Shweta is working in a research project at IIM Bangalore.
Prologue: In the year 2014-15, I was selected for the international volunteer service. I was placed in Germany. I had chosen Education and Children’s issues as my interest area, thus I was assigned to be part of an early years education system there.
Well, in my childhood I was never exposed to the concept of kindergarten being grown up in the remote village where there was no institution called kindergarten, so for me it was really a kind of new experience over there.
Here are the notes on the same in five specific points. I hope readers, you will find it interesting and useful:
- Integrative Kindergarten
Very interestingly they incorporated the inclusive concept – children with disability are also not treated with any prejudice. Every child undergoes on certain observations and if they have any kinds of disability especially learning disabilities, they are given one to one attention. A trained specialist educator is always present in the school. Apart from this they also have an external therapist who comes twice and sometimes thrice in a week to conduct therapies to those children. I was impressed by the activities and therapies they practice and within a year I personally observed improvements and changes in the child’s behaviour.
Another thing is about the sensitisation of the issue with the other non-disabled children. There isn’t any stigma towards it and everyone are cooperative and learning together in the institution.
The concept of inclusion and the component education psychology has been an effective practice and a good model to learn from kindergartens in Germany.
- Feels like Home
The pre-schooling in the kindergarten is not only just preparing for going to school, it is an concept to provide an atmosphere like home. It opens at 6:AM till 6:30 PM. Parents come to drop the child in the morning and again come in the evening to pick up. During the day the educators take care of the each child like their own children.
At my centre there were 70 children starting from the 8 months to 6 years old. Children get breakfast, lunch , afternoon nap and snacks as well. Everything is similar to home.
The menu of the lunch is specially made after taking the opinion of the parents. If any child does not like the regular menu or is allergic to some food item, then they provide special food as well.
- Systematic and organized:
Everything is well planned and the roles and responsibilities for each activities well defined. They have a plan for whole year in hand and the Director of the Kindergarten used to make the weekly plan where everyone’s timings is planned.
In the Europe the holidays are defined by the Government as general system and they work for 5 days in the week. Every extra minute of the work gets counted.
Everybody is so punctual. Anyone coming late, they should inform the administration well in advance.
Name tags are assigned and places to keep their things. Centre is well maintained and cleaned everyday.
- So creative:
I love the way how creativity and innovation is given much importance. Each child has the space to show their creativity. Children engage in creative exercises through arts, handmade products, making gift items, songs and games. Every festival and birthday is celebrated.
Each week has a theme on the basis of weather, local festivals, sometimes religious. All testimonies of child’s work like paintings and worksheets are kept properly and documented. It is given to parents to see and keep it as child’s important works.
- Education for Life
The institution is not only providing the atmosphere like home it also educates the child. Everything is activity based and as I explained above that it has a creative approach. Using many materials like puzzles, storytelling, pictures, illustration books, audio videos and small picnics. The system is inclusive and the education psychology is emphasised.
Self and group learning methods are being practiced which is very important learning and teaching methods. They also have the multitalented educator who know the sign language to help the children who are hearing and speech impaired.
Child get nurtured, learns about good behaviours, respect and how to communicate. Corporal punishment is banned under law.
Once in a year they collect the materials from the parents and donate them to the poor people, that’s how children also sensitized about the social responsibilities and to become empathetic.They are also globally exposed, a 4 years old child knows about India by saying lots facts and information of our country like national animal and Elephants in India.
Children who are 5-6 years old have special classes in the afternoon instead of having naps. They get the actual pre-schooling sessions and atmosphere created as of the formal school. This is to prepare them for schooling in the upcoming year. Child gets the space to learn and express the things of their interest by creating the system to expose their ideas and interest. Parents support them. Thus, early childhood onward a child begins to feel independent, responsible and confident.
Epilogue: Initially I was unaware and sceptical, however my engagement for year with the educators and children at the centre helped me understand the importance of early year schooling and the rationale behind different practices. I feel happy about my learnings and the observations that helped me to learn ‘how we learn’.