Training in Montessori teaching methods is to be made available in Hong Kong for the first time when an accredited training centre opens here later this year. The Hong Kong-based training programme will be offered in partnership between the UK-based Montessori Centre International (MCI) and the Woodland Group of Pre-Schools, which has its headquarters in Mid-levels. Lorraine Hughes, founder of the Woodland Group, hopes the first course will be available by the end of the year, though plans have been delayed because of Sars. It already employs a Montessori trainer but must gain MCI accreditation for its facilities and programme. Currently, those wanting to teach in a Montessori kindergarten must complete at least some of their training abroad, either with MCI or the Dutch-based Association Montessori Internationale - the latter founded by Dr Maria Montessori. Both have centres around the world. MCI training involves 210 hours of full-time study at an accredited centre plus 420 hours of teaching practice. Under the proposed partnership, students will be able to complete training through a mix of part-time and full-time study at the local centre. Those who successfully complete the course should be able to register with the Education and Manpower Bureau and the Social Welfare Department as pre-school teachers, according to Ms Hughes. Deanna Chan, a kindergarten teacher at a school in Discovery Bay taking the MCI distance-learning programme, said a local centre would be welcome. 'It's very frustrating because to finish the course you have to go overseas,' she said. The Montessori approach is based on the philosophy of Dr Montessori (1870-1952) who believed that 'children teach themselves'. About 40 students in Hong Kong were enrolled in distance learning with MCI, Ms Hughes said. 'There is an acute shortage of Montessori teachers in Hong Kong,' she added. Barbara Isaacs, MCI chief executive, who recently visited Hong, said interest in Montessori was growing because of the disillusionment with mainstream kindergarten education. 'We emphasise the individuality of the child, something parents realise more and more is essential for development.'