Good pre-schooling sets solid foundation for further studies

- BIBEK SUBEDI
DOE data show that around 60 percent of students enrolled in grade one had the background of pre-school and their retention rate was over 80 percent

Mar 21, 2017-The history of pre-school, an establishment that provides early childhood education when children are between three and five years of age, is not very long in Nepal. 

Despite its late introduction, pre-school, which helps in preparing children for their primary education in a congenial learning environment, has been successful in leaving a mark in the education system. It is an education system that follows constructivism, a learning theory found in psychology which explains how children might acquire knowledge and learn.

Lately, the number of pre-schools has gone up in Nepal as many parents nowadays believe that such institutions help in creating a good foundation for their children’s education. 

Sushil Ghimire, of New Baneshwor, says he is impressed with the progress he has seen in his three-year-old son after he sent him to Kidzee School a year ago. Initially, Ghimire was reluctant to send his son to the pre-school though. 

“Sending my child to pre-school was one of the most difficult decisions I have made after entering parenthood. But, within a couple of months, I realised that I had made a very good decision,” said Ghimire. “After the enrollment in the pre-school, my child’s development has been outstanding. He has developed the aptitude to learn and reasoning skills and there has been quite an improvement in his social skills.”

Ghimire says pre-school is a must for early childhood development as well as for the good education base.

The Department of Education (DOE) statistics also show that a majority of the students who have attended pre-school have fared better. 

Interestingly, students attending this programme were less likely to drop out compared to those who were admitted to grade one directly. 

Recent DOE data show that around 60 percent of students enrolled in grade one had the background of pre-school and their retention rate was over 80 percent. Similarly, their performance in grade one was significantly better than those who did not go to pre-school or early childhood development classes. 

According to Ranjana Pradhan, principal of Nightingale School, pre-schools play an important role in overall development of children. 

“With the number of working parents increasing in the cities, pre-schools have become essential,” says Pradhan, adding that her school provides “special environment” to their children where they feel free to express themselves. 

“We promote a variety of choices to help children acquire physical skills, cognitive learning, literacy acquisition, problem solving and independent thought. Hence, children at our school are creative, disciplined and have great social skills,” says Pradhan. “Our Children are given well-equipped space where they spend time playing as well as exploring life in their own way.”

Likewise, Lok Raj Giri, head of Api School, compares early childhood care with the foundation of a building. “Like a strong foundation ensures a strong structure, a solid foundation during early childhood is critical to shape good career. Therefore, good pre-school education is important for a child,” said Giri. “We at Api School prioritise overall development of children and offer them special environment where they can learn real life skills.” 

Philosophy of Api School, according to Giri, is to let the children explore their life rather than teach them in a conventional way.

The private sector in education business in Nepal first started schools with Montessori system for children between three and five years of age with a holistic experience where children are taught to be analytical and build their own opinions. The Montessori system is famous for nurturing critical thinking, self-directed learning and independent thought among the children. 

Conceptualised and practised by Maria Montessori in Italy, the model now is famous worldwide. Montessori-based education allows children to learn through experiences. It is basically a construction of knowledge within a child by introducing them to different concepts and experiences in carefully prepared environments. Such schools in the modern-day are called pre-school.

However the organised effort for the pre-school as Early Childhood Education and Development (ECED) which is considered instrumental for the physical, intellectual, social and emotional development started only after the country adopted Education For All National Plan of Action in 2001.

According to a report of the DoE, around 35,000 pre-schools are operating in the country. More than 5,000 pre-schools are run by the private sector, which accounts for 15 percent of the total pre-schools across the school. The same report says students with the pre-school experience have increased significantly in recent years.  Similarly, it also shows that proliferation of privately run pre-school is high in the Valley.

The DoE report says that the Valley is home to 1,169 privately run Montessori-based pre-schools. These schools are generally structured in three levels: pre-school, kindergarten and upper kindergarten. 

Among the various forms of pre-schooling adopted in Nepal, Montessori model is most popular. However, some pre-schools have adopted the US International Baccalaureate (IB) system. 

Likewise, the ECED programmes by government focus on child-friendly teaching through, games, colours and toys among others. Similarly, a few pre-schools have followed latest model of early childhood education system like constructivism and adopted emerging curriculum. 

Although pre-schools have ensured positive results in the education of children, their mushrooming of late has made things difficult as well when it comes to ensuring quality.

Experts lay stress on the fact that various forms of pre-schools should not differ from one another and should maintain certain level of uniformity.  Likewise, there is a huge disparity in the fees charged by these institutions. 

“The government must regulate the fee structures,” says Ghimire. “The government must make sure that fee is charged based on the quality of education offered by these institutions.” 

Lack of periodic monitoring in the absence of local government representatives is also a major cause for concern. 

According to existing legal provisions, pre-schools are required to be registered at the concerned wards of the village development committees or municipalities instead of district education offices as the latter keep records of only those schools that enroll students from grade one. &

 

Published: 21-03-2017 10:17

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