Early Scope

Early Childhood Research (Blog) (5)

“…a quotation from Rabindranath Tagore’s essay, Civilisation and Progress, in which the poet reminds us that a ‘creative spirit’ and ‘generous joy’ are key in childhood, both of which can be distorted by an unthinking adult world” (The National Curriculum Framework, Executive Summary, 2005).

The quotation mentioned above provoked me to think, are we a “Thinking adult” or “Unthinking adult”? If we are “thinking adults”, are we really enhancing the “creative spirit” and “generous joy” among children living on the margins? These are some of the questions which made me share my field work experiences in the following section of this blog.

I was in the data collection team of last phase of Indian Early Childhood Education Impact (IECEI) study. As part of the study sample, we visited 21 villages of Ajmer and Alwar districts, Rajasthan. We visited both Private and Government Schools to administer our tools. As a child development practitioner I relate “creative spirit” and “generous joy” with the holistic development of children. School is a place where children get a platform to express their emotions, develop relationships and cognitive skills, moral values and many more. I will provide some glimpses of my experiences in schools of Rajasthan here.

There were number of schools available in the areas we visited. Contrary to what I had heard, I found a high involvement of children in learning and play activities in most of the government schools I visited. Schools were using the space available judiciously. The classrooms were well organized with a lot of teacher-learning materials. At one of the government schools in Basaijogia, Alwar, it was wonderful to see the cultural activities during the “khelsabhaas”. Children were engaged in activities such as flower making, paper craft, clay work, etc. The mid-day meals given at the school were one of the attractions for the children.

However, not all was well with schooling in the community. In most of private schools, infrastructure was not an issue however the usage of space was one. Classrooms were available, but 60 children were sitting in one classroom! Merging of two classrooms seemed to be a trend. This was happening because of insufficient staff. To me, it seemed that there was no specific time for teachers and students to come to school. I wondered why. Looking at the children made me think that they were just sitting in classrooms to complete the hours of the day. Corporal punishment was used by most of the teachers. One instance is from a private school in Ajmer, where a girl was hit twice on her back by the Principal for not standing in a line in the school assembly. In another instance, a private school male teacher was caught using abusive slangs at one of his students. Further, as a part of our work, we had to go to households to administer the “Achievement Test 3”. During one of the visits, a mother of a boy reported that she preferred her boy to go to “khet” (field) than to school as they are not satisfied. Later I also found out that school dropouts were a common phenomenon.

Above mentioned were some of the field work experiences. Some were wonderful; however few left me with many questions. The idea behind writing this blog was to give a small glimpse of the situation of some schools in the rural areas. This might prompt us all to reach out to these kinds of schools and see how we as “thinking adults” are able to foster the “creative spirit” and “generous joy” among all children so that they see schooling as a valuable, free and rich experience—one that fosters their holistic development.

Reference:-
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2005).
National Curriculum Framework. New Delhi.

Retrieved from
http://www.ncert.nic.in/rightside/links/pdf/framework/english/nf2005.pdf

 

Photo: Namrata Sinha/CECED/2016  Editor/Design: Rinku Bora/CECED/2016


The fabric of the Indian society is an amalgamation of traditional as well as modern ideas and practices. In the recent years, India has adapted itself to the changing times and made great progress in various areas while maintaining its rich tradition and culture. However, in trying to strike a balance between tradition and modernity, India has still not been able to rid itself of some of the conventional and orthodox practices which had been continuing over generations in the name of ‘culture’ and ‘tradition’. Child marriage is one of them.

 

As a researcher in the field of childhood and education, I have had the chance to travel across the country and interface with people belonging to several cultures holding a variety of perspectives. Interacting with them has been an emancipating experience that has given dimensionality to my way of thinking. I would like to share one such instance with you all.

A Village Where Child Marriage is a Trend 

Recently, I was in a village called Fatehgarh in Ajmer District of Rajasthan. I was there as part of the longitudinal Indian Early Child Education Impact Study, conducted by Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development, Ambedkar University Delhi. One of the objectives of the field visit was to gain a deeper understanding of the context in which our sample children were living and studying.


I was interacting with a gentleman who belonged to the village and he was helping me to prepare a documented profile of the aforesaid village. He was very helpful and a friendly villager and shared a lot of important information related to his village. The village was well equipped with various facilities and resources such as banks, ATMs, chemist’s shops, clinics, community health centres (CHCs) etc.


