Céline Alvarez is a researcher whose book The Natural Laws of Children (Les lois naturelles de l’enfant) has been a bestseller in France and throughout Europe. Her website has received nearly two million visitors, and her practices are being applied by teachers and parents around the world.
Céline Alvarez, a linguist by training, set out to test the effectiveness of a scientific approach to education, i.e. an approach based on the natural laws of child development. In 2009, she took the public examination to become a state school teacher and, having passed, she sought a meeting with an adviser at the Ministry of Education, which she was granted. She was also granted the conditions which she asked for: a school in a disadvantaged neighbourhood, a mixed-age class, rigorous annual tests to measure pupil progress, and carte blanche to teach how she wished in the classroom. The experiment took place between 2011 and 2014 in Gennevilliers, a northern suburb of Paris which the French government has designated as a zone of falling education standards and violence in schools.
In order to carry out her experiment, Céline Alvarez drew on and developed the work of Dr Maria Montessori, who had first paved the way for a scientific approach of this kind back in 1907. She fleshed it out with the latest scientific findings, in particular in cognitive behavioural psychology, in cognitive, affective and social neuroscience and in French linguistics.