The Delhi Government’s International Education Conference 2021 kicked off with a panel discussion on “Get Children Ready for Formal Learning” led by policy experts from Finland, Germany and India.
The panel with its focus on early childhood education and formal education ran through four key discussions - school starting age, pre-academic and social skills, addressing early learning gaps, and implementing NEP’s recommendation of ensuring foundations and school readiness.
This invigorating panel had revered education experts like Dr Divya Jalan, founder member of Action for Ability Development and Inclusion (AADI), Sebastian Suggate (Germany), senior lecturer in education at the University of Regensburg, Tuuli Makinen (Finland), a preschool educator.
“In the context of New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the Delhi Government should work on setting up a cadre of specially trained foundational stage teachers and make them the most important part of the school system,” said Venita Kaul, professor7 and director of School of Education Studies and founder-director of Center for Early Childhood Education and Development (CECED), Ambedkar University at the session.
The session was moderated by Mythili Bector, teacher-former principal and present in-charge of Primary and Library branch of Directorate of Education, Government of Delhi. The session opened with introductory remarks by Lucy Crehan (UK), author of 'Cleverlands' and an international education consultant.
Makinen, an educator from Finland talked about prioritising teacher training, and emphasised the need for teachers to be prepared with all aspects of child behaviour in their classrooms.
Makinen added, “It is important to appreciate teachers and teachers training. I also feel play-based education and learning by doing should be added to the curriculum. In the early years of teacher training in Finland a lot of theoretical knowledge is provided. At the same time, enough play-based practices are taught too. That practical knowledge creates the real change, that is most helpful", she said.
On addressing the learning gaps, especially in education for special needs children, Jalan said that in India, lack of
information for caregivers and parents has been the biggest hurdle.
“They need acceptance, and a lot of support. But things are changing as they're demanding inclusive schools and services,” she said.
“It is important to understand the gaps in education and experiences in the life of a special needs child. Experiences shape their understanding and therefore, teaching techniques need to be more varied and creative to enhance learning,” Jalan said.
Kaul, professor and former head of Department of Preschool and Elementary Education, NCERT also highlighted the importance of having a comprehensive curriculum for students aged 3 to 8.
“In the light of NEP which talks about seamless transition into primary education, there needs to be a comprehensive curriculum for ages 3 to 8. It will come handy to teachers, and serve as a guiding framework to work with. Unless they are extremely well-trained, they won’t be able to think for themselves," she added.
Kaul also talked about the role of anganwadi workers' future. She said, “The focus should be on blended training for Anganwadi workers. Their workload needs to be reassessed too since their role is not just limited to teaching," she added.