Anil Kumar Gona
Our society is constantly undergoing changes, some of which are considered positive and some undesirable. Today we see kids as young as two and three going to playschools. This is a tender age, where nursing and care should ideally be provided at home, under the supervision of parents and elders.
As caretakers, it is time for us to ask whether studying nursery, LKG and UKG (kindergarten) is mandatory for children to get admission into first standard. Earlier, until the age of five, kids were under the care of parents at home, which helped in nurturing them at a young age. These days, however, parents seem to be skirting this responsibility due to personal or professional reasons.
Today we live in a highly competitive world and it is natural for parents to think about the future of their children, but at the same time there has to be a balanced approach aimed at developing the child’s mental faculties as well.
Most parents have unreasonable and unfair expectations of their children even in kindergarten. In India’s cities and towns, the number of playschools has gone up, particularly in the last two decades. Literally, a playschool should be an arena where kids can play and learn from creative activities using crayons and engage with toys. It is surprising to see how textbooks, worksheets and notebooks have made their way into playschools, placing undesirable burden on young minds. Parents have to introspect whether this is a right move in the long term, governments too must regulate this, by monitoring whether playschools are placing undue burden on kids at a very young age.
It has more or less become a lucrative business in the country with playschools mushrooming everywhere, from impoverished neighbourhoods to affluent and upmarket areas. Even corporate players have entered this segment, charging exorbitant fees from parents who look for ways to move away from the responsibility of taking care of their children. They don’t seem to realize that their tiny tots are losing their precious formative years away from the comfort of their homes, where learning begins with observation and practice.
Isn’t it unfair to have impractical expectations of children as young as 2 and 3? Parents expect children to sing rhymes and do a lot of things, unrelated to the normal mental development of their age.
There are playschools that organize graduation days with pomp and gaiety; this is nothing but a photo opportunity to satisfy parents and their urge to display these pictures on social media, bragging about the so-called achievements of their kids. This kind of corporate culture should be avoided, while emphasis should be given to traditional ways of nurturing children. One has to realize the kind of pressure this places on kids; public attention at such a young age will have a negative impact on their mental health. There are also playschools where kids are rewarded based on their vocal skills or cute looks and appeal. Parents have to ponder whether this is a healthy trend, because objectification based on external looks at such a tender age will set a wrong precedent for their inner belief system and ethics. Some playschools push kids to their limits by making them recite lengthy poems, hymns and dance to film songs, all in the name of smart and fun activities. The unnecessary stress being placed on children will have a long-term effect on their physical as well as mental growth, further making these children the subject of discrimination and pressure at both home and school if they are unable to compete with their peers.
Rather than allowing nurseries, playschools and kindergartens to flourish, the entire curriculum of pre-primary education has to be redesigned in a way where there is more emphasis on playing and healthy learning, according to the child’s age and the holistic development model. The attitude of parents should also change, because the current system of learning and playschools is leading to undesirable consequences. At a young age, children should be entrusted with proper parental care and stress-free learning which makes the process hassle free and enjoyable. After all, the objective of parents is to ensure their kids grow well, therefore, the right way forward has to be explored and supported. In this regard, the government, civil society, teachers, parents and institutions are all key stakeholders who have to work together, for the long-term physical and mental wellbeing and growth of children.
The author is Assistant Professor, Anurag University, Telangana. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org