New Education Policy – finally, “The early years – crucial years” gets our nation’s attention!

Being an Early Childhood Educator myself, I am thrilled to know that the draft new education policy has a section for “Early Childhood Care and Education.” The policy emphasizes that 3 to 6 year olds should get FREE, SAFE , HIGH QUALITY,  DEVELOPMENTALLY appropriate CARE and EDUCATION. Wow!! It’s a dream come true. The cherry on the cake is that this policy seems to be so aligned with the “Montessori Method” of education which in my opinion is a definite path towards transforming the society.

First let me share the context  – the draft National Educational Policy(NEP) was submitted by the Kasturirangan committee on May 31st 2019. This sets out to define the education agenda for India for the next couple of decades.  The draft policy covers several areas – right from pre-primary, primary, upper & higher school education, Universities & Vocational.  Chapter 1 of the policy focuses on Early Childhood Care & Education(ECCE).

Here are some reasons why I see the similarity to Dr. Montessori’s principles and why I am confident that this policy will help children.

  1. Learning begins at birth:  I am really glad to hear this. Dr. Montessori has said 100 years back, that education must begin at birth. Did she mean that new born children should be taught the A ,B,C’s? Not really – what she meant was that children learn about themselves, the world around them and how to live a harmonious life from the moment they are born.

The warmth of the mother’s embrace teaches them to love. A three month old discovers her likes and dislikes when she tries new foods. A toddler learns to share, as well as conflict management, while playing with friends. The interactions of the adults around, teach them respect.

It takes a village to raise a child and it is our responsibility to create that village that can support the child appropriately. I am so happy that this policy is going towards the direction of creating that village. It talks about teaching children self help skills like cleaning the classroom etc. All these activities are under the area, ”Exercises of Practical Life” in the Montessori curriculum. Dr. Montessori refers to these activities as a “Gymnasium for perfecting ones actions.” These activities will no doubt make the children independent.

  1. Sensorial Learning:  The policy talks about sensorial learning which is a key aspect of Montessori education. Dr. Montessori says, “ There is nothing in the brain that the hand has not first felt.” The policy talks about making sensorial learning aids. Concepts learnt through a sensorial approach are here to stay.
  1. Emotional well being: It feels like a breath of fresh air to hear anything other than academic being talked about in relation to education. This policy does that and that’s awesome. Taking care of the emotional well being of the child is the first step. “Only when a child feels right can he think right.”
  1. Preparation of the teacher and the environment: There is a mention of how they are going to “Prepare” the teacher and the environment. Such a Montessori idea. Stimulating classrooms are surely going to help the cognitive development.  “Preparing” a teacher is music to my years. Until now I have heard about, ”training “ the teacher but just the word “prepare” opens a whole new perspective. The point that caught my attention is, ”need for role models in early childhood ”. Yes so true and preparing a teacher does just that – creates role models.
  1. Cultural Activities: Including the rich tradition of India, art, stories, songs etc is such a wonderful way to teach cultural diversity. Cultural education is given a lot of importance in the Montessori curriculum. It opens up the child’s perspective of their own cultural heritage and that of others.

The policy chalks out a very nice plan for implementation in Anganwadis. The pedagogical framework that they intend to make seems to have considered all areas of development. It seems to be in sync with the Montessori philosophy in many ways. I like the way the framework includes parent education, thus making the development of the child a team work between parents and teachers.

For this to succeed, the “preparation” of Early Child Educators is critical and the devil is going to be in the details. However I am very hopeful and as the policy rightly says the country will flourish by investing on our infants and preschoolers. A firm foundation will help the children grow into responsible and contributing members of society, thus creating an evolved society.

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