Preparing children for future

Good health and wellbeing, effective communication, involved learning, and connecting with the immediate environment – we need it for our future
Children sitting inside a school after educational institutes were reopened almost two and a half years in Kashmir, on Wednesday 2 March 2022. [Representational Image]
Children sitting inside a school after educational institutes were reopened almost two and a half years in Kashmir, on Wednesday 2 March 2022. [Representational Image]File: Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

The one-size-fits-all style of pedagogy, instruction, and assessment has reached the twilight years. The 21st-century school system must invent solutions to the emerging weaknesses, and explore initiatives to work on strengths and opportunities.

Our children need holistic development in terms of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Strong and effective promotion of life skills is the need of the hour to promote mental, social, emotional, and physical wellbeing. It will be the foundation for the superstructure of developmental skills like early literacy, numeracy, and digital skills.

The demand of the fast-changing world flags the need for self-control, critical thinking, collaboration, and effective communication. To be the agents of change, independent learning, making informed decisions, and exercising rights to lead a healthy and productive life are the hallmarks of holistically compatible children.

The early years - three to nine - are confirmed to be the most significant period of life where 85% to 90% of a child’s brain development takes place. This is the inflection point and catching the child early sets a perfect roadmap for his/her holistic success and development in the latter years of his/her life.

NIPUN (National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy) Bharat Mission rolled out by the government focuses on this age group to change the face of elementary education in India.

The mission of this flagship program is to create an enabling environment to ensure the universal acquisition of foundational literacy and numeracy so that every child achieves the desired learning competencies in reading, writing, and numeracy at the end of grade three.

The mission explicitly introduces transformational shifts in pedagogy in early education and focuses on three developmental goals like health and well-being, effective communication, and involved learning. The mission has flagged performance indicators in three years of ECCE and three years of the foundational stage after attaining age three by a child.

There is a shift from content mastery to competency-based learning. The system of assessment has been aligned with the new academic structure which converts the assessment to a guiding tool that helps the teacher to understand where the students are facing difficulties or having misconceptions so that help is extended for their improvement.

The shift towards competency-based learning in the process of pedagogy is seen as a game-changer at the early education level. To achieve the three developmental goals competencies have been identified. These competencies have been codified and mapped with the learning outcomes in each level at the foundational level.

The NIPUN flagship program suggests shifting from textbook pedagogy to experiential learning. The teachers’ capacity will be enhanced to use toy-based styles of teaching-learning; Storytelling and ICT integrated learning inside the classroom.

There will be a ‘Walking Time’ for the learners to observe nature in the company of a teacher where s/he will ask questions to the learners about the objects around them and they will respond in a play way manner. These walks, in fact, will be a time of freedom and play for them where in reality precious lessons in science, history, and biology will be learned.

The fun-based pedagogy will enhance the scope for teachers to bring the toys back to a child’s life and map the toys according to the age group of the children. The new pedagogy will develop skills and competencies through games.

The pedagogy will appreciate the children to develop toys with mud and to avoid plastic toys which become boring with the passage of time and are mostly non-biodegradable.

The games can be contextualised to bring the taste of culture into it. The teacher can introduce the games of yesteryears like hopscotch, Gilidanda, Seek and Find, Kho-Kho, etc to develop fine motor skills, numeracy skills, values, etc in the learners.

The NIPUN flagship program will focus on developmental goals. It will ensure that children maintain good health and wellbeing. This goal will have its area of influence around the physical, socio-emotional, and psychological health and well-being of children. It will also cater to the needs of nutrition, hygienic practices, and safety of children from ECCE level one to grade 3 of primary school.

Developmental goal two will be responsible to help the children to become effective communicators. It is highly challenging as of now because the statistics available about the status of literacy and language skills are not encouraging and there is a national emergency to control the literary crises. The available data after the recent surveys reads that 25% of school-going children in the four to eight age group do not have age-appropriate cognitive and numeracy skills.

Thus, there is a considerable learning deficit at a very early stage. 4% of children below the age of six can recognise at least letters. 6% can make additions. 8% of children in Class II can read a text of classes below them. 8% of students in Class III can read texts meant for students two levels below them. 33% of children in class 3 are not able to read with comprehension. 44% of children in class 3 cannot use basic math to solve daily problems. (These results are calculated from ASER, NAS, and other international and national survey studies.)

The children at age three come from monolingual cultures. There is a need to use the child’s home language in pre-school years and once the child is comfortable and learns to express himself, the teacher may introduce school language or language used in the state/UT as the medium of instruction. This will lay the foundation of language and literacy at the pre-school (3-6 years) and this goal will lead to the acquisition of three language formula.

The theme and areas to be taken for inculcating foundational literacy are as under:

Oral Language: Development includes improved listening comprehension, oral vocabulary, and extended conversation skills. The experiences in oral language are essential for developing skills in reading and writing.

Decoding: Involves deciphering written words based on understanding the relationship between symbols and their sounds.

Reading Fluency: Refers to reading a text with accuracy, speed (automaticity), expression (prosody), and comprehension that allows children to make meaning from the text. Many children recognise letters/aksharas but read them laboriously, one by one.

Reading Comprehension: Involves constructing meaning from a text and thinking critically about it. This domain covers the competencies of understanding texts and retrieving information from them, and interpreting texts.

Writing: This domain includes the competencies of writing letters/aksharas and words as well as writing for expression.

Developmental goal three helps the children to be involved learners and connect with their immediate environment. The children are born and enchanted by the world-its colours, its shapes, its sounds, its sizes, and its forms. The ability to connect with others and to share feelings with them lays a special basis for learning. Children explore patterns, shapes, and other mathematical dimensions in their immediate world. This helps the children to improve on their cognitive domain which leads to the development of their five senses and encouragement of 3Es, i.e., Exploration, Experimentation, and Equity, based on children’s prior knowledge and immediate context.

The significant aspects and components of early numeracy (mathematics) are:

Pre-number Concepts: Count and understand the number system.

Numbers and operations on numbers: Learn conventions needed for mastery of Mathematical techniques such as the use of a base-ten system to represent numbers.

Shapes and Spatial Understanding: Perform simple computations in her/his way up to three-digit numbers and apply these to their day to life activities in different contexts.

Measurement: Understand and use standard algorithms to perform operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division on numbers up to three digits.

Data Handling: Identify and extend simple patterns starting from repeating shapes to patterns in numbers, interpret simple data/information in his/her daily life activities.

The assessment at the foundational stage will be again holistic in nature. There won’t be any pen-paper test and the children will be observed through the tools of the portfolio, rubric, checklist, etc. This will be an assessment of learning and an assessment for learning. The collective focus of the assessment will be identifying the child’s strengths, needs, interests, and preferences. It will potentiate a child’s performance and scaffold it through interventions. The assessment will solve issues and areas of concern in the system of teaching and learning process in the schools that ultimately will help the teachers in improving FLN learning outcomes leading towards holistic development of children.

Sheikh Gulzar Ahmad is AO, SCERT-KD

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Greater Kashmir