The need for quality teachers

In preschools A quality early childhood education programme comes with many benefits. Jigisha Shastri explains what roles teachers can play in this

The need for quality teachers

Currently, there is a trend to send children to toddler programmes and preschools. Is it a fad, or does sending children to preschools serve some purpose? With decreasing number of children in families, and the friendly neighbourhood being not-so-safe anymore, a place that provides young children with age-mates and learning materials to interact with, all within a safe and secure atmosphere, is a preschool. This is true of all children attending different kinds of early childhood education programmes, right from anganwadis to the children enrolled in ‘elitist’ preschools.

Is it ‘just’ play? Do children gain anything else besides freeing their parents? Research indicates that early years are the foundation years for the development of children. When children are allowed to play with toys and friends, explore the environment, observe plants and animals, participate in every day activities of shopping for vegetables and groceries, talking about topics of interest, they develop skills and abilities which will strengthen their capacities to cope with life today and tomorrow.

A quality early childhood education programme, besides cognitive development, language and communication, also builds children’s self-esteem, teaches them to celebrate differences of gender, language, culture, etc. These experiences are very important for brain development also.

For any quality preschool programme to function, besides a stimulating environment and developmentally appropriate learning materials, it is the teacher who is the key. A teacher who knows about children, their development and learning, is sensitive to children’s needs and interests, is active, is a researcher and a learner will motivate children to explore, experiment, inquire and reflect.

So, are good teachers born? Can individuals develop into being good teachers? If we want quality preschool programmes, we will need quality teacher training programmes. To be a good teacher, it is not just enough to love and care for children.

Well-trained teachers with skills, abilities and competencies to plan developmentally appropriate programmes for children, engage children actively through the day and assess their learning are necessary.

How do teachers learn to be competent? Besides the theoretical understanding of children, teachers will have to learn the skills and competencies by practising them. Quality teacher training programmes would focus on pedagogies that are first-hand, experiential, and provide opportunities to the teachers to be inquirers themselves and reflect on their own as well as their students’ learning.

One of the best ways to achieve the latter is to engage with children directly but within a guided situation, where mistakes and experiments are permissible.

Overall development
Teachers also need to be good communicators and negotiators, should have the ability to multitask and be able to work cooperatively. A key to a quality early childhood education programme is a teacher who is reflective, is a researcher and one who is continuously engaged in the process of learning together with the children.

India today is on the threshold of expansion of these programmes. As a society, we need these programmes as they provide a platform to our young children to grow and develop and learn today, and prepare for the future. We therefore have an urgent need for teachers of young children. All organisations and institutions that work with children have to gear up to develop quality learning programmes for teachers.

Such training programmes should groom teachers who are inquirers, empathetic, good communicators, knowledgeable about children, their development and learning, and are committed to their profession.

(The author is adjunct faculty at Azim Premji University, Bengaluru)

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