Many preschools in Mumbai might be teaching developmentally inappropriate content to your child, finds a new survey. Over 80% of the school heads interviewed said that they give tests and homework to students who are barely three to five years old.
The survey was conducted by Early Childhood Association and Podar Institute of Education in 200 metro cities including Mumbai, Pune, Delhi and Bengaluru.
The survey finds that schools are burdening toddlers with heavy academics, which is not suitable or necessary. Over 60% school heads are not in favour of teaching them in a playful manner. What’s shocking: even parents seconded these views.
At least half of the respondents believed that the goal of preschool education should prepare kids to cope with studies in Class 1. They refused to acknowledge its importance in developing the brain or their fine motor skills such as hand and wrist movement and posture and others.
“Two year olds are made to hold pencils, three year olds to recite rhymes in front of a class and they are marked on their performance,” said Swati Popat Vats, president of both institutes.
Adding that by doing this schools are overlooking basic developmental theories, Vats said, “Schools teach the number 1 and 7 together as they have standing lines overlooking the fact that numbers must be taught in the order of counting. This is the confused state of preschool curriculum.”
Child development specialists attributed these trends to the absence of a monitoring body to keep tabs on preschools. As a result, each one is following their own curriculum, without vetting it through experts or the government.
Although the MHRD formed a Yash Pal panel in 2005 to suggest ways in which schools can prevent burdening children, only a few schools are following its guidelines, said experts.
“Since there is no one to check on them, preschools are openly flouting the panel’s recommendations and no action is being taken against them,” said Reeta Sonawat, professor and head of the department of human resource development at SNDT Women’s University, Juhu.
Worst still, even parents are unaware that such guidelines exist: only 2% parents and 21% school heads knew them. This means they don’t know if their preschool is helping their children reach developmental milestones, added experts.
“Often parents pressurise schools to teach certain things to their child as they fear he or she is lagging behind others,” said Sonawat. “In such cases, it is important that teachers sit them down and dispel their myths, instead of blindly accepting their demands.”
The crux of the problem lies in the lack of authorised training centres for early childhood education and care, said others. “There are so many courses on early childhood education available today, each different from the other but no one is monitoring their credentials,” said Arundhati Chavan, principal, Swayam Siddhi College of Education, Bhivandi.
Chavan added that some of these courses last for two months or less. ‘’How much can you learn in such short duration? Preschool teachers need to know child psychology, physical and motor skills development, age appropriate teaching, which is not being taught in many of such courses,’’ said Chavan.