– Ramakrishna Rao
Childhood skills shape our life’s success…
Early childhood development is a smart investment.
James J. Heckman, American Nobel Laureate
National Curriculum framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCF-ECCE) was released on 20th October, 2022. It is very significant and one of the most important dimensions in the implementation of NEP-20, which is bound to have a desired impact on our education system and all-round holistic development of children.
Till now pre-primary stage was not linked to the mainstream education but in NEP-20 well thought linkage was envisaged as first 8 years of child’s life is the most critical for lifelong well-being and overall development of personality – physical, vital, mental, intellectual, spiritual including socio-emotional aspects.
As practitioners in the field of education, we know that neuro-science research declares that over 85% of an individual’s brain development takes place by the age of 6 years. Thus, ECCE which refers to both the care and education of children from birth to 8 years is of prime importance to any society. Children from 0-3 years are mostly taken care at their respective homes and school – setting – care is taken over from 3rd year onwards.
This foundation stage was taken care till now through pre-primary schools, kindergarten schools, nursery classes, sisu vatikas and Anganwadis. As you know in Vidya Bharathi even the care for children below 3 years under Samartha Bharat model, by training parents, teachers and the concerned.
Curriculum refers to the entire organised experience of students in a school setting to achieve the goals, aims and objectives of education. The elements that constitute and bring to life this curriculum is – apart from the goals and objectives – many viz. Syllabus, content, pedagogical practices, teaching-learning materials, school and class room – practices, learning environment, culture of the institution, assessment etc.
NCF-ECCE is developed on the vision of NEP-20 and kept in view of the diversity and state – contexts, of-course without forgetting the harmony of our country. Moreover, this speaks directly to teacher, who is the fulcrum, pivot and a frontline warrior in the education system.
This NCF-ECCE 22 further focuses on numerous classroom practices with real life illustration from variety of contexts and situations. It also explains in detail how children learn scientifically at this stage along with aims, curricular goals, competencies, learning outcomes, TLM, assessment, time management linkage to the preparatory stage and principles of content selection etc, which are of great concern to any teacher.
Few highlights of this NCF are mentioned below:
- More scientific research from across on education, neuro-science, and economics demonstrates high quality early childhood care and education is perhaps more scientific and the best investment for future of a nation. Brain development is very rapid during first 8 years of age along with physical, cognitive and socio-emotional development.
- Well defined Aims and objectives:
NCF-ECCE defines the terms – Aims, curricular goals, competencies and learning outcomes at this foundation stage. Clear distinction between these terms is given along with the process of derivation and articulation, which clarifies the teacher and stake holders.
- Approach to Literacy and Numeracy:
Children learn spoken language most rapidly between the ages 0 to 8 along with attaining multilingual skills. Writing skills during this stage are learnt less naturally.
Thus, these basic literacy skills are acquired gradually during this stage. It is also justified to expose students in multiple oral languages. Approaches to teaching mathematics are given in detail, because developing positive attitude is essential.
- Different pedagogic methods and strategies:
A safe, secure, comfortable and happy class room environment can help children to learn better and achieve more at this stage. Care and responsiveness with ample opportunities to experience, experiment and explore are the methods of pedagogy at this stage along with good teaching. By building affectionate relationship with children leading to learning through play, conversation, stories, toys, music and craft.
- Teaching-learning material (TLM) and principles of content selection well explained:
Children at this foundation stage are more engaged in learning when they use multiple senses (Gnanendriyas) along with their hands, legs etc (Karmendriyas). From simple toys for play to specific manipulations for counting and numeracy, a variety of TLM is essential, which was systematically explained.
Competencies and learning outcomes provide direction for content selection. However, these principles and organisation of content is well explained in detail which is to be comprehended by every teacher.
- Guidelines for creating a judicious eco system:
NCF-ECCE focuses on building an enabling ecosystem that is essential for implementation. This includes empowering teachers and enabling a supportive academic and administrative support system without ignoring adequate infrastructure including necessary learning resources.
- Guiding principles of Assessment:
Assessment at the foundation stage is seen as an enabler for learning and development. It is visualised as an integral part of the everyday class room process and largely based on systematic and careful observation of children and analysis of their work such as craft, projects and simple worksheets.
- Time Management:
Children like to spend more free time in exploring immediate environment. However, as they grow older, they need organised activities which are play-based and structured. Teacher has to see that there is a balance between time spent on doing things on their own and time spent with others. They need time and space to move around, run, jump and physically active. Hence, everyday time management is a big task for the teacher. Along with illustration details are given in NCFECCE.
- Linkage to preparatory stage:
4-stage design is scientific and it requires continuity from one to another. The shift from developmental imagination foundation stage to the development of skills and capacities during the preparatory requires proper linkage. Children are expected to attain foundational literacy and numeracy along with other scholastic capacities, arts, sports, values, beliefs and social capacities.
- Addressing other critical areas:
Developmental delays and disabilities among children including safety and security in schools is very much essential for this stage. Ways and means for the same are well scripted here.
Inspite of Vidya Bharathi’s Sisuvatika and other major experiments with success for this stage, in order to be able to implement this curriculum we should also find more realistic pathways by real life experiments and come out with innovative practices.
(Author is Retired Principal and National President of Vidya Bharati)