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What does ‘respect’ mean for infants and toddlers in early childhood centres?

From inviting infants to engage and waiting for their approval prior to interacting with them to interpreting children’s intentions by peacefully observing them, Toni Christie explores how respect is the most significant aspect of care and education

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Respect is the most significant aspect of care and education with infants and toddlers in centre-based care. Defined as ‘treating with consideration’, respect was the over-arching feature underpinning the values and actions of teachers in a recent research project undertaken in a New Zealand infant and toddler centre. The overall aim of the study was to explore these practices for the benefit of other practitioners wanting to emulate a similar environment. 

Introduction

This article is based on the findings from my master’s thesis completed in 2010.  I undertook a qualitative case study that investigated the practices of primary care, freedom of children’s movement to enhance their physical capabilities, and respect for children’s confidence and competence. 

The case study centre caters for twenty children under two years of age and is open from 7.30am until 6pm Monday to Friday.  The ratio is 1:4 with a centre manager who works on the floor but outside of the ratio.  The centre is divided into three distinct areas; the infant room, the toddler room and an outdoor area.  There are eight infants with two teachers in the infant room and twelve toddlers with three teachers in the toddler room.  My research was conducted in the infant room and the teaching staff observed and interviewed for the research were the two infant teachers and the centre manager. 

Observation data was gathered by non-participant pen and paper observations and video recording.  Documentation records such as ERO reports, prospectus information, children’s individual discovery projects, wall displays, newsletters and information for parents were useful in triangulating data generated by observations and teacher interviews as well as a parent focus group interview.  A thematic coding of observational and interview data was used to interpret and analyse the data. 

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Teachers at the case study centre engaged in ways that would suggest they accept each person as an individual with rights and freedoms.  Teachers invited children to engage with them, and no action would be initiated for or with a child without his or her agreement.  This agreement was shown through the children’s cues and gestures, to which the teachers were all highly attuned.  Teachers slowed their pace intentionally and offered children choices in their care and education.  Close observation of the children by the teachers enhanced their ability to interpret individual children’s needs and wants.  The teachers would then offer support for children rather than intervene unnecessarily

Ethics of care

The ethics of care discourse provided an important background to my study.  The notions of empathy and respect at the heart of the ‘ethics of care’ discourse are prevalent in the feminist moral theory literature (Goldstein, 1998; Dahlberg & Moss, 2005; Noddings, 1984; Tronto, 1993).  The general premise of the ethics of care debate is that “caring is not something you are, but rather something you engage in, something you do” (Goldstein, 1998, p. 247).  The word ‘care’, as it pertains to teaching, is often linked to feelings, personality traits, or a person’s temperament. However, Goldstein argues, this simplistic view of care obscures the “complexity and intellectual challenge of work with young children” (p. 245).

Noddings (1984) is in agreement with Goldstein and states: “Caring involves stepping out of one’s own personal frame of reference and into the other’s” (p. 24).  Noddings calls this motivational shift of putting aside your own choices, preferences, ideas, and really receiving another person as “motivational displacement” (p. 24).  This shift “compels the one-caring to give primacy, even if momentarily, to the goals and needs of the cared-for” (Goldstein, 1998, p. 246).  This motivational displacement coupled with peaceful observation (see later section) will lead the one caring to support the one cared for in a manner most suited to the cared for.  For example, a teacher may believe that a child has no need or use for a security toy, but in reading the gestures and cues of the infant (peaceful observation) may offer the infant their security toy against their own beliefs (motivational displacement).

Teachers invite children to engage

Interactions with children at the case study centre would most often begin with some form of invitation to interact by the teacher. Usually this would take the form of a verbal invitation accompanied by outstretched open hands with palms facing up. After this initial verbal and physical invitation, the caregiver would wait for a response. The response time from the child varied. The one constant in this sequence of events was that nothing happened until the child agreed:

Interaction between Kea [teacher] and Charlotte [infant]

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(All participants’ names are pseudonyms.)

“Would you like a nappy change?” she says the words and offers opened arms and hands.

When Charlotte doesn’t react Kea says “I’ll wait until you are ready.”

[Adding] “You let me know when you are ready” Charlotte thought for about 30 seconds and then bum-shuffled, waving her hands over to Kea who scooped her into her waiting open hands and arms and took her for a nappy change.

(Observation data transcribed from video)

In this exchange the child is offered the choice and therefore holds the power over when her nappy is changed.  This was very typical of the interactions at the case study centre. A teacher would initiate with a verbal invitation, always accompanied by open hands held out as a gesture of invitation.  Then the teacher would wait for the child’s assent which would usually be a physical sign such as tipping forwards into the open arms or putting their hands up to be carried or moving closer to be picked up. 

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An invitation and explanation is a simple matter of respect.  This can be understood in another scenario:  for example, imagine being asked, being heard, and holding the power yourself in matters affecting your physical well-being.  For most adults this is accepted as a basic human right.  Now imagine someone physically lifting or interfering with you in any way to which you have not consented.  In the second instance, when you were not invited or consulted, the experience is one of powerlessness.  You might feel more like an object rather than a human being with individual thoughts, opinions, freedoms and rights!

Unhurried time

In order to give infants unhurried time, teachers themselves have to make a commitment to slow down and be emotionally ‘present’ with infants (Kovach & Da Ros-Voseles, 2008).  The following is an example of how teachers were unhurried in their interactions with infants at the case study centre:

When Tui comes back to the nursery Kea has been cuddling Max and Tui heats his bottle.  She gently removes his jersey.  This is a slow process and she talks to him about how she is moving his body.  Tui takes Max and the bottle through to the sleep room.  Tui cuddles Max as she feeds him his bottle.  Ben is not yet asleep and he calls out when Max makes some sounds prior to his bottle coming.  Max stops to have a look at the moving stars and Tui waits patiently until he wants his bottle again.  She tries again but Max moves his head indicating he has had enough…  “OK shall we put you to bed then?”  She puts Max into his bed and strokes his head.   She hums along with the music that is playing and Max makes little snuffling sleepy noises while she hums.  He plays with her hand which is not stroking his head.  Ben lets out some sounds and Max makes a small complaint.  Not enough for Tui to take him out of bed.  Max yawns and Tui rubs his chest gently.  Max experiments with sounds and Ben joins in a little bit.  Now Tui is rubbing his chest gently with one hand and his head with the other.  Max’ eyes close and Tui stays with him a while longer continuing to rub his chest.  When she is sure he’s asleep she gently removes her hand from his chest and fluidly secures the side of his cot and removes herself from his cot.  She sits listening  to Ben for a while: I think she is deciding whether she should allow him to see her as till this point though he has heard her he hasn’t seen her.  He holds his hands out to Tui to indicate that he needs her.  She picks him up and suggests they go and change his nappy. (Observation data transcribed from video)

The observation above is evidence of the teacher’s commitment to slowing her pace and providing valuable, uninterrupted, quality time and attention to the infant.  When she does this she demonstrates her ability to empathise with the infant and understand from his perspective what the experience of going to sleep at the centre must feel like. 

