Popular Early Childhood Education approaches: Exploring Montessori, Waldorf & Reggio Emilia

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Montessori, Waldorf, and Reggio Emilia are three major approaches to early childhood education. They’re popular not only in the United States but also throughout the world. Malaysia is no exception. There are many preschools in Malaysia these days, mostly private, that are already adopting one of these three major approaches with Montessori being the most popular. The following is a brief comparison of these three popular methods of education.


Dr Maria Montessori

Founder: Dr Maria Montessori

When: 1907

Where: Rome, Italy

Philosophy: A child-centred approach to education. Teachers serve as guides and play is a child’s work. Children are encouraged to learn at their own pace. There are learning materials known as “manipulatives.” These learning materials are self-corrective. Montessori classrooms are not organised by age. Older children serve as role models for younger children.

Who is the Montessori approach for: If you want your child to acquire leadership skills and general independence, Montessori may be the right educational philosophy for you.


Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner

Founder: Rudolph Steiner

When: 1919

Where: Stuttgart, Germany

Philosophy: This approach places a great emphasis on practical, hands-on activities, and creative play, which includes reading, singing and acting. Waldorf doesn’t encourage the use of computers or other electronics in its curriculum. Children spend a lot of time outdoors. Activities are typically designed to develop imagination and creativity.

Who is the Waldorf approach for: If you want your child to learn how to think, not what to think, Waldorf may be the right educational philosophy for you.

Reggio Emilia

Loris Malaguzzi 

Founder: Loris Malaguzzi (Psychologist)

When: 1945

Where: Reggio Emilia, Italy

Philosophy: Teachers as guides and they work alongside children to investigate interests and ideas. Educational programmes are often designed to facilitate a child’s power of thinking to foster creative thinking and a love of learning. Teachers introduce learning provocations that build on their (students) questions and interests. This approach uses photos, recording, artwork and written observations to assist teachers and children review what they have learned.

Who is the Reggio Emilia approach for: This curriculum is not pre-formatted and children are not quickly supplied with answers. If you want your child to explore and investigate anything that’s based mainly on their interests, Reggio Emilia may be the right educational philosophy for you.


  1. A Comparison of Reggio Emilia, Waldorf & Montessori Philosophies. (2018, September 13). Retrieved from https://www.thecompassschool.com/blog/reggio-waldorf-montessori-philosophies/
  2. Edwards, C. P. (2002). Three approaches from Europe: Waldorf, Montessori, and Reggio Emilia. Early Childhood Research & Practice4(1), n1.
  3. Vallberg Roth, A. C., & Månsson, A. (2011). Individual development plans from a critical didactic perspective: Focusing on Montessori-and Reggio Emilia-profiled preschools in Sweden. Journal of early childhood research9(3), 247-261.

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