then they have increasingly incorporated principles of world citizenship and human oneness into the curriculum. "We rededicated ourselves to the cause of world unity," said Mrs. Gandhi, who is the school's director.
The school's success at attracting students has won for it a citation, in 1999, in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest school by enrollment. The school had some 22,000 students that year. The school currently has more than 26,000 students, in grade levels ranging from pre-primary to college, said Mrs. Gandhi.
"The school aims to give pupils the skills permitting them to face the complex problems of the world today, by displaying trust for each child, by developing their sense of responsibility, by the theoretical and practical teaching of moral values, and by opening their eyes to other religions and cultures," said the UNESCO press release.
"The recognition given to the importance of the family is one of the characteristics of the CMS," continued the UNESCO release. "The school sensitizes parents by giving them books on their educational influence and involving them closely in the life of the school. And the teachers benefit from continued training in the main principles of the school, as well as in child development, psychology and sociology. Each child has a mentor who engages in a personal relationship with his or her charge's family.
"Another characteristic of the City Montessori School is the emphasis it places on educational research. Its Innovation Wing employs 25 people who identify and bring in the best educational theories and practices from whatever country, sourcing techniques from the Montessori method, robotics, tutorial systems or management practices," said the UNESCO release.
According to UNESCO, the Prize for Peace Education comes with a US$30,000 award. Since 1981, the prize has been awarded to promote initiatives that seek to improve public awareness and to mobilize opinion in favor of peace. Funding for the Prize is provided though a donation from the Nippon Foundation.
For more information about City Montessori School, visit the school's website at http://www.cmseducation.org. The Bahá'í World News Service carried a previous story about CMS, which can be read at: http://www.bwns.org/story/146 For more information about the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education, go to: http://www.unesco.org/human_rights/peaceint.html