India has the largest number of adolescents in the world. In time, this “teeming million” will translate into a demographic dividend, opine optimists. But there is only one problem – a large proportion of students currently in elementary school, estimated to be over 5 crores in number, have not attained foundational literacy and numeracy. In plain speak, it means that their ability to read, write or count is challenged. Add to this the fact that those who fail to attain the basic, rudimentary literacy and numeracy skills find it difficult to catch up in later years and risk dropping out of school. With the reading speed of most of the children in grade 3 found to be below average, India is in fact sitting on a powder keg.
Viewed from the other end of the spectrum, it is a well-established fact that 90% of a child’s brain develops by age of 5. It is also acknowledged that during the first 6 years, the child’s brain is twice as active as that of an adult, which is why, globally, the highest attention is accorded to early care, which has been proven to have a decisive, long-lasting impact on how children develop their ability to learn, and their capacity to regulate their own emotions. Sensory and motor skills are acquired at a very rapid pace during ages 0-6 years, the time they are supposed to spend at pre-schools.
Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) in NEP 2020
The Government of India is therefore giving the maximum priority to Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) in NEP 2020. However, the transition to what has been prescribed, both for establishments that will take the plunge and for those who had over time, developed their own systems will not be an easy one – for content must be created, teachers will need to be trained and the young learners have to be hand-held as they move into hitherto unknown territory for most, which in a post lockdown scenario, is a mix of a physical and digital timeshare. And it is exactly here that Nalanda can provide the make-or-break difference.
In hindsight, what Nalanda has been professing (and practicing) seems prophetic – seeking to empower and equip preschools with the National Curriculum Framework guidelines aided by technology, content, and expert advice to help them establish themselves as the pre-eminent preschool in their locality, with a view towards envisioning a future where every child has access to high-quality early childhood education with uninterrupted learning.
Teacher plus Technology equals Transformation
Tamal and Timir Mukherjee, founders of Nalanda have been rooting for the inclusion of compulsory 3 years of Pre-schooling based on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN). With hands-on experience of successfully running a chain of pre-schools, the recently introduced “New Curriculum Framework” – centred on experiential and digital learning, mapped with learning outcomes – is today vindicating Nalanda’s stand. Teacher training programs, which include upskilling on a regular basis are a key element of this system which focuses specifically on holistic development and charting monthly development progress with formative assessments of the students. Involving parents as partners in the teacher learning system and incorporating state-of-the-art technologies in everyday learning has also accorded the system the winner’s edge that is now being acknowledged across the board.