ASMA Education Leadership Conclave – Preschool Conclave

The virtual event was held under the theme 'The Impact of NEP on Early Childhood Education’

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ASMA’s Education Leadership ConclavePreschool Conclave was held on 22nd October 2020 and featured a riveting keynote address by Lt Col Yuvraj Malik, Director, National Book Trust, India.

The virtual event also witnessed two engaging panel discussions by stalwarts from the preschool education sector on the topics ‘Planning & Implementation of NEP in Early Childhood Education and ‘Virtual Learning Methods for Sustained Engagement: The Challenges and Best Practices’.

Delivering his address on ‘The Impact of NEP on Early Childhood Education’, Lt Col Yuvraj Malik, Director, National Book Trust, India said that the NEP is a vision document which will become a roadmap for future generations. The gap is between where we are and where we have to go; and to bridge this gap we need an implementation strategy.

He remarked that many people think of education in terms of higher education, but he emphasised that actual education starts with the foundation which is a critical segment.

He explained, “We have to understand very clearly what the vision behind this education policy is. In the NEP there are 3 fundamental principles: equity, quality and access, therefore whatever the objectives are, we have to ensure that it is accessible to all, it is affordable and it is qualitative in nature. It makes us Indian and at the same time, it gives us an international outlook. It should be impactful and deliver the vision which the country has.”

Lt Col Malik also spoke about the multilingual aspect of the NEP. He said, “The NEP will have multilingualism clubbed with a multidisciplinary approach and it will give a free-flowing environment to flourish”.

He also said the education system now has to move from performance to progress; from what to think to how to think and this starts from the basic role of capacity building.

Lt Col Malik continued, “Today, the pre-primary education sector is not integrated into the main education system. Pedagogy has to change. We have to start from the progress of the children and then move upward”.

He added, “This is the first time that students are the centres of gravity in the education policy”.

Panel 1 was moderated by Amol Arora, Managing Director, Shemrock & Shemford Group of Schools and comprised Dr SK Rathor, Founder, Chairman & MD, Sanfort Group of Schools, Dr Pritam Kumar Agrawal, Director, Hello Kids; VP – ECA, India, Prahar Anjaria, Chairman, Rangoli Group of Institutes, Amita Bhardwaj, Chief Delivery Officer, Footprints Childcare, Kopal Maheshwari, Founder, Little Einsteins and Dr Mansi Aggarwal, Founder & Managing Director, Scottish Early Years.

Speaking about the NEP, Kopal Maheshwari, Founder, Little Einsteins remarked that it was a positive development that the policy emphasised on early childhood care and education. She said, “The NEP focuses on holistic, inquiry-based learning. It is a progressive policy and its structure especially with regards to early education, is very promising”.

Amita Bhardwaj, Chief Delivery Officer, Footprints Childcare added, “It is critical to focus on training teachers who are delivering education. The NEP highlights the importance of having the correct infrastructure and creating the right child-friendly environment for learning”.

Dr SK Rathor, Founder, Chairman & MD, Sanfort Group of Schools echoed Amita Bhardwaj’s point about the importance of teacher training and creating infrastructure, he said, “The NEP will ensure only qualified people will be imparting education. Implementation of quality checks and training is important. We must have the right infrastructure to create a strong education sector”.

Prahar Anjaria, Chairman, Rangoli Group of Institutes said, ‘It will be interesting how preschools will implement the provision of learning in the mother-tongue. Implementation is the key.”

He opined, “Considering the Indian context of state versus centre, implementation will be challenging. Learning in the mother-tongue is very important but because of the context of India’s development, it shouldn’t be compulsory”.

Adding her thoughts on the NEP, Dr Mansi Aggarwal, Founder & Managing Director, Scottish Early Years said, “The universalisation of ECCE (Early Childhood Care and Education) is a change that everyone appreciates and the NEP’s focus on Anganwadi is commendable. The challenge, however, is the implementation”.

Dr Aggarwal continued, “It is crucial to create awareness among parents to make them understand how important foundational education is”.

Dr Pritam Kumar Agrawal, Director, Hello Kids remarked, “The NEP has now recognised the preschool education sector. When we are able to design the curriculum according to the NEP, then we will be able to focus on the transitional and foundational years of learning.

Panel 2 of discussed ‘Virtual Learning Methods for Sustained Engagement: The Challenges and Best Practices’ and was moderated Jitendra Karsan, CEO India, Kïdo Group. The panel comprised of Preeti Kwatra, Founder Director, Petals Group of School, Sonal Ahuja, Founder House of Learning, Director Shri Ram Foundation School, Manjit Legha, Director-Academics and Training, Little Millennium and Preeti Tyagi, Founder & Director, Wow Kids Preschool Chain.

The discussion began with Preeti Tyagi, Founder & Director, Wow Kids Preschool Chain sharing how her institution kept students engaged through virtual learning during the COVID-19 lockdown. She said, “We first worked on getting our teachers mentally prepared. We kept the basics intact such as music, rhymes and puzzles. We also have an activity called ‘brain-boosters’. Because the lockdown took away children’s time to play outdoors, we made sure we kept the children’s physical and mental wellbeing the focus of our sessions. Interaction is also important to ensure engagement”.

Sonal Ahuja, Founder House of Learning, Director Shri Ram Foundation School opined, “Young children really need a curriculum that has a lot of engagement, exploration, experience and experiments”.

She continued, “We tried to find out the central way of doing things by having teachers research some of the ways virtual learning was already being done. Ahuja added, “The pandemic has really opened up our learning and we have become closer to our parent community”.

Manjit Legha, Director-Academics and Training, Little Millennium, shared, “We started a home engagement series. We made our modules interdisciplinary and took a blended learning approach. Learning does not stop because of a lockdown”.

Speaking on the challenges of adapting to virtual learning she added, “The biggest challenge is changing the mindset and making parents understand the necessity of the school-parent partnership”.

 Preeti Kwatra, Founder Director, Petals Group of School shared how her institution ensured students remained engagement through virtual learning. She said, “We have converted each part of our curriculum virtually into various activities to help keep children engaged such as parent engagement activities, self-engagement activities and classroom engagement activities.”

She added, “Challenges are there but through the right training and the right mindset, we can make it work”.

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