The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) released its preschool curriculum on Monday. Among the recommendations is that preschoolers be taught in their mother tongue or home language. The council defines preschool education as education imparted to children in the age group of 3-6 years, before they advance to class I. Also known as pre-primary education, it is provided in any of the settings including anganwadis, nursery schools, preschools, preparatory schools and kindergartens.
The curriculum’s content is designed for three years of preschool before class I and is based on “developmentally appropriate approaches”. It defines the role that parents, teachers, policymakers, administrators and other stakeholders have in helping preschoolers achieve their learning targets and provide good quality education.
According to the recommendation, providing a strong foundation for all-round development and lifelong learning are the two central objectives of preschool education. It also says that the commercialisation of pre-schooling is detrimental for children’s motivation to learn.
The need for such a curriculum
The report cites “emerging needs and new developments” in preschool education as the reason that such a curriculum is needed “… to ensure that the present curriculum is holistic, developmentally appropriate, indigenous, and most importantly play and activity-based.” The guiding principles for this curriculum include neurobiological research that has shown that pathways in the brain are set in their early years, respecting each child’s different ability to learn, the importance of play and activity and interactive teaching among other factors.
What does the curriculum say about the medium of instruction?
While mother tongue is the native language that a child learns at home, home language is the language that members of a family use most commonly. Under the section, “Characteristics of Preschool Children” in the report it says that mother tongue or home language should be the medium of instruction. “Language is closely linked to children’s identity and emotional security that helps them freely express their thoughts and feelings,” it says. The report notes that language is a “complex issue” in a multilingual country “where children may come into the preschool with a home language which may be different from the preschool/regional language.” Referring to research, the report further notes that children who attend preschool in their mother tongue face fewer problems of comprehension.
It also emphasises the need to expose children to sign language.
Broadly, the curriculum consists of three goals: maintaining good health and well being, developing communication skills and encouraging “involved learning” and connecting children to their immediate environment. Even so, it assumes that the curriculum has been developed with an assumption based on “empirical and theoretical” understanding that children are ready for preschool by age three.
It also mentions a pedagogical process (set of instructions and techniques) that needs to be followed by teachers so that children learn in a way that encourages investigation, exploration, problem-solving and critical thinking. In order to achieve early learning outcomes for children as the end of each phase, the pedagogical process to be followed includes “play”, “interactions” and “environment”.
Early learning outcomes are defined as what children should know and be able to do by the end of each year. Some of these outcomes include enjoying “age-appropriate” short stories, demonstrating introductory phonological awareness and solving simple day to day problems themselves or with adult support.
While Preschool I is for children between 3-4 years, Preschool II for 4-5 years and Preschool III for children between 5-6 years of age.
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