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Paving the way towards a strong foundation for children’s holistic development

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 set the stage for crucial reforms in the education sector. Many pathbreaking initiatives have been undertaken in line with the recommendations of NEP 2020 under the inspirational leadership of our Prime Minister. A national mission on foundational literacy and numeracy ‘National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy’ (NIPUN Bharat)’ was launched with the aim that every child achieves foundational literacy and numeracy by class 3 by 2026-27. National Initiative for School Heads' and Teachers' Holistic Advancement (NISHTHA) for foundational learning was launched to build the capacity of teachers teaching at pre-primary to primary grade. A 3-month school preparation module named ‘Vidya Pravesh’ has been developed for students entering Grade 1, to and to ease their entry to the wide world of education. This would help bridge the gap for those children who had no earlier experience of pre-school. For the first time Balvatika has been introduced in 49 Kendriya Vidyalayas, in pilot-mode to lay strong foundation for early grades.    

The major paradigm shift as envisioned by NEP 2020 is to restructure the pedagogical framework of 5+3+3+4 (foundational, preparatory, middle, and secondary level) which will provide roadmap to the four stages of school education and accordingly move towards a new curriculum. On 20th October, 2022, the Government has launched the first ever integrated Curriculum Framework for children between ages 3-8 in India i.e. ‘National Curriculum Framework for Foundational Stage’ (NCF-FS). The NCF-FS is based on extensive research being conducted in the area of foundational education from across the world, by drawing insights from the fields of neurosciences, brain study, and cognitive sciences. Further, to ensure participation of each and every citizen of the country in this futuristic curriculum development process, a citizen-centric Digital Survey for National Curriculum - DiSanc was launched. This is the first time in the country, when such massive and intensive public consultation process with multiple stakeholders took place by reaching every corner of the country for getting inputs in the making of NCF.

NCF-FS, emphasise on play-based and story-based approach at foundational stage. It recognizes the fact that children learn best through play, therefore, learning envisaged by the framework will provide stimulating experiences for the child's development in all dimensions – cognitive, social-emotional, physical, and will also enable the achievement of Foundational Literacy and Numeracy for all our children. Innovative pedagogy, technology, play-based education will bring new approaches in the teaching learning process. Following the recommendations of NEP 2020, the framework also emphasizes on the virtue of mother tongue as the primary medium of instruction. By the time children join pre-school, they acquire significant competence in their “home language”. Since children learn concepts most rapidly and deeply in their home language, the primary medium of instruction would optimally be the child’s home language/mother tongue/ familiar language in the foundational stage.

Focusing on cognitive development and socio-emotional stimulation in the early years of a child, the new framework has listed the 'panchakosha' Vikas (Five-fold Development) concept for the education of children between the age of 3-8 years. 'Panchakosha’ is an ancient explication of the importance of the body-mind complex in human experience and understanding. This non-dichotomous approach to human development gives clear pathways and direction towards a more holistic education. The concept's five layers are physical development (sharirik vikas), development of life energy (pranik vikas), emotional and mental development (manasik vikas), intellectual development (bauddhik vikas) and spiritual development (atmik vikas).

In order to implement NCF-FS in letter and spirit, the ‘Jaadui Pitara’ has been launched on 20th February, 2023 by the Ministry of Education and NCERT. The Pitara has been developed as an exemplar of content that should be used by schools for learning at the Foundational Stage. For the first time, a separate ‘Learning Teaching Material’ for foundation stage particularly for Balvatika has been developed in the form of play and activity book along with teacher’s handbook.  Indian knowledge system has been directly integrated into the curriculum and the learning teaching material of Foundation stage in an interesting manner. The Pitara contains toys, games, puzzles, puppets, posters, flashcards, story cards, playbook for students, and handbooks for teachers. Digital versions of the handbooks, playbooks, posters, and flashcards are available at PM e-vidya Diksha (www.diksha.gov.in) for free download. Each of the handbooks have instructions for the teachers which further describes the spirit behind such content. State education departments are encouraged to develop similar set of materials which is context based and in mother tongue for the Foundational Stage.

Both NCF-FS and Jadui Pitara aims to equip our young minds with cognitive and linguistic competencies of the 21st century skills such as creativity and critical thinking. This approach is expected to have significant impact on the education and overall well-being of children. It is a pathway for nurturing future global adults who will shoulder the responsibility of humanity. More significantly, this will enable a paradigm shift in the teaching learning process of the classroom to adopt a student-centered, teacher-led approach. Subsequently, this NCF-FS will be an integral initial part of the overall curriculum framework for School Education, which is under development. Fostering children’s abilities through a holistic learning experience not only transforms the individual, but also has the capacity to empower the society and nation, leading to socio-economic progress. Hopefully, this will strengthen the foundational stage that will shape the future of our children.

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(Authors-Ms. Archana Sharma Awasthi, JS and Ms. Purabi Pattanayak, Principal Chief Consultant in the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education)

 

 

 


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