Parents, the first and natural tutors

The National Education Policy (NEP) emphatically makes the case for early childhood care and education (ECCE). It says, “Schools providing quality ECCE reap the greatest dividends for children who come from families that are economically disadvantaged.” Over 85% of a child’s cumulative brain development occurs before the age of six. Yet, over 5 crore children are estimated to not have attained foundational literacy and numeracy in India. At present, says the policy, children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds do not have access to ECCE.

The NEP lays out a detailed paradigm for educators to provide high-quality ECCE through preschools and anganwadis. It also talks of how parents can be active stakeholders in their children’s education. Indeed, it is crucial that we dig deeper into how parents can help, as any learning in school can be reinforced or undone at home. Parents are their children’s first and natural tutors at that age. Involving them is necessary to ensure that children learn the foundational skills they need to succeed in school.

Comment | Focussing on the critical years of a child’s life

But how can low-income parents, with constraints on their time and energy, start getting more involved in ECCE? Through our work with low-income communities and youth, we believe the answer is through AIM (aspiration, information, and motivation and measurement).

Building aspiration

At present, 30% of low-income parents don’t send their children to any ECCE institutions. Instead, many opt to send their children to primary school too early, when they are still cognitively and emotionally unprepared for Class 1 studies. These are often the children who get left behind in primary school and beyond, with limited scope for recovery. Evidence suggests that low-income parents do value education from primary school onwards, spending a disproportionate amount of their monthly income on it. However, awareness of the importance of education at the preschool age is missing. Indeed, while high-income parents face a huge amount of social pressure to help their children achieve developmental milestones before the age of six, low-income parents lack such social incentives. Building aspiration through role modeling, mass media and social media involving examples of celebrities and influencers is the crucial first step.

Providing information

Once awareness and aspiration have been built, we must provide low-income parents with educational tools to support their children that they can themselves confidently administer. Preschool-aged children usually have an attention span of 5-15 minutes, which is not enough to focus on learning materials themselves, so parental involvement is necessary. Fortunately, all parents are usually equipped to understand the foundational skills that their children are learning at this age, especially now that 70% of mothers and even more fathers are educated up to Class 5 themselves. We need to assist them in combing through the vast wealth of print and online content. Information must be simplified and contextualised — creation, curation, and dissemination of content that is in their local language, relevant to their context, and relatively convenient to administer is essential.

Measuring progress

The last essential piece of the puzzle for sustained engagement from parents is to motivate them on a regular basis and give them measurable indicators of progress and change. Behavioural research on nudges, social incentives, and the power of creating habits demonstrates some possible ways to provide continuous feedback and encouragement. Measurement also acts as a powerful motivation mechanism. The child’s progress and growth can be measured through rigorous assessments and through visual learning journeys. Sharing results with parents, and developing plans in partnership with them, can ensure that truly no child is left behind.

Namya Mahajan and and Utsav Kheria are co-founders of Rocket Learning, an organisation focusing on school and life readiness for all young children

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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 3:02:24 AM |

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