One parent at the focus group interview described a workshop (run by the teachers at the case study centre) where she and her husband, along with other partners present, had to feed each other: 

We were role playing and one was the child and the other the adult and we had to role play the scenario where they are rushing the child.  Her partner was feeding her yoghurt and talking on his cell phone at the same time and wasn’t allowing her the time to swallow.  She said by the end of it she was covered in yoghurt and really angry but the exercise taught her a great lesson about following the child’s lead for when they are ready and how long they might need to swallow. Also, she was annoyed about him talking on the cell phone instead of paying attention to her.

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(Janine: parent focus group interview)

Another aspect of unhurried time is the conscious decision that teachers have made to move slowly and fluidly in the infant room.  They move as though they do not want to disturb anything.  On several occasions I observed teachers moving slowly and softly, with small, quiet, and fluid movements.  When asked about this in the teacher interviews they would explain their intention is to reinforce the idea that this is the children’s space and teachers do not want to do anything that will disturb that slow, peaceful space and pace. 

This practice of taking adequate time deepens teachers’ awareness and knowledge of each child, sensed by their behaviour, body language and expressions.  In the case above, the cues suggested Max might be a bit tired.  Talking to him about tiredness and suggesting a sleep allowed the child to be the decision maker in the process.

My research indicated that when teachers give their time they show value for the person with whom they are engaged.  When we rush an interaction we run the risk of leaving the person with whom we are interacting feeling unsatisfied and undervalued by the experience.  Each child will have his or her own rhythm and pace.  Respectful practice involves stepping out of personal rhythm and pace and adjusting to that of the infant.  For adults generally this is going to mean slowing down a great deal in order to observe and interpret needs, invite children to engage, wait for their response and then engage in the interaction at the child’s pace.

Choices are offered

On several occasions I observed teachers offering children choices and one of the most common was to offer children a choice in the colour of the bib they wanted to wear for a mealtime.  This was something that happened prior to every meal time and was part of a sequenced routine for children.  Wearing a bib indicated that they would have their meal next.  I noticed that the action of choosing a bib aided children’s ability to wait for a turn. 

At mealtimes there were always choices for food prepared by the cook so teachers could cater to children’s individual tastes.  Also choices about when children were hungry and wanted to eat were decided by the child.  Teachers would offer food and if it was not accepted they would put it away to offer later.

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Teachers at the case study centre felt that offering children choices was an essential element of their philosophy and practices.  Below are examples of the Centre manager’s opinion on the subject of choices:

It is important to offer children choices.  You know especially infants – they don’t get a lot of choice about anything really.  So offering them a choice in anything that involves them gives the power over to them.  They can see and feel how powerful they are in decisions which directly affect their wellbeing (Huia: teacher interview).

It is important to talk to them about what is going to happen next and giving them the opportunity to respond and be a willing participant.  By giving children choices (particularly infants who are often overlooked in this area), they will soon get the idea that their opinion is valued (Huia: teacher interview).

Offering choices and inviting children to engage are both important parts of the programme provided at the case study centre.  In both of these aspects the teachers consider it essential that they wait for a response.  Suskind (1985, cited in Petrie & Owen, 2005, p. 144) calls this time between teacher invitation and child response “.  This is another important aspect of offering choices which links to the concept of unhurried time.  When a choice is offered, teachers need to allow time for a response (and this may take longer than expected in ‘adult time’), and then react according to the wishes of the child.   I agree with Brumbaugh (2008) who sums up why it is important to offer children choices succinctly: “When educators trust children to make choices concerning their daily events and activities, they not only create a sense of autonomy, but also an environment of respect” (p. 175).

Peaceful observation

My findings indicate that through subtle signs and gestures in the presence of sensitive, attuned observers, even the youngest child can express his or her opinion and therefore have his or her human rights upheld (United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2003).

It is through observation that teachers learn what the child wants, needs, likes, dislikes and also what they are capable of and what their emerging capabilities are.  This peaceful observation enables teachers to go further than just feeling empathy.  They go beyond “what would I want if I were her?” to actually consider “what does she want?”  An example was when Kea put away a child’s pacifier because she had thought she did not need it:

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The child didn’t complain but looked anxious so Kea gave it back and said “Do you feel you need that?”  Liv put it down beside her and continued to explore without it.

In the example above, Kea felt Liv had no need or use for the pacifier but by paying close attention to the emotions of the child who did not complain but simply looked anxious, was able to interpret the desires of the child.  The ethics of care discourse (Goldstein, 1998; Noddings, 1984) would suggest that peaceful observation led Kea to give Liv the pacifier against her own better judgment (motivational displacement) because the ethics of care involve respecting another person enough to understand what they might actually want as opposed to what you think they might want.

This same ideology explains why I observed teachers over-riding the guidelines of free movement on occasion at the case study centre.  Even though teachers believed strongly in the idea of natural motor progression and un-aided motor development, they would pick up a child who became upset lying on his back, or help him roll back onto his back if he was upset on his tummy, or prop a child to sit if this was a practice they were more used to from home.  By paying close attention or engaging in attentive, receptive engrossment (Goldstein, 1998) the teacher displaces her own motivation and acts as the child wants, as opposed to the teacher’s own perception of what the child wants.

This ability to really see from the perspective of another requires close attention on the part of the teacher.  I have labeled it peaceful observation as neither teacher nor child is making any demands of the other.

Teachers support rather than intervene

The teachers at the case study centre all felt very strongly that support rather than intervention was a mark of respect for the child.  They felt that adults generally try to do too much for children and this can have a damaging effect on the child’s perception of themselves as confident and competent learners.  The following were some of the comments from the teacher interviews:

Our infants are exposed to an environment that respects them for who they are, their wairua (spirit) is nurtured, honoured and celebrated.  Our programme encourages our babies to feel secure and safe to make independent choices in all areas of their learning and development.  I believe this teaches them a positive and healthy self-image and, ultimately and optimistically, a healthy world view (Tui: teacher interview).

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I think respecting children’s confidence and competence provides them with the mana (self-esteem) that comes with working through feelings and emotions.  When infants are allowed time and support to work through feelings like frustration they learn to self-regulate, collect themselves and focus.  They also learn to trust and feel emotionally secure if they need that extra hand from someone else.  Knowing when to lend that hand is really important.  Children are capable of so much more than people often give them credit for (Tui: teacher interview).

[We believe in] giving children the freedom, and encouraging them to become confident explorers.  Being there to support, but not interfere as they figure things out, for example how to use their own bodies to get to where they want to go in their own time (Huia: teacher interview).

