What is a pre-school? What purpose do they serve? What age group are they meant for? What should be the aim of a pre-school?
These questions need immediate and utmost attention in today’s times. In a country of over 1.21 billion people with over 55% people below literacy levels, understanding the importance of pre-schools become extremely important. One of the major challenges the education industry in India faces is that of children dropping out of schools. Ever wondered why this happens? What is causing children to not take interest in something that will change their lives and rather move back to a life wherein they will be pushed into child labour and a lifetime of suffering?
A pre-school is an educational institution meant to provide early childhood education to children between 2 to 6 years of age. The purpose is to prepare children for the formal primary education and to develop them physically, mentally and emotionally, so that they are capable of coping up with the demands of formal schooling. Also, a major purpose of a pre-school is to develop eagerness and an interest in education in the children, so that they learn to enjoy the learning process and do not drop out of schools at primary or middle school levels.
One of the major challenges for the pre-school industry in India is the lack of government involvement and regulation in this industry. There is no such accreditation body to control or keep a check on where and how these pre-schools are run. There is no license that an operator needs to acquire to open a pre-school and there are no checks done on the kind of infrastructure the operator has and the kind of teachers the operator will hire. As a result, anyone, anywhere can open a pre-school, without being checked upon if proper amenities are being provided, what curriculum is being taught and whether the teachers are trained for the purpose or not.
The system is haphazard and un-organised with no unity over the curriculum, safety or infrastructural guidelines amongst all pre-schools. There is a lack of scientific and logical approach in the curriculum of pre-schools with each school choosing their curriculum on their own. As a result, children from different pre-schools study different curriculums, as and how the schools find fit. What toys or props children play with or how they are taught is completely unstructured and un-accredited.
Sadly, even with our nation coming so far into technology, our schooling system still works on rote learning methods and this starts from the very early step of pre-schooling. Children 2-4 years of age are made to learn spellings of things they do not even recognize and the sole purpose of their education is to prepare them to appear in the entrance examination/interview for primary schools. There is a lack of parental awareness too. Parents hardly know what a pre-school should do and they never bother to check how the well trained the teachers are. The joy of learning and logical reasoning seems to have gone to the bins.
Lastly, and most importantly, lack of trained teachers is what raises the biggest concerns today. A teacher called out to one of her students who was 3 years old- “Ria, come here, pick up your bag, take out your book and come sit next to Ron!” What Ria did was – she came and sat next to Ron without her book. As a result, the teacher scolded Ria, called her disobedient and declared her to be a duffer. Little did the teacher realize that a child, 3 years of age, is not capable of comprehending instructions of more than 5-6 words. And because of her own inability to understand a child’s psychology, the teacher rather demotivated the child, and kept her from enjoying her time in school. This comes from the basic issue that pre-school teachers are neither well paid nor well equipped to handle children of that young an age. Good teachers with good qualifications refrain from coming into the pre-school zone due to lack of recognition and career prospects which ultimately leads to a paralised pre-school industry in India.
Such is the state of our pre-schools today and yet, we fail to open our eyes to the reality of what our children go through at these institutions. Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world and it starts with pre-schooling. But what good can an education sector achieve, if its foundations are shaky and dismal.