Wednesday, December 14, 2011

(Very) Early Childhood Education

Yesterday, I came across 2 of my daughter's playmates - one in the LKG and another in the UKG , different schools but both affiliated to the CBSE. The LKG kid had just finished with learning strokes and now has moved to writing letters of the alphabet.
The UKG kid's "syllabus" includes writing numerals 1-100, numbers in words from one to fifty and writing 3 letter words! This boy's mother tells me the school gives him so much homework that his tiny hands start aching.
I spoke to another parent whose child is in Standard I (again CBSE). This child could write sentences last year itself and now follows the question/answer pattern.
Another child studying in LKG in a State Board school also can write letters of the alphabet in Tamil and English, apart from numerals up to 20.

What I understood from the mothers of all these children is that LKG is comparatively easy, in the sense that they start with strokes and move on to writing the letters of the alphabet and a few numbers by the end of the year. However, UKG seems to be a giant leap from there. The learning seems to speed up by this level.

The 3 Rs have now become - Rapid - Rigorous - Rote Learning!!

My question: Is there a regulatory body that takes a check on the kindergarten/nursery school syllabus followed by different schools?
There are as many different syllabi as the number of schools in town. Isn't there anyone to monitor this? There seems to be no common pattern at all.
I'm not even talking about 'alternative education' like Montessori and Waldorf that ideally integrates play, nature, day-to-day life and education. I am just talking about the regular mainstream education that city schools offer.
Adding to the confusion is the age factor for admission. Each school follows a different age bracket for admissions into the LKG level. In this mix, a three and a half year old and a child who is 4+ years old will learn the same thing in spite of a world of difference in their 'readiness' to grasp a concept.

I did some research on the Internet and I understand that in India, schools come under the ambit of any Board of Education only starting from Standard I. Anything that happens before that, is totally up to the discretion of the individual school. The school is free to either let the children sing and play all day or cram them up with heavy writing work. The Department of Education, Government of India has a jargon-filled website that indicates that there is a body to look after Elementary Education but they seem have other albeit well-meaning priorities like getting to children to come to school in the first place! I am sure there is already some structure and regulation in place that I am not aware of. If not, I feel there should definitely be some laws based on a modern look at toddlers/pre-schoolers, their developmental needs and milestones.

My point is that children are like sponges. They will learn anything you teach them - be it 100 Thirukkural verses or names of 100 countries with their capital cities. It is another topic of discussion if gifted children are 'born' or 'made'. But where early education is concerned, I think we need to draw a line somewhere - not how much a child can learn but how much a child needs to learn.

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful research!! I always felt that there is stress on writing given at this age for little kids but no school seems to give importance to other aspects like behaviour etc. For eg, little kids should be asked questions like "what good thing or annoying thing did u think u did at home today?".. this will make little children think and also understand how much their parents and teachers love them and this way, from a young age they could be taught to analyse themselves and the importance of good conscience could be inculcated from a young age. Back when we were little, I still remember my mom( a teacher) promoting open talk in little minds like this!! Academics shd include fun stuff like this too, Not just Writing and learning facts !!

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  2. Absolutely true! This becomes so important - ages upto 7 are called formative years because they form your personality...a kind of a mould for the rest of your life. Formal learning of concepts etc. can be done anytime. With so many of us thinking this way, I am sure change is not very far off.
    Thanks for your comments.
    PS: I didn't get your name

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