Brownlee (2009) talks about “a baby’s sacred quest for competence” (p. 4) and discusses why trusting children and waiting and watching is far more beneficial to the child than rushing in to ‘save’ or ‘rescue’ them.  When a child learns to master anything on his or her own there is a sense of power and competence that no amount of watching an adult do it for them could possibly hope to emulate. 

A team approach is an important element

In the same way that it has been shown that teachers show respect for children they also demonstrate it amongst themselves.  The teachers developed some sound strategies for ensuring they have a shared understanding of what it is to be respectful of each other.  The team contract created by the current teaching team at the case study centre is a good example.  This contract is a document the teachers developed together by brainstorming everything that each felt was important.  Everything in the contract had to be agreed to by all the parties and this has given the teachers a shared understanding of respectful behaviour.  Most importantly, because it was worked out together, each of the team has ownership of the ideas the contract contains.

Summary

Actions demonstrating respect include: developing nurturing relationships, predictability, empathy, considering the child as a capable and equal human being, being fully ‘present’ and undertaking peaceful observations to respond sensitively. Respect involves intentional caring or an ethic of care where the teacher is intentionally able to displace her own motivation in order to truly understand the needs and wishes of the child. When teachers invite children to engage, and wait for their agreement prior to engaging, infants are afforded control over their situation. 

Teachers show respect for infants with their practice in early childhood centres by:

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Recognising that infants need to develop a strong and reciprocal relationship with at least one other person in the environment and implementing a primary caregiver system to cater for that primary need.

Inviting infants to engage and waiting for their approval prior to interacting with them.

Interpreting children’s intentions by peacefully observing them and paying close attention to their body language, cues and gestures.

Recognising that infants may prefer an unhurried approach to their individual care routines, learning and development, for example, being flexible and responding according to the needs and rhythms of the infants as opposed to working by the clock.

Offering infants choices about what is to happen for them and waiting for a response to the choices that are offered.

Being available to the infant and supporting them in their learning, but resisting the urge to intervene unnecessarily in their problem-solving efforts and mastery of their own physical development.

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Recognising the need for a strong philosophy and deep level of respect for children, families and the whole team at the centre. 

The teachers at the case study centre have a vision about how their centre should feel and what experiences will be like for infants and toddlers who attend.  The most important part of realising this vision is that every one of the teaching team shares the vision.  Part of the philosophy with children is that teachers trust them to be confident and competent learners but the first level of trust necessary within the environment is amongst all of the adults who are participating.

​Brownlee, P. (2009).Ego and the baby, or why your colleagues huff and puff when you trust infants.In Yeah baby! 2009: A collection of articles for teachers and parents of infants and toddlers.(pp. 4-5).Wellington, New Zealand: Childspace Early Childhood Institute.

Brumbaugh, E. (2008).DAP in ECE: Respect.Kappa Delta Pi Record. 44(4), 70- 175.

Dahlberg, G., & Moss, P. (2005).What ethics?In G. Dahlberg & P. Moss (Eds.), Ethics and politics in early childhood education (pp. 64-85).London, England:Routledge.

Goldstein, L. (1998).More than gentle smiles and warm hugs:Applying the ethic of care to early childhood education.Journal of Research in Childhood Education. 12 (2), 244-256.

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Hammond, R. (2009).Respecting babies: A new look at Magda Gerber’s RIE approach. Washington, DC:Zero to Three .

Kovach, B., & Da Ros-Voseles, D. (2008) Being with babies:Understanding and responding to the infants in your care.Silver Spring, MD:Gryphon House.

Noddings, N. (1984). Caring.Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Petrie, S., & Owen, S. (2005). Authentic relationships in group care for infants and toddlers – Resources for infant educarers (RIE) principles into practice.Philadelphia, PA:Jessica Kingsley.

Tronto, J. (1993). Moral boundaries:A political argument for an ethic of care.New York, NY:Routledge.

United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. (2003, October). Concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: New Zealand. (UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.216).Geneva, Italy: Author.

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About the Author:

Toni Christie is the Director of Childspace Early Childhood Institute in Wellington, New Zealand. She holds a Master's degree in Education and her research interests include infants and toddlers, environment design, nature education and leadership. Toni enjoys her many roles as Director, author, editor, marriage celebrant, speaker, musician, wife and mother.​

Opinion

Insight into constructive learning methods by an experienced educator

Active learning, in simple parlance, is any learning activity in which the student participates or interacts with the learning process instead of passively taking in the information.

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Active learning, in its most common format, is a process that has student learning at its centre. It focuses on “how” the students learn and not just on “what” they learn. Active learning is when one is actively participating and collaborating with peers to apply concepts to the real world. Here the students are encouraged to ‘think hard’ rather than passively receive information from the teacher.

Active learning often requires more significant mental efforts leading to increased retention and understanding of new knowledge that can be transferred to novel situations other than the one in which it was initially learned. Active learning, in simple parlance, is any learning activity in which the student participates or interacts with the learning process instead of passively taking in the information.

Active learning draws from the theory of constructivism. Whatever information and philosophies the learner accumulates in return is spent building constructive bridges of long-lasting experiential knowledge. Research shows us that it is impossible to transmit the understanding of the subject to the students by simply telling them what they need to know. Instead, teachers need to focus and make sure that they challenge their students’ thinking. With active learning, students play an essential part in their own learning process.

In an active learning approach, learning is not only about the content but also the learning process. This constructive learning approach develops students’ autonomy and their ability to learn, moulding them into lifelong learners. Active learning refers to a broad range of teaching strategies designed to engage students as active participants in their learning during class time with their teacher. Typically, these strategies involve students working together during class but may also involve individual work and/or reflection.

In active learning, children are constantly convincing and reasoning with each other, which helps them clarify misunderstandings, better their listening skills, and develop compassion and empathy. It can also be noted that active learning in a collaborative setting, if organised and executed, effectively boosts self-efficacy in students.

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Active learning approaches often ask students to connect new information and what they already know, thus extending their understanding. Teachers and educators always look to plan for activities that confront student misconceptions. We generally use two strategies to come to a concrete understanding of whether our classroom approaches have been successful or not.

Action research becomes an essential part of the school practice to understand which strategies are working and which are not. Here designing routines to bring out what the students’ conceptual understandings can be applied. This would help the teachers know whether students are learning what was intended or not.

It takes time and creativity to effectively incorporate active learning strategies into teaching and achieve the full benefits across instructional settings and disciplines. But as the research suggests and educators demonstrate, active learning can easily and effectively be incorporated into existing courses and materials without dramatically overhauling the course.

About the author:

Siddharth Rajgarhia is the Director at Delhi Public School Nasik, Varanasi, and Lava Nagpur.

