Things a parent of 3-6 year old child must knowNovember 10, 2020
Covid -19 pandemic has turned the world upside down. We have been pushed to adapt to new circumstances and get creative with our life and work. It has not only disrupted every sector in the last eight months but has also uncovered some critical insights pertaining to parental mindsets about how they perceive a school’s contribution to their child’s development and growth, their expectations from schools, importance of teachers as critical resource for their child’s growth and most importantly significance of early childhood education in their child’s journey of learning.
Education sector has created history by making a paradigm shift and embracing technology quite successfully . It has been heartening to see educators demonstrate heroic commitment, passion and immense grit to minimise disruption in students’ learning by stretching themselves beyond hours, learning new skills, exploring alternate tools and innovating strategies to ensure learning happens uninterrupted, remotely. Likewise, every parent out there has been trying their best to be superheroes for their children, juggling work, home and multiple chores to ensure the learning continuum for their children. However, in the last few months, it has been realised that there is an apparant gap between what parents believe is right for their little ones and what scientific research says. As the new normal takes learning to digital spaces, there is an increased fear and dilemma amongst parents regarding children’s screen time, resulting in their lack of faith in virtual learning which has in turn made parents struggle with decisions related to their child’s education in the last six months. Many parents have been pushed to make uninformed choices, especially in the most critical Early Childhood Segment of learners (3 years to 6 years), who are quite conspicuous by their absence from all virtual learning platforms being offered by schools. It is quite evident that most parents await schools to reopen and conservatively, it would be another six months or even one year for that wish to actually become a reality.
This pandemic has clearly highlighted some widely held misconceptions and beliefs by parents against the contrasting views of the education experts, which are based on evolving theories in education. Cognitive research, on how children learn and how their brains are wired reflect majorly on the importance of early childhood education and uninterrupted learning. In an endeavor to bridge the gap and help parents make better choices for their little ones, here is some insight on your child’s early childhood education and what’s best for them.
Top 3 Misconceptions of Parents about Early Childhood Education
- Early Childhood education has insignificant impact in child’s overall achievement and hence can be skipped: The latest studies in neural sciences has brought to light that the 85% of brain development in a child happens by the age of 5 and the architecture of the brain is modified and enriched by the experiences and the environment that the child is exposed to during this critical stage.
Positive experiences support brain’s development with long term impact on child’s mental health and ability to learn and succeed in life. It is not the size of the brain that matters but the number of connections (synapses) that enables the brain to perform to its full potential. These connections are developed based on the varied experiences and stimulations that the child is exposed to in the early years of life. The variety, intensity and the quality of stimulations and emotional support received from peers, parents, care takers, teachers determines how these connections are developed, reinforced and retained. If the children are deprived of positive and variety of experiences their brain connections are either weakened or eliminated by the natural process called Pruning.
Practically, most teachers who have been trained on Early Childhood Education, are diligent and well equipped with multiple tools and techniques in customizing learning opportunities to optimize brain’s capacity and maximize opportunity for building synaptic connections. Children who are deprived of this exposure not only loose the opportunity to develop their brain’s capacity optimally, but this deprivation also results in weakening the foundation for later learning and evident achievement gaps among students later in their lives.
- Structured learning and formal education are important for students of std 1 upwards, pre-primary students can learn through free play at home
It is true that children learn from their environment and whether at home or in school they tend to learn by picking up signals that their brain perceives; but for the brain to develop to its full potential, experiences have to be purposefully created for instilling a sense of curiosity and purposeful learning in the child. When a child is involved in a structured play, he/ she is made to observe patterns, draw and colour certain objects, recognize pictures, identify sounds and so forth. All these activities in a structured play are designed with a predefined objective to achieve age appropriate learning and skill development. In contrast, unstructured play at home, can be creative and engaging for the child but may neither be productive nor can translate into age appropriate learnings and skills required to form the base for later learning.
Teachers, unlike parents, are trained to structure their teaching methodology to maximise productive learning in alignment with brain-based approach. They curate the class in a way to ensure fulfilment of the three conditions derived from the Principles of the brain (Caine Learning, 2000) such as –
i. Relaxed alertness– Teachers prepare variety of teaching- learning aids, use audio-visual tools and music to ensure relaxed alertness.
ii. Orchestrated immersion for new learning– create challenging and interesting activities to engage the child in purposeful learning.
iii. Active Learning– integrate quiz to ensure students process new learning actively and accelerate synaptic connections
- Learning through Virtual Mode for Early Graders is ineffective
Research on neuroplasticity of brain (Jensen, 2009) has revealed that brains’ architecture, formed through neural connections, is designed to change. Most importantly, it is revealed that the relationship between brain’s ability to change in response to experiences is much higher with minimal effort during the early childhood as compared to adulthood wherein it takes a lot of effort. With age the plasticity of the brain reduces, making it easier to build strong connections in the early years than correcting them later in life.
Schools that operate with an understanding of brain development and research, tend to focus on the larger objective of building every child’s brain capacity. They play a critical role in orchestrating the learning through a balanced blended approach, with rationed on screen time, innovative teaching tools, methodologies and consciously crafted activities such as animated stories, fun filled videos, experiential games and worksheets. The whole experience is made possible with a combination of activities done on screen, off screen and self-driven, ensuring every child thinks, understands concepts and develops skills for a brighter future.
Well, all said and done, Parents hold the ultimate responsibility for their child’s success since they are the sole decision makers for their child’s trajectory of growth and learning. It is their decision that will determine whether their child will get engaged to learn or get busy in the process without actually learning, especially under these new circumstances . It is their decision that will help their child get exposed to funfilled ways of learning through structured programs , painstakingly curated by their teachers or taught mechanically by unaware and untrained tutors and most importantly it is their decision whether their child will hone the most critical skill to learn which will determine their child’s success in life.
Parents hold the magic key to their child’s future and all parents are urged to take a step back and spend some time to analyze their own decisions to deal with this pandemic and evaluate opportunities being offered to their child currently. The new circumstances, while daunting at first glance, do offer a window for parents to revisit many misconceptions and old principles in all areas of life, including parenting. It’s human nature to feel comfortable with old ways even if they are not working for us. Sometimes it takes a crisis such as the one to examine incorrect responses and decisions that may be disrupting our children’s growth and development. We have to listen closely to our children’s brain story and do what’s crucial for their heart and mind. Foundational bricks for all our children must be set up in early childhood to make them happy and successful young adults.