A common curriculum across all preschools in the country and no homework or school bags for children up to five years of age — these are among the ten-point recommendations put forth by a Mumbai-based think tank to Maneka Gandhi, Union mininster for women and child development.
Gandhi had asked the Early Childhood Association (ECA) for their deliberations on improving the unregulated preschools sector. The association is a pan-India body, which consists of 2,900 preschools, 35 non-government organisations (NGOs) and 45 corporate groups.
One of their major suggestions was to come up with a framework to curb the unrestrained mushrooming of preschools and day-care centres. “In the absence of rules, preschools are not answerable to anyone. Many of them do not even have their own premises, while a few are running from basements and garages of homes,” said Reeta Sonawat, executive director, ECA, and professor and head of the department of human resource development, SNDT Women’s University, Juhu.
Regulations can be in the form of mandating certification from the government before setting up preschools, they said. This can be done by an independent body appointed by government, which will assess schools on their infrastructure, faculty and teaching, the group recommends.
“This will ensure that there is uniformity across preschools and that they are all run according to accepted standards,” said Swati Popat Vats, president, ECA and Podar Education Network.
Another significant recommendation is to lighten the load that preschools inadvertently put on tiny-tots. “Since there is no regulation or common curriculum, all preschools are following their own approach to education, some of which might be harmful to the children,” said Vats. “For instance, schools encourage students to start writing, give homework assignments to three and four-year-old children. This can hamper their development.”
According to a pre-school syllabus prepared by the Maharashtra State Council for Educational Research and Training (MSCERT) in 2014, children between three to five years must not be burdened with traditional and academic achievements such as reading, writing and maths. But the curriculum is yet to be implemented.
“Even the CBSE board recently banned homework and school bags for children in Class 1. The government needs to extend this to children below five years as well,” states the recommendations. The suggestions have been sent to Gandhi, recently.
Regulate the preschool sector: A government regulation must be put in place to check preschools and daycare centres mushrooming in India
Quality control: A quality certification by an independent body, appointed by the government, should be introduced to ensure that all preschools adhere to industry standards.
Stress-free education: Schools should not burden toddlers with academics at such a young age. The government should ban homework and school bags for kids up to five years.
Common curriculum: All preschools in India must follow a common curriculum for early childhood education as drafted by the government or the NCERT.
Prescribe student-teacher ratio: To ensure that preschools provide a safe environment for kids, a staff-child ratio needs to be defined for different age groups.
Qualified teachers: Minimum qualifications need to be set for preschool teachers. A qualification framework should be put in place.
Training of teachers: Continuous in-service training on inclusion, child development, curriculum, safety and first aid and observation and assessment must be meted out to the teachers.