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Opinion

Future of Education & Skilling in India

By making informed and intentional policy choices, critically evaluating and learning from the present and the past, and actively investing towards the larger purpose and shared vision of education, the future will be bright and promising.

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For the past two days, I was attending a school leaders’ conference in Phuket, Thailand which was on the contemporary topic of the Future of education and skilling in India. The conference was organised by Goethe Institute, Germany, and was mesmerising. Through the conference I along with many education leaders from countries such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India learned about the importance of vocational skills in modern education.

Did you Know?

Less than 5% of the workforce in the age group of 19-24 received vocational education in India during 2012 to 2017. This contrasts with 52% in the USA, 75% in Germany, and 96% in South Korea.

Mahatma Gandhi in a poignant quote says: “The future depends on what we do in the present”. India is moving towards becoming a developed country as well as among the three largest economies in the world. India will also have the highest population of young people in the world over the next decade. There will be 180 million youth that will be entering India’s workforce in the next 15 years. And as of now, there is a massive skill deficit of 400 million people in the workforce, posing both a simultaneous opportunity and challenge. Hence, Teaching for the future, ensuring that students not only learn but more importantly learn how to learn provide high-quality educational opportunities will determine our country's future. 

The National Education Policy of the Government of India has redefined the parameters of education in many ways. Vocational (Skill) education plays a very important in this policy.  The CBSE is in the process of devising curricula for vocational subjects. NEP 2020 says that the aim must be for India to have an education system by 2040 that is second to none, with equitable access to the highest-quality education for all learners regardless of social or economic background.

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So, today, holding Education as the foundation of the future, I would like to throw a light into the future of education and skilling –

  • The first shift we believe will be a global shift in the need for a skilled workforce proficient in multidisciplinary learning. With the rise of big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, many unskilled jobs worldwide may be taken over by machines, while the need for a skilled workforce, particularly involving mathematics, computer science, and data science, in conjunction with multidisciplinary abilities across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, will be increasingly in greater demand.
  • The second shift would be a move towards less content and more towards learning about how to think critically & creatively, solve problems, develop 21st-century skills, and absorb new material in changing circumstances.
  • Addressing ambiguous problems of the future would need not only technical proficiency but mental and emotional resilience to work alongside other people towards a common goal.  Hence, the third shift is a reconfiguration towards building life skills, and character that enables learners to be ethical, rational, compassionate, and caring, while at the same time preparing them for gainful, fulfilling employment.
  • The fourth shift would be a focus on high-quality interdisciplinary research across fields that must be done in India and cannot simply be imported.
  • the fifth shift would be Education rooted towards enabling Access, Quality & Equity which will provide all students, irrespective of their place of residence, with a quality education system, with a particular focus on historically marginalized, disadvantaged, and underrepresented groups.

  • Another shift in the future would be envisioning an education system that’s rooted in Indian ethos contributing directly to transforming India sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society. By leveraging Indian knowledge systems, it is inimitable artistic, language, and knowledge traditions, it would address local and global needs and instill national pride, self-confidence, self-knowledge, cooperation, and integration in its learners.

    All of this is aimed to be realised through a restructuring of the school curriculum that is aligned to the needs of students at different stages of their development.

  • Key reforms are undertaken reforming the current nature of school exams to move away from rote based to competency-based learning and assessments is another priority that is primed towards redefining education in the future.
  • The development of vocational capacities will also go hand-in-hand with the development of ‘academic’ or other capacities. Less than 5% of the workforce in the age group of 19-24 received vocational education in India from 2012 to 2017. Hence, in the future, Vocational education will be integrated into the educational offerings of all secondary schools in a phased manner over the next decade.
  • Towards this, secondary schools will also collaborate with ITIs, polytechnics, local industry, etc. Skill labs will also be set up and created in the schools in a hub and spoke model which will allow other schools to use the facility. Higher education institutions will offer vocational education either on their own or in partnership with industry and NGOs. They will also be allowed to conduct short-term certificate courses in various skills including soft skills. ‘Lok Vidya’, i.e., important vocational knowledge developed in India, will be made accessible to students through integration into vocational education courses.
  • As of now, currently, CBSE has started offering around 40 courses (including courses on Artificial Intelligence, Information Technology, and Design Thinking) at the Senior Secondary level which works towards imparting an education that is holistic, meaningful, and skill-oriented which instills among the youth a sense of usefulness and responsibility while also developing key 21st-century skills. In the future, initiatives like Online Entrepreneurship Program, and AI Curriculum can build a robust pipeline of creative and critical thinkers equipped with the right skills and attitudes to enable India in attaining inclusive economic growth and social development. The German dual system of vocational training is a time-tested successful model we can learn a lot from.
  • Last but not the least, the role technology plays in defining the future of education is much larger than we can ever expect. New technologies involving artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchains, smart boards, handheld computing devices, adaptive computer testing for student development, and other forms of educational software and hardware will not just change what students learn in the classroom but how they learn, and thus these areas and beyond will require extensive research both on the technological as well as educational fronts.

As I quoted in the beginning, “The future depends on what we do in the present”. I believe that our present holds a strong collective desire, actions, and policies to prepare for the future, and shape it too! By making informed and intentional policy choices, critically evaluating and learning from the present and the past, and actively investing towards the larger purpose and shared vision of education, the future will be bright and promising.

About the author:
Anurag Tripathi is Secretary, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).

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Opinion

Mandates of a Health Education Curriculum for Schools

Despite so much progress, one important aspect of human development has been neglected or relegated until the Covid-pandemic came as a rude awakening. This aspect is health and well-being.

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The inherently dynamic landscape of education is undergoing a definitional change. From the old paradigm that lay exclusive emphasis on numeracy, literacy, and memory retention, the education world is moving on to a multi-disciplinary curricular structure in which – alongside academic rigour – co-scholastic activities such as sports, music, dance, and arts are becoming integral to school time.   

An extra dimension to this transformation has been added by the IT revolution. The emergence of new technologies with high applicability in education has influenced pedagogies and learning outcomes in a positive manner. Yet, despite so much progress, one important aspect of human development has been neglected or relegated until the Covid-pandemic came as a rude awakening. This aspect is: health and well-being.

Imperatives of Creating A Healthy Society

Good health and well-being are the sine qua non of all human endeavours. Every nation must build a strong health infrastructure and create a favourable ratio of the overall population to the number of doctors and paramedics. More importantly, there must exist a system by which every citizen is sensitized on broad parameters of health and preventive measures. A sick citizenry is unproductive and a big user/waster of precious national resources.

The beginning of creating a healthy society must indeed be made at the school level. Every school must prepare a structured Health Education Curriculum that addresses specific health and fitness needs of students. These may vary from rural schools to schools in the urban setting. The big and the metro cities perhaps require a more comprehensive document that takes care of health issues linked with lifestyle, eating habits, sleep disorders, and perhaps of certain addictions that are more likely to happen in an urban milieu. Excessive usage of screen time is also posing a serious health hazard and this can create problems that are very likely to become chronic, if not addressed in time. An elaborate health curriculum should cover all these aspects.

