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A boost for Montessori from Jeff Bezos

| January 14, 2021 | 0 Comments

On 19 October 2020, tech maverick Jeff Bezos, who is the CEO of Amazon, opened the Bezos Academy, a preschool in Des Moines, Washington, US.

Announcing the news on Instagram by way of a picture of one of the school’s classrooms, Bezos wrote: ‘This classroom is just the beginning … [it is] the first of many free preschools that we’ll be opening for underserved children. Extra kudos to the team for figuring out how to make this happen even amidst COVID [sic].’

Bezos travelled around the US visiting different preschools before opening the Bezos Academy. He attended a Montessori school and says it’s his pedagogy of choice. ‘Montessori schools emphasise hands-on and self-directed learning, with uninterrupted blocks of working time, in mixed-age classrooms,’ explained the billionaire, adding that the students at the academy will be between three and five years old, that the school will not close for holidays, and that parents will not have to pay any fees.

The Bezos Academy is overseen by the Bezos Day One Fund, a philanthropic initiative launched in 2018. A spokesperson for the fund said that strict COVID-19 monitoring would be in place from day one to protect the little scholars.

Bezos has faced some criticism from education stakeholders in Des Moines. ‘While it’s great that Jeff Bezos wants to be more involved in this area, there’s an existing system that’s crumbling. We are also trying to triage amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Wouldn’t it make more sense to try and do more to strengthen the current system?’ asked Joel Ryan, executive director of the Washington State Association for the Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program.

Bezos responded thus: ‘It turns out in life that your most important decisions are always made with instinct, intuition, taste, heart. We’ll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon. Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer.’

Category: Summer 2020

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