Delhi Education Conference Day Two: panel discussion on getting children ready for formal learning led by experts from India, Germany, and Finland*
*Develop strong teacher training programs in India; specialist teachers can add value to the public education system: Tuuli Makinen, Finland-based preschool educator*
*In the light of implementing NEP 2020, a comprehensive curriculum for ages 3-8 in schools is the need of the hour; will benefit teachers in early childhood education in India: Venita Kaul, former head of Department of Preschool and Elementary Education, NCERT*
*Develop strong teacher-training programs, appreciate teachers, and focus on children experiencing their environment, especially in this digital age- Advice of the panel to Education Minister of Delhi.*
New Delhi January13.2021: The Delhi Government’s International Education Conference 2021 kicked off its day two with a panel discussion on ‘Get Children Ready for Formal Learning’ led by policy experts from Finland, Germany and India. “In the context of New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the Delhi Government should work on setting up a cadre of specially trained foundational stage teachers and make them the most important part of the school system,” said Venita Kaul, professor and director of School of Education Studies and founder-director of Center for Early Childhood Education and Development (CECED), Ambedkar University at the session.
This invigorating panel had revered education experts like Dr Divya Jalan, founder member of Action for Ability Development and Inclusion (AADI), Sebastian Suggate (Germany), senior lecturer in education at the University of Regensburg, Tuuli Makinen (Finland), a preschool educator, and Kaul. The session was moderated by Mythili Bector, teacher-former principal and present in-charge of Primary and Library branch of Directorate of Education, Govt. of Delhi. The session opened with introductory remarks by Lucy Crehan (UK), author of ‘Cleverlands’ and an international education consultant.
The panel with its focus on early childhood education and formal education ran through four key discussions – school starting age, pre-academic and social skills, addressing early learning gaps, and implementing NEP’s recommendation of ensuring foundations and school readiness.
On the appropriate age to begin formal education for children, Makinen, who is a preschool educator in Finland said, “We’ve noticed that in Finland, at age 7, the majority of children are ready and feeling motivated. They are interested in reading and learning. Since they’ve already been given the essential socio-emotional skills in preschool, we feel that that’s the right age and have had that for the past 50 years.”
Makinen also talked about prioritising teacher training, and emphasised the need for teachers to be prepared with all aspects of child behaviour in their classrooms. “In Finland, teachers observe the child. How h/she reads & learns. Setting individual goals is important for early formative education. We follow positive education by focusing on the child’s strength and character more.”
On what the Delhi government should focus on for school readiness and early childhood education, Makinen added, “It is important to appreciate teachers and teachers training. I also feel play-based education and learning by doing should be added to the curriculum. In the early years of teacher training in Finland a lot of theoretical knowledge is provided. At the same time, enough play-based practices are taught too. That practical knowledge creates the real change, that is most helpful”, she said.
On addressing the learning gaps, especially in education for special needs children, Jalan said that in India, lack of information for caregivers and parents has been the biggest hurdle. “They need acceptance, and a lot of support. But things are changing as they’re demanding inclusive schools and services,” she said.
“It is important to understand the gaps in education and experiences in the life of a special needs child. Experiences shape their understanding, and therefore, teaching techniques need to be more varied and creative to enhance learning,” Jalan said. She added, “Teachers should work on how they can include the child in classrooms. School readiness in terms of infrastructure resources, and sensitising all children and parents is equally important in India.”
Suggate, who’s a researcher in child development, and has conducted research into reading and school starting age discussed how first-generation learners can benefit from early childhood education. He said, “Traditionally, in India, families often sing to their children and read stories to them. Such traditional family structures and experiences are intrinsically motivating for children in their foundational stage.”
Additionally, Suggate added that in early childhood education, sensory motor foundational skills, and academic learning is linked. He said, “You can take something like fine motor skills of children and link it later to mathematics, speaking and movement.”
Kaul, professor and former head of Department of Preschool and Elementary Education, NCERT also highlighted the importance of having a comprehensive curriculum for students aged 3 to 8. “In the light of NEP which talks about seamless transition into primary education, there needs to be a comprehensive curriculum for ages 3 to 8. It’ll come handy to teachers, and serve as a guiding framework to work with. Unless they’re extremely well-trained, they won’t be able to think for themselves.”
Kaul also talked about the role of anganwadi workers’ future. She said, “The focus should be on blended training for Anganwadi workers. Their workload needs to be reassessed too since their role is not just limited to teaching.”
While concluding the panel discussion, the panel offered their advice to the education minister Manish Sisodia — to develop strong teacher-training programmes, appreciate teachers, and focus on children having primary experiences with their environment, especially in this digital age.
By Lipakshi Seedhar: Staff Correspondent.