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Components of a Health Education Curriculum

A standard and well-structured Health Education Curriculum must necessarily include the following components:

  1. Nutrition and Fitness
  2. Health Hygiene and Wellness
  3. Disease Control and Prevention
  4. Safety and First Aid
  5. Community and Environmental Health
  6. Mental and Emotional Health
  7. Substance Abuse and Prevention
  8. Adolescent Education

These are the mandatory verticals that need to be incorporated into the school health curriculum. Excessive use and immersion into IT space and digital technology, accompanied by extended screen time, wrong body postures, and the diminishing use of the natural neural system are leading to serious ailments. All these factors may have a huge adverse impact on the mental and physical health of the children in the long run. We will have to create a separate structure and protocol for ‘Digital-Detox’.

The importance of health with respect to all age groups need not be overemphasized. Interestingly, in our physiological system, practically everything happens in an automation mode and unless some disease or disability strikes us, we do not take note. Children with fresh, flexible, and relatively healthier bodies, tend to ignore these signals more than their senior counterparts. These, therefore, can lead to habits that may not be very healthy in nature and can cause problems later in life.

The primary objective of any form of education is to acquire knowledge. “Know Thyself” is the main mantra both in the physical and metaphysical context. It is indeed mandatory for all of us to know our body, mind, and soul in their entirety. That alone will help us to live a life that is full, productive, and socially relevant.

There is no better place to start this immersion other than a school.

About the author:

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Vinod Malhotra is Chairman, Academic Council, Saamarthya Teachers Training Academy of Research (STTAR), Ghaziabad

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Opinion

3 things we can all do to reopen education for our future

It’s time to reopen schools safely, it’s time to give children their right to education, it’s time to give children their connection to socio-emotional skills.

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As soon as some states announced school reopening, there were WhatsApp forwards of an article that said ‘66,000 kids under 10 years got infected, 85 succumbed in Maharashtra’, and parents started getting worried about school reopening. But if you read the article you realize it is from December 2020 and as you scroll down you realize that the article is actually saying that children are not at risk.

Our schools and colleges are closed for almost 17 months. We are in the middle of the second academic year when learning is virtual for all age groups. There are children who started their educational journey virtually, have never set foot in a school! What are we doing about it?

“ Destroying any nation does not require the use of atomic bombs or the use of long-range missiles…it only requires lowering the quality of education…the collapse of education is the collapse of the nation.”

Daniel Prelipcean

Covid task forces in many states are against reopening of schools even as UNICEF and WHO make a joint statement urging countries to reopen schools. Dr. Swaminathan, chief scientist at WHO said, “The impact on children’s mental, physical and cognitive wellbeing will last a long time. School openings must be prioritized with distancing, masking, avoiding indoor singing and gatherings, hand hygiene and vaccination of all adults.”

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How should we prepare for reopening? How do we get parents on board? Well, if it takes a village to raise a child then it’s time for the village to work together. There are 3 things all stakeholders should do to ensure the safe and rapid reopening of education in our country.

What can the media do?

  1. Stop headlining incorrectly, just to get eyeballs! People tend to read only the headlines and not the article, so keep the headlines real.
  2. Start talking about vaccination and keep pushing about masking and social distancing as people are forgetting to do it. If your reporters are seen on screen not masked or maintaining social distance, then the public follows!
  3. Start doing more articles and coverage on the impact of school closure on all children. Child labour, child abuse, and child marriages have increased. Children are fatigued with virtual learning and women's employment has come down as women have had to leave the workforce to take care of children in the absence of daycare and schools.

What can educators do?

  1. Stop taking photographs without masks! When you take a group photo together without masks you are also not following social distancing. So many educators are posting such photos on social media, remember your students follow you… not only on social media!
  2. Get both your vaccinations and motivate parents to do the same.
  3. Push the narrative of the urgency of safe reopening.

What can schools do?

  1. Get all your staff vaccinated with their double dose. Don’t be complacent, invest in all the safety protocols given in the SOP released by the government.
  2. Think of the hidden safety threats like school buses, snack time when children will be without masks, restrooms where children end up using the same hand towel.
  3. Don’t hide facts. If any child falls sick or any family member contracts covid, don’t hide, immediately quarantine the bubble. Covid cases will happen but hiding them will only create a trust deficit.

What can parents do?

  1. Support the school in following all the safety protocols when dropping or picking up your child. The school has enough on its hands monitoring the children, don’t add to it by making them monitor you too!
  2. Create your own safety protocol when children come home from school, ensure they leave their school bag in a fixed place inside the door, sanitize their hands before entering, and go straight for a bath without touching things or people. Sanitize their bag, things, and clothes every day. It is the only way to keep safe.
  3. Ensure that your and their activities after school are also safe and you are not taking them to crowded places or calling too many people home. It is important to understand that if you think covid can come home from school then it can go to school from home too, so everyone needs to be vigilant and responsible.

What can teachers do?

  1. Get ready to face some behavioral challenges, they have had the ‘power’ of mute in their hands till now with virtual learning. Some children will be anxious, some will be depressed because of circumstances at home. There will be a mixed bag of emotions and behavior to deal with, take care of yourself first and ensure you don’t focus on the curriculum but focus on the child first.
  2. Teach children that being in a bubble does not mean shaking hands, or hugging or high fiving, or sharing food in the bubble, everyone has to understand and follow ‘CC’- Covid culture at all times. Remind them about it every day.
  3. Giving opportunities for ‘Air Gulp’ will be important. Children will be wearing masks and it is difficult to wear them for longer hours, teach them to take ‘air gulps’ in the outdoors or when away from people and in case they experience claustrophobia than to face the wall, stay away from others and remove their masks and take an ‘air gulp’ and put the mask back on again. 

Adults need to study this safety cone to understand how much supervision and autonomy do children require to follow the covid safety protocols. For very young children up to 6 years, supervise them at all times, safety is completely the responsibility of parents and teachers. For children between 6-18, the responsibility is shared, you can trust them with simple things but keep reminding. And for 18 and above, it is their responsibility, to ensure proper rules and repercussions are in place.

It’s time to learn from a small town in Italy called Reggio Emilia and keep children first, in our decisions. Reggio Emilia was completely destroyed after the second world war, the people of the town came together to decide what to start rebuilding first- their homes, their church, or schools. It was a unanimous decision to rebuild the schools first so that children can be safe and learning while the adults restart the town and its economy. It’s time to think children first and it will happen when all stakeholders: the parents, teachers, educators, schools, media, and every citizen becomes the community that thinks ‘children first’.

