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June 14, 2020 Sunday 08:20:56 PM IST

The National Pre-school Curriculum

Cover Story

The Formative FIVE

The foundations of life-long learning begin at kindergarten where the five senses are opened up and along with that the social, emotional, physical, cognitive and linguistic skills are developed with games, rhymes, riddles, and play. The NCERT Pedagogy for Pre-schools is a culmination of the latest research in cognitive sciences. The new Pallikkutam Pedagogy adapts it to suit the needs of Gen-Next Learners.

The National Pre-school Curriculum

The formative years of a child are vital for understanding the surroundings, interacting with other children, and learn through playway methods. Some of the pre-schools put children to a dull and monotonous routine in such a manner that they are introduced to formal learning at an age not suited for them. They are taught in English, made to do tests and homework and denied the right to play. It was in this context that National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) came up with a new pre-school curriculum in August 2019 that addresses these challenges and helps teachers, administrators, policy planners and other stake holders to provide quality pre-school education.

Neurosciences have confirmed that maximum brain development takes between the ages of three to six which is the ideal time for pre-schooling. Neural pathways are developed through optimum stimulation received from environment and care givers. Pre-schooling also ensures better nutrition, health and lays a good foundation for formal learning.

Emphasis on Play

The new curriculum suggests play activities, having a balance between different kinds of play like free and guided, active and passive, indoor and outdoor, individual and group and structured and unstruc-tured. Understanding relationships with parents, friends, families, caregivers, teachers and communities take place in this environment. This is vital for them to feel secure, confident, curious and communicative. The curriculum suggests early learning in mother tongue for easier ways of concept formation.

The role of a teacher in pre-school is that of a planner and facilitator. They should keep in mind the shorter attention span of each child and the need for movement. Good habits can be taught during play and meal times. Exploration, Experimentation and Enquiry are the methods by which children can develop their five senses.

Mathematical Foundation

A good foundation in mathematics can be developed in pre-schools if the learning concepts is connected with the environment. Mathematical concepts and vocabulary can be introduced or reinforced also through stories, rhymes and other play-based activities.Play schools become effective only if importance is given to design and architecture in both indoor and outdoor environment. Classes should have activity areas so that children can exercise their choices and explore what interests them. Classroom displays should be at the eye level of children and work of each child should be displayed.

Pre-schools should not only support emerging skills in reading, writing and mathematics, buts also such skills as critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, technology literacy and social-emotional development called the 21st century skills.

Making Children Involved Learners 

By Shini Cyriac, Headmistress, Rajagiri Kindergarten:

The NCERT has in detail outlined the importance of play way methods in the lives of pre-schoolers.

Some of the key points emerging from the new curriculum are:

• Exploration, discovery, and problem solving should be a part

of the pedagogy.

• Curriculum should be flexible and accessible to children

with different impairments.

• How to design outdoor, indoor environment & activity areas

for pre-schoolers.

• How to plan an effective and interesting curriculum for preschoolers.

• How to make children involved learners.

• And most importantly how to carry out assessments.

If this detailing of pedagogical processes and learning outcomes given by NCERT is carried out by a teacher I am sure learning would become a delight for the little ones. It’s quite impressive, I personally feel all teachers should go through it. Although we might be doing all this, it will help to refresh our memory and design things a bit differently. They have seen that they haven’t missed out any area of development.

Laying the Foundations of Inclusion

Mother Tongue/Home Language

Agreed this would make the child/student feel at ease and enable the strengthening of a healthy/motherly teacher-student bond. Considering that the pre-school years are when the child’s brain is most elastic to learning “new” languages, I feel it would be good to have a blend of both English and regional language as the medium of instruction. If the teacher can use the child’s mother tongue/home language, it would be an added advantage. Thus, giving the child an opportunity to grasp either a bilingual or trilingual vocabulary from an early age.

Exposure to sign language

It helps to lay the foundations of inclusion: Unequivocally appreciate this point! This would help children to mingle with differently abled students. There would be a beautiful inculcation of empathy towards the differently abled in children.

Inclusion of children with disability

A critical point, but I’m sceptical how many teachers would be able to recognize the differently abled child – other than the visible physical aspect of disability. Autism, ADD, ADHD in children are on the upsurge and aren’t easily identifiable. Justice that could be met in such cases by teachers seem limited to me. The flip side to this is the acceptance by the parents of their child’s such a condition. A counsellor plays a pivotal role in such situation and it is just right for every pre-school to appoint a child counsellor.

Orientation for Parents

If this could be made mandatory and at frequent intervals, the absolute effectiveness of the intention of inclusive education would be met.

Vidya Narayanan, Pre-school, English Language Training expert, Product Manager, HarperCollins Publishers India Pvt Ltd:

The NCERT has always been proactive in warranting that all facets of education are well catered to. They have taken this one step further by providing an exhaustive insight on the expected pedagogy for pre-school teaching/learning. The panel has encompassed the entirety of the prerequisites of an effective pre-school curriculum. Indeed, learning begins from the womb. But formal learning happens when the child leaves the comfort of his/her home. While I was reading the NCERT document, a few points caught my eye.

Holistic Curriculum 

The curriculum needs to be customized by the teacher in any given point of time and meeting diverse learning needs for any age grouping: Such a beautiful point which is wholly misinterpreted. Any curriculum is meant to grow a child “holistically” but the essence of this word gets submerged when “curriculum” comes into the picture. Customisation of the curriculum is the utmost effective way to help influence the grasping of skills/concepts. 

Development of Five Domains

Given the children’s age and the fact that they are likely to be away from home for the first time, considerable time may be allotted for free play to develop a sense of liking for the new environment and the people: This is central for the development of the 5 domains in every child -- physical, linguistic, cognitive, social and emotional. Each of these are interlinked and a lack of development of one will definitely affect the others. Free play is when all the 5 domains of development are put to best use in the child.

Pedagogical Processes

When talking about the “Pedagogical Processes”, it is pertinently drafted to ensure there is plentiful focus to the three key components of pedagogy of early childhood -- play, interactions and the environment. The pedagogical processes for the three pre-school levels presented in the document are so in-depth and self-explanatory. This document prepared by NCERT for teachers handling preschoolers, should unquestionably be read, well comprehended to help them formulate customised curriculum which will, in sequence, augment the erudition of the children.

As Maria Montessori puts it: “The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six. The education of a small child, therefore, does not aim at preparing him for school, but for life”. Let’s continue to strive in preparing our children for life!"

Teacher Support for Activity Based Learning

Shanthi Menon, Kindergarten expert & Founder, South Point Pre-school:

The NCERT pre-school curriculum is good enough but I have concerns about practical implementation of guidelines. I believe in activity based learning and these thoughts have been there for some time. It has been redone again by NCERT. Teachers should be there to provide support for kids in hands-on activities. If the topic is colour, for every week I have at least one activity ready for the children.

We have to repeat the themes, without boredom.The same theme can be repeated in different ways, it brings life to the class. The magic has to be maintained. The best way for children to learn is through touch and feel. With the advent of remote learning, the children may be deprived of this. The lateral thinking skills again, cannot be developed. There is no point in just making colourful classrooms for children. Real hard work has to be put in by the teachers themselves. All the five senses have to be opened-- here touch and feel is very important. Remote learning or web learning is not good for pre-schoolers. It will not help in developing their neuronal pathways vital for problem solving, critical thinking etc.