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Qualifications to teach pre-school? None exist

Staff Reporter

Government neglecting early childhood education, say experts


  • Pre-school teachers do not have the status of `teacher'
  • Sole recognised course is one-year diploma for those in service
  • Pre-school training receives lowest portion of the education outlay

    CHENNAI : Following the Kumbakonam school fire in July 2004 that left more than 80 children dead, the State government tightened regulation of primary and pre-primary schools. One of the new conditions was that teachers should be qualified to teach the age groups they handle.

    That they failed to mention what these qualifications are is not surprising, given that recognised pre-service training for pre-school teachers quite simply does not exist, speakers at a State-level consultation on early childhood education, held here on Saturday, noted.

    While a high-powered committee was established in October this year to fill this lacuna, the consultation meet organised jointly by the India Association of Pre-School Education and the Tamil Nadu Forum for Crèche and Child Care Services, also discussed the question.

    Crucial period

    Research shows that early childhood is a crucial period for the child to learn how to interact with the world and gain grounding in the skills required for learning.

    Despite this, why was governmental spending on early childhood education the lowest in the education outlay, asked Meena Swaminathan of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation.

    Ms. Swaminathan, who was a member of a national committee that suggested a pre-school curriculum framework, put this question to the 50-odd participants, including government representatives, non-governmental organisations, school heads and trainers at the consultation.

    ``Reservation policies should be implemented from early childhood, it they are to be effective,'' she pointed out.

    She said that pre-school teachers should be treated on par with primary teachers, a point made by the national policy of education in 1986, but which is yet to be implemented.

    Ms. Swaminathan, while hailing the Integrated Child Development Services for enabling `holistic development,' debunked theories about the increasing number of working women leading to a rise in the need for child-care. ``The Indian woman has always been working, especially in agriculture,'' she said.

    S.S. Jayalakshmi, Vidhya Vikasini Society, who has been involved in shaping a curriculum framework for pre-school education in matriculation schools stressedthe importance of recognised training and avoidance of tests for children below the first standard.

    An official of the matriculation schools departmentpromised to help in the sensitisation of the matriculation school heads on the prescribed pre-school curriculum framework and ensure implementation.

    Shanmugavelayutham of TN-FORCES pointed out that the sole recognised training programme for pre-school teachers was that of the Tamilnadu Open University, a one-year diploma for those currently in service.

    ``The government should recognise training institutions that provide pre-service training with minimum standards,'' he said.

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