He reported that most households in the village had water supply and electricity supply for more than 20 hours in a day. The village also had a number of Government Schools, Anganwadis, Private schools and Private Pre-schools. I was very impressed when I heard this from him and assumed that this was an indication of the progress and development in the village.He reported that most households in the village had water supply and electricity supply for more than 20 hours in a day. The village also had a number of Government Schools, Anganwadis, Private schools and Private Pre-schools. I was very impressed when I heard this from him and assumed that this was an indication of the progress and development in the village.


After this, I asked him if there were any incidences of bad practices such as child marriage in the village.

 

Too Young to Wed

Having grown up in a metropolitan city, I had never really been able to understand why a parent would marry their young child at such a tender age and take away their childhood from them. However, the response of this gentleman helped me understand the institution of child marriage from a completely different perspective. His reply ignited several questions in my mind.


He replied that child marriage still takes place in many villages, but people do not talk about it openly and their village was not an exception. He also added, he along with several other people in the village supported this idea and claimed that there was no harm in child marriage. He further explained that if there are two daughters belonging to the same age group in a family, the family searches for two grooms and marries both the girls together in the same Mandap. This way fewer resources are used.


The girls are sent to their in-laws’ place only after they turn 18 years in age in a ceremony popularly known as ‘gauna’. The girls can study and go to school till the time they stay at their parents’ place. The villagers support this practice and do not stop the girls from going to school as they do believe that education is equally important for girls.


This logical and rational argument presented by the gentleman left me dumbstruck. I thanked him and walked away wondering: Has the institution of marriage just become a responsibility and burden on parents? Does the innocence of childhood hold no meaning? Are women in this patriarchal society ever really allowed to make a choice for themselves? Or, do they just get socialised into a way of life that a figure of authority decides for them? Is education really emancipating the minds of the young children or is it just making them literate?


Written By: Komal Khanna, CECED, Ambedkar University Delhi. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely of the author. This is not necessarily CECED's point of view but only reported by CECED. 


Research reveals negative effects of academic preschools and kindergartens


(This Post was first published by Peter Gray on May 05, 2015 in Freedom to Learn)


          


Many preschool and kindergarten teachers have told me that they are extremely upset—some to the point of being ready to resign—by the increased pressure on them to teach academic skills to little children and regularly test them on such skills.  They can see firsthand the unhappiness generated, and they suspect that the children would be learning much more useful lessons through playing, exploring, and socializing, as they did in traditional nursery schools and kindergartens.  Their suspicions are well validated by research studies.


A number of well-controlled studies have compared the effects of academically oriented early education classrooms with those of play-based classrooms (some of which are reviewed here (link is external), in an article by Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Geralyn McLaughlin,and Joan Almon).[1]  The results are quite consistent from study to study:  Early academic training somewhat increases children’s immediate scores on the specific tests that the training is aimed at (no surprise), but these initial gains wash out within 1 to 3 years and, at least in some studies, are eventually reversed.  Perhaps more tragic than the lack of long-term academic advantage of early academic instruction is evidence that such instruction can produce long-term harm, especially in the realms of social and emotional development.


 

A Study in Germany that Changed Educational Policy There


For example, in the 1970s, the German government sponsored a large-scale comparison in which the graduates of 50 play-based kindergartens were compared, over time, with the graduates of 50 academic direct-instruction-based kindergartens.[2]  Despite the initial academic gains of direct instruction, by grade four the children from the direct-instruction kindergartens performed significantly worse than those from the play-based kindergartens on every measure that was used.  In particular, they were less advanced in reading and mathematics and less well adjusted socially and emotionally. At the time of the study, Germany was gradually making a switch from traditional play-based kindergartens to academic ones.  At least partly as a result of the study, Germany reversed that trend; they went back to play-based kindergartens.  Apparently, German educational authorities, at least at that time, unlike American authorities today, actually paid attention to educational research and used it to inform educational practice.


A Large-Scale Study of Children from Poverty in the United States


Similar studies in the United States have produced comparable results.  One study, directed by Rebecca Marcon, focused on mostly African American children from high-poverty families.[3]  As expected, she found—in her sample of 343 students--that those who attended preschools centered on academic training showed initial academic advantages over those who attended play-based preschools; but, by the end of fourth grade, these initial advantages were reversed:  The children from the play-based preschools were now performing better, getting significantly higher school grades, than were those from the academic preschools, This study included no assessment of social and emotional development.


