With schools having been closed for the last year and a half due to COVID-19, the Central government has issued a 12-week play-based module as a transition aid to help students ease into physical classes for the first time.
This preparatory module should be used for all Class 1 students across the country even after the pandemic, according to the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) professors who prepared the ‘Vidya Pravesh’ module.
“COVID or no COVID, it’s a fact that there is a huge variety of children coming to join Class 1 in any given year. Some may have gone to private pre-schools, some may have been to anganwadis, and many have no formal education at all. Children come with different levels of learning and those who are behind continue to lag behind,” said one of the NCERT professors, who did not wish to be named.
“In our interactions with principals and teachers, they say that even a child from an anganwadi often does not know how to hold a pencil when she arrives in the classroom at age 5 or 6,” said the professor, adding that surveys showed that even in 80-90% private pre-schools, play-based pedagogy was not practised, with teachers focussing instead on the alphabet or numbers that they think children must identify before entering formal Class 1 school.
This situation is exacerbated as well as equalised by the COVID-19 school closures. “Because of the pandemic, none of the children arriving in Class 1 this year have been in any sort of physical classes,” said another NCERT professor. “So in a sense, whenever schools reopen, they will all arrive equal.” Even for those who have participated in online pre-school, the stimulation of physical interaction with other children had been missing.
This means that none of this year’s Class 1 or even Class 2 entrants will have any preparation to begin their usual curriculum, leaving teachers with a challenging situation.
To bridge the gaps
The ‘Vidya Pravesh’ module is meant to bridge the gaps for these students. “The purpose is to help teachers ensure that all children are exposed to a warm and welcoming environment when they enter Grade-I, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to their smooth transition to school,” says the module’s guidelines. It is meant to be implemented in government schools through the newly launched ‘NIPUN Bharat’ scheme.
The module lays out detailed plans, using activities, games, art integration and storytelling tools to achieve three developmental goals. In order for children to maintain good health and well-being, it includes a focus on physical and motor development, socio-emotional development, nutrition, safety, hygiene and sanitation. The other two goals aim to build the foundations for literacy and numeracy to ensure that children become effective communicators and involved learners who are able to connect with their immediate environment.
“It is not just Class 1 students who need help in transition. We are recommending that bridge courses be used for all grades till Class 5 once schools reopen their doors,” said an NCERT professor, noting that such bridge programmes had been developed to integrate school dropouts and could be adapted for post-COVID school reopenings as well.