It’s time to reopen schools safely, it’s time to give children their right to education, it’s time to give children their connection to socio-emotional skills.

About the author:

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Dr. Swati Popat Vats is the President, Podar Education Network, Early Childhood Association India and Association for Primary Education & Research. She is a widely read author and expert on parenting, early childhood, and learning methodologies.

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Opinion

An educator shares the trials and tribulations of the extended scholastic community

Lt. Col. Sekhar shares some uncomfortable questions which all educators need to ask

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  • My mother, father, Dada, Dadi, Nana Nani are all down with COVID…Madam… I do not know what to do…please…please…help…
  • I have spent 4 lakhs on my wife’s COVID treatment… Your School is threatening to cut off online classes for my child!!!!
  • Sir, I have lost my father-in-law and nephew over the last few days …. I do not want to even talk… How do you expect me to be positive? 
  • My student in Grade 7 has lost his father … He is not speaking at all… How do I connect?
  • I have had COVID, my wife has had COVID… I am feeling listless…

The above quotes, made under stress by a head girl, parent, teachers, and a Principal respectively give you a fair idea of the trials and tribulations of the extended scholastic community across India, after the devastating second wave of COVID, (and dare I say, the world).

After the initial, understandably excited responses for the LFH/WFH, the euphoria has been tempered by the stark realization that we are yet to find a workable substitute for physical schooling.

The following reality bites stare at you hard and square: –

  • Physical schooling is not a priority for Governments in India.
  • Online schooling exacerbates digital divides.
  • Learning outcome depreciations are regrettably, a growing reality.
  • Socio-emotional/cultural/learning/understanding has reduced significantly leading to ongoing mental health issues, across the board.
  • Schools are gasping for breath, (every which way), especially private schools.
  • Physical and mental harassment of students has hit unprecedented highs.
  • An exhausted stressed academic community is searching for credible answers.

Yet, these are some encouraging silver linings in that: –

  • Teachers of all hues have been exceptional; they are the new ‘Military”!
  • Parental respect for teachers & Schools have, by and large improved (with some unfortunate exceptions)
  • Evaluations and assessments are being revisited holistically. (long overdue)
  • “21st-century skills” are now front & center.
  • After initial lethargy, state and Central School boards have been, relatively speaking, on the ball.

So, what next?

Assuming that schools & colleges reopen in 2022 physically, full time, how are we going to address the complex and urgent challenges facing India’s Education systems in a post (present continuous) pandemic world? How do we bridge the inevitable learning gaps and the myriad issues of socio-emotional learning?

Do I have the answers?

By God No!

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Do we have the answers?

I suspect not!

What is the way forward?

During the 1980s & early 90s, there was this great fear that the US was losing its leadership in education & technology due to the Japanese and South East Asian economic miracle. Subsequently, a national nonpartisan Presidential commission, including the best brains America could offer intellectually (both from the public & private sectors) came up with a pragmatic actionable document, unconditionally accepted by all the stakeholders. The FAANG boom is a consequence of that initiative.

Clearly, that initiative has stood the test of time.

Today's decisions will impact the largest cohort of under 30 population the world has ever had (the Indian demographic dividend). The students entering School in 2022 are to be made ready with competencies and skillsets for jobs yet to be created, (even dreamt of) in 2047, when India celebrates 100 years of independence.

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Can the Central, State Governments, public and private sectors, (all of us, each one of us) put aside our egos and vested interests, join hands, create a new consensus, and make the demographic dividend the turbocharged engine for India to become a global superpower?

Your answer is as good as mine.

About the author:
The author is a soldier educationist. He is presently the Chief Development Officer, Jagran Education Foundation.

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Opinion

A Call For Adaptive Change Approach To Leadership 

A smart leader would know that during the adaptive phase it becomes crucial to diagnose, interpret, and innovate in order to create the capabilities that match the organisation’s aspirations.

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The impact of the impending pandemic has been observed across the globe. All the major sectors of the economy were affected by the Covid-19 crisis and the education sector unfortunately was amongst the worst hits. Around 32 crore learners stopped moving to schools/colleges, all educational activities halted in India. 

The outbreak of COVID-19 has advised us that change is inevitable. It seems as if the outbreak has worked as a catalyst for the educational institutions to grow and opt for platforms, techniques that have not been used before. With many primary and necessary changes coming in the educational system, it is also important for educators to accept the change not only in the system but also within the management and organisation. 

Tough and challenging times call for a change in the strategy implemented, management framework and also that of leadership. Adaptation is a primary element for the changes to be successfully implemented. New normal and rapidly changing education system certainly calls for a change in leadership – it requires adaptive leadership. 

In simple terms, adaptive leadership is a practical leadership framework and approach that helps individuals and organizations adapt and thrive in challenging environments. An effective adaptive leadership enables both, individually and collectively, to take on the gradual but meaningful process of change. 

The framework and approach towards effective adaptive leadership can be implemented in a 3 step process, namely – ‘Observation, Interpretation and Intervention’. A smart leader would know that during the adaptive phase it becomes crucial to diagnose, interpret, and innovate in order to create the capabilities that match the organisation’s aspirations.

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The Observation stage of the adaptive leadership framework is the most primary and important phase. It becomes important to make some basic observations about the current work structure, policies and work style before planning for any changes into the system – internally or externally. Without understanding and comprehending the current situation it would become nearly impossible for the organisation to adapt to any changes. 

This stage of adaptive leadership involves collecting the present data, analyzing the problem and figuring out whether the problem requires a technical fix or a more modified and novel solution to deal with it. Adaptive solutions to the problem become more complicated and yet extremely important since it involves dealing with personnel. It becomes necessary for the leader to consider everybody's viewpoints and opinions and also to take the required steps in dealing with the issues taking the support of the management. Having a ‘bird’s eye view’ for a particular situation really helps the leader to correctly observe and analyse the situation. 

Next comes the Interpretation stage. Once the data is collected and analysed it becomes important to decipher the meaning of the data and information. A successful interpretation of a leader would be to get to know the ‘unsaid’ and ‘unexpressed’ in the organisation. It is important for the leader to observe the data and also to comprehend the underlying meaning. The interpretation stage really requires and also challenges the leader’s management and leadership skills, along with their skill to analyse a given situation in a deeper manner. 

The last stage is the intervention stage in which the leader should see to it that proper assessment is taken and monitored regularly along with the implementation of the newly planned policies and changes in the organisation. It also becomes important to realise and accept that there is always a chance of human error while implementing these changes. It then becomes essential to provide those who are responsible for certain tasks, with relevant training so as to enhance their capabilities and skillsets to carry out the adaptive changes. 

Often it is seen that while implementing new policies and changes in the working culture of the organisation, the current policies that seem to be working very well are often neglected. A leader should make sure that these policies and structures of the organisation are not left in the dirt. Rather it would be beneficial if new policies are to be based upon the current working ones. 

