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Soon you can learn with muppets

NIMI KURIAN

By mid-2006, Sesame India hopes to air half-hour programmes for children that would not only be humorous but also content rich.



SESAME HEROES: Cookie, Elmo and Grover.

Early this year a seminar organised by Sesame India deliberated on children in India — especially focusing on their cultural plurality, communal mingling, linguistic variance, as well as the differences and interdependence between rural and urban lifestyles. The purpose of these deliberations was to offer a programme that would not only make children laugh but also content to reflect upon. Children get bored with the monotony of everyday routines and "there must be a fun way to learn" is an oft-heard plea. "Keeping vibrant the voices of children we are in the process of connecting meaningfully with children's learning," says Asha Singh, Director — Education and Research, Sesame India. "Each half-hour episode of the Sesame India series will be a fun-filled mix of various genres from live action and studio to animations and the Sesame Workshop's muppets. The series' distinctive appeal lies in its ability to speak to children through an approach that they most relate to, from a unique perspective — one that explores and understands the physical and social world from the point of view of a child. The content for the Sesame India Series, to be aired on Cartoon Network and POGO by mid 2006, is presently being developed by Miditech, the production partner.

"The success of Sesame International is that they explore the local to enlarge the global. Sesame evolves this reconfiguring of the universal template by dialogues with local experts who have extensive experience of working with children and knowing their minds through several windows. An essential element of the planning process for any international co-production of Sesame Street is the creation of a Statement of Educational Objectives. This document serves as the educational framework for the project and is the foundation upon which all material developed for the project is based.

Focus on content

The educational plans developed for various countries differ from each other with respect to their emphasis and organisation. Some focus more on cognitive and academic goals while others speak more specifically to the social-affective arena," says Singh.

A `content seminar' was held in May this year to derive a "culturally relevant content inclusive of the plurality of the Indian terrain", says Singh. The discussions in the seminar raised many issues especially relevant to the Indian social context.

Certain specific features were identified as significant for creating a more civil and humane attitude infusing values for recognising variation, multiple skills and live styles among children in India. A team of writers, animators, and filmmakers with inputs from educationists are in the core of preparing this content. The Sesame India series would supplement a child's learning at school but not replace the system of formal learning. The content curriculum outlines the various concepts, issues and learning needs that need to be addressed for children aged between two and eight.

Broadly these can be clubbed together under five key areas: 1. Cognition: stimulating and enriching mental functions; 2. Emotion: caring, sharing and nurturing; 3. Physical well-being: body care and safety; 4. Social Relations: independence and interdependence; 5. Culture: harmonising diversity

Will the content be teacher friendly? "Yes very much so, says Singh. "As an educator I use even KBC as a model for what is good teaching and learning. Sesame India is all about children and there is a lot of layering in the programme for adults, parents and teachers."

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