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New report slams rote learning, teaching methods in preschools

The UN body conducted the study over four years, covering about 14,000 students during the first round of fieldwork from three states: Assam, Rajasthan and Telangana.

india Updated: Aug 02, 2017 13:19 IST
Neelam Pandey and Rhythma Kaul
Neelam Pandey and Rhythma Kaul
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Unicef,Education in India,Government schools
Students in their classroom at a government school in Ludhiana. Most children followed during the survey were attending a preschool at age 4, whether government-run Anganwadis or privately managed preschools.(HT File Photo)

Given a choice between private preschools and anganwadi centres and government schools, there is a growing preference for private preschools and schools even in Indian villages, found a Unicef study.

Also, reading, writing and arithmetic defined as 3Rs in the study don’t have much benefit in preschool education, as is commonly believed.

“The overall picture emerging from the observation of classrooms is not very promising, as the curriculum followed by the government and the private schools focuses on the formal teaching of the 3R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic), with limited emphasis on developmentally appropriate classroom practices. Formal learning and teaching of the 3Rs in preschool was found to have a negative relationship with developmentally appropriate activities,” the study points out.

While the study endorses the positive impact of good quality preschool education, however, it also says training module should keep in mind socio-cultural and language background and also needs of special children.

It also highlights how due to shortage of teachers, multi grade situations are very common in government schools, making it difficult for the teacher to address the specific needs of the children. “Most schools followed the teaching of the 3R’s through rote and repetition, the other prevalent method being to get children to copy from the blackboard”.

Also, there was no interaction between the children and teachers in government schools, which defeats the purpose of teaching.

The study covered about 14,000 during the first round of fieldwork from three states: Assam, Rajasthan and Telangana. This longitudinal study, followed a cohort of children over time – in this case over a period of 4 years, from age 4 to age 8, during which it collected information from learning assessments.

As part of the study villages were randomly sampled in each of the six districts included in the study (two districts per state).

As part of the study 4-year-old children were purposively sampled and followed much more closely, in order to gain a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the quality of the institutions they attended and the social and cognitive outcomes they achieved.

Approximately 70% of sampled children were attending a preschool at age 4.

Most sampled children were attending a preschool at age 4, whether government-run Anganwadis or privately managed preschools.

The preference for private schools was evident even at the preschool level. “Despite various incentives being offered by the government system in terms of free mid day meals, uniforms, etc., parental preference was largely for the private sector. Parents were willing to pay fees for what they considered ‘better quality’ and for English medium education,” the study points out.

There were also instances of children moving from preschool to primary grades and back again, and/or moving back and forth between government and private schools.

This state of flux was observed across all three states; it was only by age 8 that primary school enrolment stabilized at over 90% across the sample.

“This status is a clear violation of the policy prescriptions for age appropriate enrolment… children should participate in a preschool or Anganwadi from age 3 to 6 years… The curriculum for Grade 1 is designed with the assumption that children will be over 6 years old...”

First Published: Jul 29, 2017 00:35 IST