When dealing with such crucial changes there are a few things that a leader should bear in mind to make the process and transition more efficient and effective. 

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  1. Leadership is about finding like-minded people and proper delegation of authority.
  2. Implementing massive changes in the organisation would often result in confusion and some displeasure among the personnel. To avoid this a leader has to be sure to implement minor changes systematically so that they would be approved by everyone and also be effective in the long run. 
  3. Patience is the virtue of a good leader. The changes and new policies implemented would require a period of time to actually show the results. Hence it is important for the leader to have patience and also to celebrate even the smallest positive outcomes. 
  4. As a leader, it is important to realise the fact that not everyone is going to be committed to the change. Many would be afraid to adapt to the change because they would be lacking certain professional skills required or even to invest the time and energy. As a leader, it becomes crucial to acknowledge this and convey to said people that their hard work is appreciated. It develops a mutual understanding and respect towards each other which in turn is beneficial for an efficient and effective transition. 
  5. New changes come with criticisms. A good leader would always welcome these criticisms and make them the basis of future observations and during the monitoring phase. Criticisms about a particular change give the leader insight and different perspective that is beneficial to the improvement of the organisation. 

In order to see that these adaptive changes and solutions are efficiently and effectively implemented a leader can create certain conditions. 

  1. It becomes important for a leader to establish a conflict management culture in the organisation so that the management and the workplace environment holds through these changes without any serious damages. 
  2. A good leader who believes in adaptive leadership should see to it that in the management of the organisation, every point of view is heard; a fair chance to improve and be heard is given to everyone irrespective of the hierarchical structure and an open-minded working environment is built where people welcome the idea of experimentation. 
  3. While implementing the new policies and changes within the organisation, the leader should control the momentum of the process and transition. 
  4. Working towards changes in the running system is never fun, people would often try to avoid work and a leader should be able to create a work avoidance management system. 
  5. Lastly, it is important for a leader to maintain high spirits and be encouraging towards the developments and results. The high spirit of the leader reflects the working style of the organisation and thus it becomes crucial for a leader to be pragmatic. 

Although adaptive leadership requires plenty of efforts, it provides substantial returns. Based on credible statistics, firms that are adaptive end up with immense gains both financially and operationally. They are able to weather the storms and rise to the top even during periods of volatility.

About the author: Siddharth Rajgarhia, Chief Learner-Director, Delhi Public School, Nashik, Varanasi & Lava Nagpur

 

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Opinion

Know Why Learning & Activity Centres Are An Important Part Of School Education

An opinion article by a leading educationist and an avid holistic education seeker on learning centers for supporting classroom teaching

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School – an educational centre. A place to emphasize the holistic development of the child. However, many times, more emphasis is given to academic development at the expense of emotional, social, and physical development and we often forget how important these are. Classroom learning centres, provided that you implement them right, can be a perfect place to promote these areas of growth in young children.

Learning centres are areas within the classroom where students learn about specific subjects by playing and engaging in activities. Even cognitive development is achieved through child-initiated exploration and discovery. Children need specific strategies and skills, such as making decisions, carrying out plans, cooperating and sharing with others, and problem-solving. 

Learning centres help build literacy skills and content mastery with the help of differentiated instructions. Learning centres allow students to use and apply academic concepts to expand their understanding. They also encourage participation and collaboration. Having a choice for students at each activity centre allows for more engagement. They will move towards self-regulated learning. 

Learning and activity centres in each classroom would help build up a positive and productive learning environment in the classroom. Students would also feel a sense of belonging because of more camaraderie in small groups and increased student-student positive relationships. In case, the educator has planned the classroom management well by displaying rules at each activity centre, limiting the time to 10-15 mins at each centre, orienting the students for transitions, and each centre. 

Using homogeneous groupings right after finishing with the teaching of a topic would be quite useful for the educators to see that each group of students has understood what is being taught and if there are any confusions, they can solve and explain them in groups. This also helps in developing a sense of confidence in students. 

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So when the teacher is dealing with one group, the other groups would have the same worksheet, which will have various difficulty levels of problems that the students are solving. This helps the teacher isolate the group of students who have difficulty understanding the concept or the subject taught. The teacher will be mindful of spending more time with such groups and spend less time with groups that are already able to follow the worksheet.

To sum up, learning centres allow children to develop not just intellectually but in a wholesome manner. Learning and activity centres are an important part of a balanced classroom teaching and curriculum.

About the author: Siddharth Rajgarhia, Chief Learner-Director, Delhi Public School, Nashik, Varanasi & Lava Nagpur

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Opinion

How To Help New Kindergartners With Separation Anxiety

Here is how parents and teachers should work together to help the child start kindergarten

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Children will always be anxious about starting school, this will never change. And their anxiety is well justified, hence, parents and teachers together must work in order to help the children feel safer.

Here is what they may try.

Parents can always sit with the children and talk to them about what is stressing them about starting kindergarten? Why are they screaming? What are they so scared of? 

Dismissing a child’s feelings or worries will not help the parents, rather the child will suffer internally and develop more anxiety. Letting the kids explain their thoughts and fears (however much they can) is a major part of dealing with the issue. Telling them that what they are feeling is absolutely valid and okay to feel, but going to school is a huge part of life as they transition to being a bigger kid.

Immediately making a kid stop crying is not a solution to everything, let them cry and express themselves. After they are calm, reassure them that you will be there for them emotionally and present in person if they need you to come and get them.

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Role-playing can be a good way to help kids learn how to make new friends. They can practice with parents how to start a conversation or simply what they should do in the class. This way the parents may also make sure their children behave well in the class by letting them practice.

Child psychologists say that children relate to storybook characters a lot; it is a good way to read them a story about a kid starting a new school. It could also help them articulate what they’re feeling since the stories can perfectly depict the child’s worries and fears about school.

First few days or even weeks is more crucial, do not just say goodbye and leave, let them know that you will be there waiting outside for them. Definitely don’t try to sneak away because this would increase your child’s anxiety.

Children may bring their favourite toy or security article from home that makes them feel safer. If a child can see and hold their toy when they feel insecure, this helps them become comfortable quickly and may improve confidence.

Having play dates with other kids before starting school is a good idea. Parents may ask the teachers about other new kindergarteners and set up some playdates before the children start school. This way they may already have a friend and can rely on each other.

Not agreeing with helicopter parenting here by asking the teachers about the child’s progress regularly is a good idea. Are they slowly making new friends? Or are they finding it hard to speak up? Is your child experiencing anxiety? Parents much know all these to have a regular knowledge of what is happening in a kid’s life.

