No textbooks till age 6 in new syllabus plan

Updated on Oct 21, 2022 05:01 AM IST

Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan launched the new National Curriculum Framework (NCF) in New Delhi for children between 3 and 8, marking the first such integrated curriculum for young children in the country.

Representative Image
Representative Image
By, New Delhi

No textbooks for children between ages three and six, learning based on toys, play and lived experience, use of mother tongue, stories of Indian heroes and traditional concepts of teaching, books incorporating diversity, gender, moral and ethical awareness, and assessment through observation and analysing creativity – these are some of the key features of a new foundational curriculum framework launched by the government for young children on Thursday.

Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan launched the new National Curriculum Framework (NCF) in New Delhi for children between 3 and 8, marking the first such integrated curriculum for young children in the country. The document also recommended that textbooks should avoid stereotypes such as women working in the kitchen, and dark-skinned people depicted as evil.

Pradhan said NCF will have four stages – foundation or early childhood care, and education for preparatory, middle and secondary levels. “It was the most important and challenging task to develop the first framework for the foundational stage because researches have shown that over 85% of an individual’s brain development occurs by the age of 6-8 years. Therefore, it is very important what they should be taught and learn in that age group,” he said. Textbooks and learning material for the foundational stage will be prepared by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) on the basis of this framework by January 2023, the minister added.

NCF for foundational stages will be the basis for all pedagogy adopted by schools, pre-schools and anganwadis for children studying between nursery and Class 2, and covers a raft of topics, ranging from curriculum goals, approach to language education and literacy, home-based learning, teaching styles, and methods of assessment. The framework will be a part of the overall National Curriculum Framework for School Education, which is under development, and will cover education for children up to 18.

The framework is important for the development of education in a country where vast numbers of school-going children routinely fail to pass learning outcome tests at age-appropriate complexity levels. Research has shown that more focus on careful and holistic education in the founding years could have a transformative effect on the learning levels of children in later years.

“The transformative nature of this phase of education is expected to qualitatively improve the contents and outcomes of education, thereby, impacting the lives of our children towards a better future. All studies and research related to the early period of development of a child, unambiguously leads to the conclusion that high-quality care and education during this period has a lifetime of positive consequences for all individuals and thus, the nation,” wrote K Kasturirangan, chairperson of the national steering committee for national curriculum frameworks.

The document said that for ages three to six, there should not be any prescribed textbooks for the children, and instead recommended simple worksheets for curricular goals and pedagogical needs.

“In the first three years of the foundational stage, for ages three to six, there should not be any prescribed textbooks for the children…children in this age group should not be burdened with textbooks. While textbooks might be inappropriate for children of ages 3 to 6, activity books can guide teachers to sequence activities and learning experiences,” the document said.

For ages six to eight, textbooks can be introduced to students, the document added.

“Textbooks for this stage should not only contain content for classroom instruction but also act as workbooks to give opportunities for children to work on their own and also as a record of their work. Utmost care needs to be taken to ensure that the content and activities in the classroom are not limited only to what the textbook contains. Particularly for language and literacy development, a wide variety of sources of text, including good children’s literature, needs to be brought into the classroom. Teachers should supplement the textbook with worksheets where necessary and appropriate,” the document said, recommending digital and audio-visual material references.

The framework stated that regional variations need to find adequate representation in textbooks. Balanced gender and community representation through use of stories, characters, and pictures, must be ensured, books need to be attractive and should grab the attention of young children. They should have a balance between visual material and text should be tilted towards visual materials.

“In the Indian context, it is important to maintain diversity and inclusion as an important principle in the choice of content for textbooks. Even within states, there are regional variations and these need to find adequate representation in textbooks. Balanced gender and community representation (e.g., through use of stories, characters, pictures) must be ensured,” the document stated.

Besides, special care should be taken to avoid promotion of stereotypes in textbooks such as “owls and snakes as evil, or dark-skinned people as scary, or the mother always handling the kitchen”, the document highlighted.

NCF emphasised on incorporating “ethical and moral awareness and reasoning” in the curriculum through direct methods such as classroom activities, discussions, and readings; and indirect methods such as literature that addresses ethical and moral principles and “inculcates values such as patriotism, sacrifice, non-violence, truth, honesty, peace, righteous conduct, forgiveness, tolerance, empathy, helpfulness, courtesy, cleanliness, equality, and fraternity”.

NCF prescribed story-based, project-based, theme-based, and electric approaches for teaching children in the foundation stage, and said that Children should be given the opportunity to read and learn from the original stories of the Panchatantra, Jataka, Hitopadesh, and other fables and inspiring tales from the Indian tradition.

While emphasising that all languages must be welcomed and celebrated in the classroom, NCF said that children should be encouraged to express themselves, interact, and learn through their “home languages” or mother tongues during the foundational stage.

“The mother tongue or home language is more than just a mode of communication for the child, but also relates closely with the child’s personal, social, and cultural identity. Rejecting this rich experience through imposition of a new language as the medium of instruction is neither fair to children nor desirable at the early stage of their education..,” the document said.

NCF also focused on empowering teachers in terms of training, infrastructure and other facilities, and offered pointers on how the learning environment should be designed. “The indoor environment needs to be well lit and well ventilated. It should feel safe and inviting for the children. It needs to be inclusive. It should have a balance of both familiar and novel experiences for the child. It should include displays of children’s work and also allow for children’s work-in-progress to be preserved,” the document said.

The framework listed the panchakosha system for education, comprising physical development (sharirik vikas), development of life energy (pranik vikas), emotional and mental development (manasik vikas), intellectual development (bauddhik vikas) and spiritual development (chaitsik vikas).

“Panchakosha is an ancient explication of the importance of the body-mind complex in human experience and understanding. This non-dichotomous approach to human development gives clear pathways and direction towards a more holistic education,” the document added. It also listed education pioneers such as Savitribai Phule and Rabindranath Tagore, and contained a detailed assessment of anganwadis – which are used across the country by largely underserved communities to access education and health facilities.

Ameeta Wattal, an educationist, said that the document is progressive. “However, to transact the wisdom of NCF document at the grassroots level intensive teacher training is required. To introduce toy-based, game-based learning and experimental pedagogies, consistent training of teachers will be required for several years across the country and it should not be limited to the urban pockets. This can be done with the help of corporates CSR activities as well,” she said.

Jyoti Arora, principal of Mount Abu School in Delhi, said that the practices prescribed were long awaited. “We need to adopt the modern pedagogies to make children future ready.However, to implement the NCF we will require adequate support from the government in expanding our infrastructure and resources,” she said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Fareeha Iftikhar is a principal correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. She tracks the education ministry, and covers the beat at the national level for the newspaper. She also writes on issues related to gender, human rights and different policy matters.

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