An Experiment in Which Chidren from Poverty Were Followed up to Age 23


In a well-controlled experiment, begun by David Weikart and his colleagues in 1967, sixty eight high-poverty children living in Ypsilanti, Michigan, were assigned to one of three types of nursery schools:  Traditional (play-based), High/Scope (which was like the traditional but involved more adult guidance), and Direct Instruction (where the focus was on teaching reading, writing, and math, using worksheets and tests). The assignment was done in a semi-random way, designed to ensure that the three groups were initially matched on all available measures.  In addition to the daily preschool experiences, the experiment also included a home visit every two weeks, aimed at instructing parents in how to help their children.  These visits focused on the same sorts of methods as did the preschool classrooms.  Thus, home visits from the Traditional classrooms focused on the value of play and socialization while those from the Direct-Instruction classrooms focused on academic skills, worksheets, and the like.


The initial results of this experiment were similar to those of other such studies.  Those in the direct-instruction group showed early academic gains, which soon vanished.  This study, however, also included follow-up research when the participants were 15 years old and again when they were 23 years old.  At these ages there were no significant differences among the groups in academic achievement, but large, highly significant differences in social and emotional characteristics.


By age 15 those in the Direct Instruction group had committed, on average, more than twice as many “acts of misconduct” than had those in the other two groups.  At age 23, as young adults, the differences were even more dramatic.  Those in the Direct Instruction group had more instances of friction with other people, were more likely to have shown evidence of emotional impairment, were less likely to be married and living with their spouse, and were far more likely to have committed a crime than were those in the other two groups.  In fact, by age 23, 39% of those in the Direct Instruction group had felony arrest records compared to an average of 13.5% in the other two groups; and 19% of the Direct Instruction group had been cited for assault with a dangerous weapon compared with 0% in the other two groups.[4]


What might account for such dramatic long-term effects of type of preschool attended?  One possibility is that the initial school experience sets the stage for later behavior.  Those in classrooms where they learned to plan their own activities, to play with others, and to negotiate differences may have developed lifelong patterns of personal responsibility and pro-social behavior that served them well throughout their childhood and early adulthood.  Those in classrooms that emphasized academic performance may have developed lifelong patterns aimed at achievement, and getting ahead, which—especially in the context of poverty—could lead to friction with others and even to crime (as a misguided means of getting ahead).


I suspect that the biweekly home visits played a meaningful role.  The parents of those in the classrooms that focused on play, socialization, and student initiative may have developed parenting styles that continued to reinforce those values and skills as the children were growing up, and the parents of those in the academic training group may have developed parenting styles more focused on personal achievement (narrowly defined) and self-centered values—values that did not bode well for real-world success. 

 

Source: www.psychologytoday.com

 

This school is located in urban area of Alwar district in Rajasthan. It has one nursery class which they call the “free ship” class. All the children who belong to this class do not pay any fee. It is interesting to know that these children in the “free ship” classes are not enrolled yet, but continue to attend the classes. Most of these children come along with their elder siblings who come to the school regularly. The Principal informed that many of them do not pay fee even after sending several reminders to their parents. The principal told that he has approached parents and shared the situation, but many parents do not understand and consider sending the child to school only to pass time. Since, most of the adults go out for work during the day, nobody is left at home to take care of young ones; so, they come along with their elder siblings to the school.

Date: 4th feb, 2013  

Where: Umrain, Alwar

When: around 10.30am

This article is dedicated to the spirit of the Lion’s Heart.

There were still a few more minutes left before the gates of the school were to open. Children were lining up around the walls; some were even trying to jump through the gates. A class teacher soon arrived and began a warm conversation. We hadn’t even entered the school and we already knew that the school has a computer centre, has a website of its own, has a group of children who volunteer to carry out activities within the school and support the website. These 15-20 children 12 year olds impressively introduced themselves as the Lion’s Heart team.

The name is an inspiration from the teams of the popular IPL cricket series.  Likewise, the children looked confident and enthusiastic. They said that they know how to operate on computers; they knew Microsoft word, paint and PC games too, like IGA.

We entered the premises and found the walls painted with beautiful colours all around, a banyan tree that shadowed the anganwadi centre in the middle of the ground, a rain water harvesting system, special toilet facility for the physically challenged.