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Keep in mind:

1Separation anxiety may be handled better if the parents and teachers collaborate on the matter and work together. Education on the topic of separation anxiety is important for both parents and teachers. Teamwork regarding interventions and strategies, training to increase a child’s independence and sense of competence will help the child in the long run. Teachers may counsel the children to build self-esteem and sense of adequacy, give them positive feedback and allow opportunities to meet and celebrate small successes.

2. Since the pandemic has been a well-known fact even amongst children, talking to them about disasters should be normalised. The best way to always protect a child is not by keeping them out of the discussion, sometimes talking to them is what helps them better. Talking to them about disaster management, the importance of precautions and ways of solving a large scale problem should help bring their minds at some peace. 

3. Children identify parents as the safe adults to tell all their problems to. For the school, they need to identify a safe adult as well. Parents and teachers together should sit with the kids to let them know that is it okay for them to trust their teacher. This way they get the idea that trusting only those whom their parents introduce to them is right and they would be comfortable to come to their teacher with their problems.

It definitely takes a village to raise a child and in the case of any pre-school, this village is certainly led by parents and educators who're to work together!

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Opinion

A Fresh Perspective Towards Math – Are We Looking At This Subject Right?

Interesting things we can learn from mathematicians.

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As children, whenever we used to crib over the mathematics homework, we were always told one thing by our elders – “Math is a subject that you will require throughout your life.” And that is the message that is still being passed on to students. Faced with the seemingly daunting derivatives and integration sums in the higher classes, students wonder when these would actually be useful in their lives, and they struggle to somehow get through that semester with the mere intention of passing. And here is where the fault in our math classrooms is unveiled. 

To the majority of the children, math is merely a subject, and that too, a tough one. To motivate them, they are often told, “Math is the most scoring subject,” and this, over a period of time, cultivates the belief that the only purpose of math, its sole outcome is good marks. Also, in our classrooms, time is often considered as a factor for judgement, when it actually should be a thorough understanding of the subject. Those who solve sums the fastest are declared as “smart”. But the one who is taking longer, but developing a full understanding of the topic, tends to be discouraged. In this process, the beauty of the subject is lost, and it becomes something that the students study to fetch a few marks. 

Recognizing this problem, our classrooms, over all these years, have slowly evolved to make math seem more and more interesting to the students. But for students to be passionate about it, it is vital that they look at it as something beyond just a mandatory subject in their curriculum. Here is when understanding a mathematician’s take on math can prove helpful. A mathematician is someone who recognizes a problem in the real world and aims to find a pattern that would act as a solution to that problem. His work is motivated purely by the possibility of finding an answer that would help the world in some way. Even if that takes a few days, weeks, months, or even a year, he will spend the time required to solve the problem.

Another interesting thing we can learn from mathematicians is that they often collaborate to solve problems. Math is a subject that requires debating, reasoning, contradicting, and building up of one thought upon another till the solution finally emerges. This atmosphere of convincing and reasoning and learning together needs to be introduced in our classrooms. Letting the children work in small groups for a few days, as guiding them as they struggle to find the perfect solution is a much more mentally rewarding activity than a student sitting alone and solving a number of textbook-generated sums.

Solving multiple sums is definitely a way to fully acclimatize oneself with the subject, and it is often an approach parents insist upon, but studies have shown that although it provides good mental exercise, it does little to actually increase the thinking power of a student. In comparison, when understanding mathematics becomes a collaborative effort to solve everyday problems it becomes a rounded learning activity, in which the students help each other.

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Thus, learning from mathematicians’ point of view and seeking inspiration from their commitment to the subject can truly help us to make our students look past the veil of marks and perfect grades, and actually see the beauty of the subject.

About the author: Siddharth Rajgarhia, Chief Learner-Director, Delhi Public School, Nashik, Varanasi & Lava Nagpur

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Opinion

Why Govt. Needs To Put Educators in The Vaccine Priority List Before School Reopening 

The question to be asked is why haven’t this year seen any fairness towards the education sector? It is time we start talking about teachers in the COVID-19 vaccine priority list, at least.

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Let us face the imponderable truth, nobody knows when the whole world or rather a particular country might get vaccines to all its citizens. The vaccine of COVID-19 is the pivoting point of the world in the current scenario. As of October 2020, there were over 100 candidates for vaccine production around the world, according to WHO. A successful vaccine, though still in the making, has had the whole world discussing insistently on who all should be the priority groups to be given the vaccine. 

Countries around the world have been attempting to prepare a multiphased vaccine regime. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on 24 Nov 2020, held a virtual conference with Chief Ministers of all states and Union Territories of India regarding the same. They reviewed the status and preparedness of COVID-19 response and its management. A special emphasis was on the 8 high contamination states – Haryana, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal.

The PM made it clear that in the first stage, the vaccine will be given to the frontline health workers, in the second stage to the police personnel, sanitation workers etc., and to those above 50 years of age in the third stage. The question arises here – what about the educators? Is this going to be the year where the education system around the world is suffering an unending unfairness? First, no salary then unemployment and now they are not even in the count for those who should be prioritized for the vaccine?

According to an article in 2018 by World Education News Reviews, India has the world’s second-largest school system with 1.5 million schools and approximately 8.7 million teachers. Now imagine most of them being unemployed or without salaries during the pandemic. Out of 1.3 billion population of India, about 260 million are school students who have been out of school since March 2020. There are discussions about reopening the schools but no appropriate ammunition is being considered that should be given to the teachers who are fighting this war of COVID, no less.

Dr. Swati Popat Vats, President APER, ECE & Podar Education Network, wrote a thought-provoking post on Facebook following the news. The post brought up a very crucial point that if India plans on reopening schools, shouldn’t teachers get the vaccines in priority too? Dr. Vats believes that schools should not be asked to reopen until the teachers are safe, that is until they’re given the vaccines. “There should be free and paid vaccines available and those that are in a certain tax slab should be made to pay for the vaccine. Others to get it free,” she writes in her viral FB post.

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Dr. Vats is an influencer in the education world, her Facebook post almost immediately received many agreeing and supportive comments and was shared as well by educators all over the country. Even some parent groups that follow her agreed to the idea of having vaccinated teachers for their kids when the schools finally reopen. 

To summarise, many educators like Dr. Vats feel that a meaningly thought should be given by the government towards the issue of teacher safety. That the second or third stage should include K-12 educators as well since the initial stage is rightfully deserved by the frontline workers. Also, since teachers work around children all the time, they should be vaccinated only after the vaccine has been proved useful and harmless.

The world has experienced the power our educators hold. During the lockdown, they managed to flip to virtual learning instantly and kept teaching unhesitantly. Irrespective of the challenges and no major financial help, we all know they will still keep going resiliently because a true teacher never gives up!  

Back in August 2020, Russia reportedly planned to include the profession of teaching in the priority list along with the medical workers. Perhaps other countries can consider doing the same now. 

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