Pre-schools or play-schools have been around in India for a long time with the aim of strengthening the base of a child’s education through innovative and playful ways. With every metropolitan city having around 1,000 private playschools and tier two and three cities owning between 300 to 500 playschools, these basic education dens for your toddlers have been burgeoning in recent times.
An estimate of 2015 shows that there are around 30,000 in India with even more numbers added in the past six years. But the reason to frown here is whether these preschools mushrooming in every corner of your society really aim to impart the fundamental ways of education or are just outgrowing each other’s numbers like a weed.
In 2019, the central government proposed strengthening pre-schooling from 0-6 years of age in the National Education Policy. However, the same could be seen reflected in the NEP 2020, which was approved by the cabinet on July 29, 2020. “Most of the playschools being run are doing nothing but extracting money out of parents. With Rs. 1,500 to 2,500 is charged per child, there’s no quality of education and even safety for the children in most of these hubs”, explains Joy Thomas, Principal of Montfort Inter College, Lucknow. And the concern is not just limited to these preschools extracting money, it outstretches to developmental aspects also.
With only a few of these schools following a designated pathway for a pre-school year teaching, most of the others can cause an impediment in the mental growth of the child due to their erroneous schemes and techniques. “They (most playschools) are basically babysitting rather than actually guiding a child in a recreational way towards education”, adds Thomas. To scrub off the dirt, the government in few states like U.P. and Punjab have made it mandatory for playschools to get themselves registered.
Even the central government NEP 2020 has included pre-school education from three-to-six years into the formal education system. It has also aimed to develop a certain “curriculum” for preschoolers. However, developing such curriculums might be of no use as early age schooling is more based on insightful teaching methods rather than formal ways of chalk and board. “Three to six years is a sensitive age. Children won’t follow a formal syllabus as it might be boring for them. All they need is an informal, playful and dedicated way of getting knowledge and anything they’re curious about”, says Shivam Singh, Section Officer, Ministry of Education, UP.
A recent trend observed during the lockdown was a 50 per cent fall in parents sending their children to playschools. Further, the concern with such early year teaching is that it cannot be done online unlike the higher ones. “You cannot teach a two-year-old through a laptop. Physical involvement is a must for children of these ages.
Parents should also involve themselves in developing new learning methods rather than blindly sending their kids to playschools”, elaborates Singh. With playschool and pre-school education being brought under the government’s radar, it’s futile to develop any scheme unless the core methods of imparting education are changed within these “recreational hubs”.