MUKHTAR AHMAD FAROOQI

Pre-Schooling:Need or A Mere Trend

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Pre-schooling is not considered important by most people as they are skeptical of its benefits due to their own ignorance and misconceptions about it. There is a common misconception that a preschool is meant for those children whose both parents are working and there is no one to take care of them at home. This presumption is incorrect because pre-schooling has its role in the preparation of a child for formal school. Let us first understand what is meant by a preschool:

A preschool, also known as nursery school, pre-primary school, play-school or kindergarten, is an educational establishment or learning space offering early childhood education to children before they begin compulsory education at primary school (Wikipedia).Preschool is known by different names depending upon the age group and the type of services provided like Daycare or Crèche (for age group 0-2½ years), Nursery (upto age group 4 years) and Kindergarten (upto 6 years age group children). Usually Crèche and Nursery are usually under one roof with title of Crèche cum Preparatory School while Kindergarten or Pre-Primary education is part of most formal schools.

Pre-Schooling is important for every child irrespective of the background because this is the first exercise in which children are separated from the comfort and secure zone of their parents .School readiness is the main aim of early childhood education because most of the Kindergarten education has become purely academic in nature. The various misconceptions about pre-schooling are:

  • It is meant for only those children who belong to well-off families
  • Whatever is taught in preschools can be taught anyone who has been to school even for only few classes even though pre-school teachers are highly trained professionals.
  • It is meant for children whose parents are working

Let’s now see the history, methodology and importance of pre-schooling:

Samuel Wilderspin is one of the founders of preschool education and is credited with inventing the playground. He opened his first infant school in London in 1819 and went on to establish hundreds more. He published many works on the subject.

Montessori, Waldorf, Head Start, HighScope, Reggio Emilia approach, Bank Street and Forest kindergartens are the most popular methods of teaching adopted by preschools. Most of the  high-quality preschools are "play based," rather than attempting to provide early formal instruction in academic subjects. “Playing with other children, away from adults, is how children learn to make their own decisions, control their emotions and impulses, see from others’ perspectives, negotiate differences with others, and make friends. Friedrich Frobel opened a Play and Activity institute in 1837 in the village of Bad Blankenburg in the principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, Thuringia, which he renamed Kindergarten on 28 June 1840.Usually the preschool teachers which mostly consist of females are trained to understand and implement Frobel’s philosophy.

Importance of pre-schooling

There are various organizations both in India and abroad which are working to create awareness about the importance of early childhood education like Early Childhood Education Association of India. One of the most important cognitive shifts that happens in preschool years is the development of symbolic thought which is the ability to mentally or symbolically represent concrete objects, actions, and event. Preschool education provides a child with an opportunity to start a lifelong love of learning. With the use of age-appropriate materials and objectives, we can help the child to practice skills, lay the framework for more advanced learning, and most importantly discover that learning is fun. The motivation to learn is an important factor in school success. Let us now try to understand how preschools benefit children’s learning and development:

-Promotes social and emotional development by spending time away from parents and build trusting relationships with adults outside the family. The kids learn to interact with children of their own age in a supervised environment.

-Children learn to take care of themselves and others like washing their hands before lunch, keep personal belongings in their “cubby,” and put away toys before moving to a new activity.

-They learn to identify their belongings like their own bag, Tiffin, napkin and water bottle. These are the real treasures of the children of this age.

-Promotes language and cognitive skills -The children are involved in oral activities like poem recitation, storytelling, role-playing, singing songs, hymns and prayers. All these activities help in improving their oratory skills. They learn to speak in groups. They also develop the confidence of speaking in front of small groups. Repeated recitations of poems and story enactments on stage.

-Helps develop motor skills-Playing with mud, holding crayons, practicing free colouring and writing on board helps in motor development of the children. High-quality preschool programs provide several opportunities daily for children to run, climb, and play active games. Both fine motor & gross motor development takes place by the various activities performed in the classroom under the supervision of trained teachers. And children are challenged through a variety of activities to build their hand-eye coordination and balance.

-Prepares children for kindergarten by organizing space, time and activities to be in sync with children’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical abilities.

-Children get toilet trained if they have not learned the same at their respective homes.

-Time management is another important feature of preschool. Children learn assembly time, circle time, play time, tiffin time, story time and fun time. More importantly they learn when to wake up to reach the school van on time.

-Children learn to identify the sounds of the alphabet. They learn to recognize the alphabet by listening to the sound.

-Pre writing skills developed by the use of colouring with crayons and writing on blackboard with chalk in free style manner.

Preschool is the need of the time as most of the parents are working and do not have quality time to spend with their children. Most of the babies are left at home with grandparents or helpers who are not able to guide them the way they should be. Pre School is not a place to look for mastery in academic curriculum instead it is a place where the children do all kinds of activities that are appealing to them and teach them in a special way. Preschool education helps in a child’s emotional, social and personal growth and development.

Parents in our valley have not understood what is the actual role of preschool as most of the parents(as I myself have observed) complain the preschool administration that their child  is not able to read this or write that or for that matter not able to count or memorised the sounds of English alphabet even after say 4 month or 6 months which should not have been the case because the role of preschool as already mentioned is school readiness and social , mental, physical development through various activities. I fail to understand if a child is to be admitted in Nursery or KG-1 in a formal school after preschool, and child has learnt writing, reading, language and other basic mathematical skills then what will he/she do for 3 or 2 years before being promoted to Grade-1 in a formal school. It is pertinent to mention here that parents are not wholly responsible for this mess but the so called interaction programme with a particular child before admission to KG classes by leading private schools make parents serious about these things even though this practice is banned by Supreme Court and goes against RTE ( Right to Education) Act 2009. The main objective of this practice is to grab the admission fee in the name of Capitation and we as parents don’t dare to raise voice against this or take legal course to save our children from this form punishment/harassment.

The areas of development that preschool education covers varies. However, the following main themes are typically offered by all high quality preschools through a structured set of activities:

-              Personal, social, economic and emotional development

-              Communication (including sign language), talking and listening

-              World knowledge and understanding, Creative and aesthetic development

-              Physical development, Physical health, Play

-              Mathematical awareness and scientific thinking

-              Teamwork, Self-help skills and Social skills

Conclusion

Even though National Policy on Education (1986), too had discouraged any formal instruction of the 3Rs( letter R for Reading, Writing and Arithmetic)  for preschoolers and emphasized play-based learning instead and National ECCE(Early Childhood Care & Education) Policy of 2013 also recommended play-based preschool education  but the atmosphere created by the formal schools has forced them to dictate things to preschool owners which otherwise have their structured set of activities to achieve the objectives of early childhood education because of which the very motive of sending a child in a preschool gets vanished. Preschool has to be a place which is a second home to the child; a place, which has enough material to attract and make the child feel comfortable and secure not the ones which we see in every nook and corner of the valley these days. Preschool education should not be confused with daycare as the earlier is now considered not just a good idea but very important for a child’s later scholastic success due to the reasons already discussed.

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