The Maharashtra Education Department has finally turned its attention to the innumerable private pre-schools and kindergartens which have been functioning in the state, virtually unregulated.
A committee has been set up which is in the process of framing a policy in accordance with the National Education Policy 2020 to monitor pre-schools and kindergartens in the state.
“We have formed a committee to bring all these playgroups, kindergartens or whatever names they go by, under one bracket legislation,” said Commissioner of Education Suraj Mandhare.
He added, “Looking at the guidelines and expectations of the National Education Policy 2020, we are going to frame a state-wide policy for them because some monitoring or regulation has to be there. At the same time, we do not want to kill the institute itself and there will be some liberty because one cannot lay down a very rigid teaching method for that age bracket.”
Mandhare further said, “I am heading that committee and we have conducted a few meetings so far. The SCERT (State Council for Education Research and Training) as well as child pedagogy experts have been roped in. We can expect the policy to come out in a month or two.”
With the NEP 2020, early childhood care and education (ECCE) which concerns itself with children from ages three to eight has, for the first time, been standardised in the National Curricular Framework as the Foundational Stage.
Until now, the curriculum and syllabus of privately-run pre-primary schools, kindergartens, playschools and nurseries has been varied and designed by the school authorities themselves.
This has left much scope for questionable quality of education as well as over burdening of students through the introduction of reading and writing way earlier than what child education experts or now the NEP recommend.
A prominent preschool, part of a chain with over six branches in the city and more than 20 in the state, told The Indian Express that students are introduced to writing numbers and the alphabet at the age of three.
“Patterns like sleeping and slanting lines are introduced in Play Group and we start teaching numbers and the alphabet in Nursery which is for children between ages three and four,” said an official of the preschool.
“Lower KG and Upper KG are all about learning further,” she added. “In LKG they start learning to write two letter words, four letter words, etc. By Upper KG they have perfect writing skills because then they will be promoted to 1st standard.”
According to experts from the Center for Learning Resources (CLR), a Pune-based non-profit organisation which has been working on education for almost 40 years, this goes against suggested practices. “By the age of six, the dynamic tripod grip, which is the child’s ability to hold the pencil, is difficult to develop. As per the suggested practices, it is only reading and writing readiness that should be developed by the time a child reaches senior kindergarten,” said Anurata Tribhuvan of the CLR.
“In many private schools, children are made to write the alphabets, numbers up to 200 and so on. That is a lot of pressure on the students but it often comes due to a lot of pressures from the parents as well,” she added.
The first five years of the 5+3+3+4 ‘curricular and pedagogical’ structure have been divided into the early childhood education (ECE) stage which is from age three to six and the early primary stage for children of ages six to eight as Grade 1 and 2. The NEP emphasises experiential play-based learning, conceptual development and language skills, especially for the ECE stage.
“We had a gap in the pedagogy for children who have not learned to read and write so that is the area we need to evolve in now,” said the Commissioner of Education.
Speaking about the policy for pre-school curriculum, he further added, “Definitely reading will not be a learning outcome. Writing will be out of question. We will also deliberate on methods of assessing the progress of children that age.”