The design of the formal curriculum for the early stages of development is critical to the entire architecture of a National Curricular Framework. The seeds for a meaningful and purposeful approach to learning through a formal curriculum is empowered through the inputs given in the early childhood education. While every possible effort needs to be taken to make learning a happy and enjoyable experience through informal approaches, the synergy brought between informal learning and formal learning at this stage facilitates opening the larger canvas of the universe of learning. The new NEP has adequately stressed on the various nutrients for developing the cognitive, emotional, psychological and the social dimensions of learning through its advocacy of many relevant and related skills, it finally would rest on the design of the curriculum that translates the spirit of the policy into learning resources.
With a number of skills listed to be infused into the curricular architecture for this stage, I consider the most significant one is the ‘self-help skills. This is the foundation for developing the self-concept, self-introspection, self-regulation and self-actualization at the later stages of life. This will also help in minimizing the dependency factor through social support as most issues in the existing social and national pursuits are born out of ‘passing the buck’ mentality, disowning personal responsibilities and defining one’s own well being as the responsibility of a society, community and the State. There is a need for an attitudinal change to make the young learners realize that they are a part of the integral system.
Secondly the focus on competency development is to be addressed from this early stage. In a number of cases, the ownership for competencies is transferred to external agencies without any personal motivation. In a number of cases, competency acquisition is considered as a major obligation to a family, a company, a community and a state. Oftentimes, they are instruments for reward seeking. Hence personal involvement in acquisition of competencies is low and becomes more a ceremony even during campaigns and programs imparting such events.
Though the NEP lists a number of competencies and skills to be encouraged for learning at this formative stage of learning, most of these can be brought under an umbrella of four major approaches to the design of the curriculum
1. SKILLS OF RECOGNITION
The formative stage provides the best platform for extensive learning as the element of curiosity is high. Further, there is no bias in the process of learning through selective preferences. Developing the ability of recognition helps in nurturing a number of skills – visual recognition, auditory recognition, recognition of emotions, recognition of people, geographies, contexts and so on. It helps to under the culture and the phenomenon. Over the years, this ability to recognize opens up opportunities for seeking out the information, both personal and otherwise. In the absence of abilities to recognize, knowledge is processed more as a consumable commodity. Evidences do exist to show that children with better capacity to recognize are more responsive, more understanding and more participative. Further, this helps in recognizing various perceptions to problems and thus help in attempting to meaningful solutions. The ability to recognize also helps in triggering subsequent thinking and to seek integrated and inter-disciplinary solutions at a later stage of competency development. The pedagogical designs for promoting the ability to recognize has to be multi-dimensional and open-ended. It calls for a lot of encouragement and appreciation rather than judgment Resourcing curriculum and the contents to develop designs for this has to be both logical and creative.
2. SKILLS OF RELATIONSHIP
Learning at the early stages is largely personslized. A non-disciplinary approach to data, information, concepts, themes, practices, processes and procedures would help in seeing the undercurrent of knowledge flow in them. This would help in relating to the information that is central to the core theme and examined in context. Further, the relevance of the information with other auxiliary inputs would help in seeing the core meaning behind them and their relationship. Understanding relationship between different facets of knowledge is extremely necessary to develop both creative thinking and critical thinking skills. On the sensory learning front, this will help developing strong bonding between different senses and developing better synergy in their organization. This approach will help the learner to be more confident about his pursuits and develop an integrated and inter-disciplinary approach to thinking. As such, this would fire the sense of enterprise and management of knowledge dynamics at a later point of life. The development of a curriculum that would nurture the ability to see relationships, seek relationships, to identify relationships, to develop relationships would seed the elements for creativity and innovation.
3. SKILLS OF REFLECTION
Reflection is an important skill in the dynamics of learning. It helps to verify the content and context of learning to seek their validity. It helps to identify the missing links in the flow of knowledge, the lack of nutrients in the power of knowledge and to understand the need for re-engineering wherever necessary, to challenge wherever appropriate and re-position learning if required. Developing skills of reflection through simple exercises helps in developing insights into knowledge and possibly would be a step forward to meta-cognition. Ability to reflect both on knowledge as well as the quality of learning at the individual level would help in defining one’s status in the learning curve. The skills of reflection would help at the later stage of development to question belief systems, to authenticate knowledge and to make pathways for new views and opinions. Learners with capacity to reflect on learning also develop a scientific temper to the pursuit for knowledge. In the design of the curricula for the formative stage, it is important to integrate this skill through in-text questions, informal peer discussions, engaging debates with parents and teachers. Developing insightful questioning skills among learners would help in empowering this skill.
4. SKILLS OF RESEARCH
The NEP has also stressed on developing researching skills among the learners at the formative stage. It is important to understand the term ‘research’ has to be seen in an entirely different perspective without getting into the logistics of the procedures of research as published in documents for the elders. The objective is to create a researching mind – to seek date, to examine the information available, to investigate into the relationships, to understand the need for a logical flow for knowledge processing and to seek more and better meanings to phenomena through observation, analysis and hypothesis. An investigative mind is a great asset to a growth profile. The underlying ability to question the cause and effect, the process and the products, the inputs and the outputs, to see either convergence of divergence of knowledge in systems is fairly good enough at this stage. Though one doesn’t see a high level of accomplishment through the acquisition of this skills, the initiation of this process appears vital to intellectual growth. The design of the content and the appropriate pedagogy will redefine the way how we develop the future generation of learners.
5. SKILLS OF RECORDING
Documentation is an important aspect of any learning process. Recording of the observations, visual, auditory and others, translating them into the form of a data for analysis would help in logical thinking and seeking validity in terms of the continuity and confirmation. The skills of recording are hardly addressed in our learning systems especially at the early stages. It is a kind of attitude and a culture that needs to be integrated. It helps in enhancing our adherence to truth, adherence to facts, adherence to systems and in ensuring logistics in our approach. Helping learners to record even their informal observations would help them perfecting all the above qualities – ability to relate, ability to reflect, ability to research. It develops skills of self-expression with confidence and conviction, our formative curricula need to respect the informal acquisition of data, information and knowledge; and help them to record the same to establish their connection and relationship with the formal knowledge acquired from time to time.
The stage of ECCE is not a stage of funding information, but a stage of empowering learning skills to move towards ‘learning to learn’ and becoming a ‘life-long learner.’