Saturday, April 25, 2015

A for Almirah, B for bedroom,D for Door: Home is the best design for a pre-school

Was reading John Dewey in his School and Society, very interesting book and may I say a must read for Early Childhood Educationists. I have been hearing a lot about Maria Montessori and Reggio Amelia in the early childhood domain, but I saw John Dewey to be straight away hinting at what early childhood education should be.

He says that there is very stark change from a home to a school for a child. The school is totally different from the home, in its appearance, warmth and practices. You don’t do at school what you do at home. They are two completely isolated places, which do not want to connect with each other. While John goes on to fully explain, how he wants the school to be connected to the society, I got my idea of an ideal pre school from his thoughts.

 Imagine a school or rather a pre-school, just like the flat next to yours. Same...Ditto. Drawing room, dinning room, three bedroom, kitchen, toilets and the balconies. When you drop the kid to this school. It will be like leaving him in another flat in the neighbourhood or rather just like your home. The child will not feel alienated and would be at home in this home pre-school.

If we look at the primary objective of a pre-school in the society, we find that all the society requires is that the child learns some basic hygiene and may be start muttering the alphabets and numbers. I see no reason why this cannot be taught in a preschool whose architectural design is similar to the house.

The walls of the drawing room could be used to put whatever you want to display. All items in the house have to be marked starting from the door. Alphabet D should be written on the door and also
Door along with it. Its weird that we say A for Apple and then show an Apple even though in many parts of the world Apples don’t grow and aren’t available. To make education contextual instead of putting a chard of A for Apple, this home pre school would have the alphabet A written on an almirah. K fo Kitchen. T for Toilet. B for Bedroom. R for refridgerator. I am clear the alphabet would be in their hearts in no time. The teacher wouldn’t have to introduce alphabets also.

The basic aim of teaching alphabet and numbers would be achieved in no time in this school. Even the rest of the agenda or lets say curriculum of preschool education can also be taken care of appropriately in this set up. Everything taught in terms of hygiene will be taught at the appropriate places.  Hand washing at the washbasins. Eating at the dining table. The kids may even sleep if they feel sleepy in the bedroom. I am not trying to comment right away on the pedagogy of early childhood education adhered to in the schools, but strongly believe that such an environment and set up would be most conducive to the learning, which we intend to happen in a preschool.

The obvious question hearing this idea is that how do we see this ‘home-school’, if I may use that term, convert into a full fledged school model. Would the children continue to stay in this home-school?

How this home-pre school will transition into a school is also organic. One of the rooms in this home pre-school would be a study, where you will have books and a table and a chair. This is the room that will later transition into what we call a traditional classroom. I can envisage the home preschool till early childhood and as the child grows up, the study grows larger and larger until it transforms into a library of sorts with individual workstations for each student. This will also prepare them to take up professional life, when they come out of school.

At the policy level, there hasn’t been much done in India, pre-schools are not governed by any rules, so there should be no issues with opening a school in a flat. Moreover, it requires minimal capital investment and logistics to start a school. Only thing required is a bent of pedagogy. Though I know the larger chain of pre-schools will criticise this pedagogy as they have invested a huge capital in their infrastructure, nevertheless, the idea cannot be shunned just like that.

Most of my ideas are based on actual experiments done on the ground. However, this idea is yet to be tested. But so much is the strength of this idea I believe that even after implementation, its core is unlikely to be changed. There would be a lot of improvisations which may happen in terms, of where the maximum amount of learning will happen, how it will happen but the premise of the preschool to be just like a home wont change. I wish this idea is taken up by some school chain and pray that I take up this idea soon, so that I am able to theorise this and present it to the larger educational fraternity.

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