The 6th Early Childhood Association Annual International Early Childhood Conference got off to a punctual start on Saturday, February 10. The four hundred-odd educators, teachers and special guests didn’t really need the caffeine shots laid out pre-event – the energy was high enough anyway!
The Future of Kindergartens and Kindergartens of the Future was the theme of the conference held at the Lalit, Andheri, Mumbai. Guests were welcomed warmly by Neelu Kalro and Kusum Kanwar.
The first session was a reflection by Soonita Kistamah, Director – The Cubbies IPS – Mauritius, on the implications of Moving to Academics at the Expense of Play. Stressing on the fact that a child that does not play is like a drum that does not sound, Soonita discussed how play is learning itself. Play is our brain’s favourite way of learning, she asserted as she enumerated the benefits of play.
Karma Gayleg, Deputy Chief Programming Officer, Early Childhood Care and Development & Special Education division, Ministry of Education, Thimpu, Bhutan provided plenty of food for thought. His topic – Blending Conventional Wisdom and Contemporary Science for Quality Early Childhood Education, provided interesting insights which are extremely relevant in India as well. Karma underlined the importance of culture, values, well-being and nature in ECE.
The perky Divya Punjabi – Culture Custodian Kangaroo Kids Education and Billabong High School, Vice President – ECA India, tossed several scintillating ideas focusing on the topic: Will Tomorrow Define Your Child or Will Your Child Define Tomorrow. She stressed on the development of skills of High Touch and High Concept.
Chief Guest Shabana Azmi held the educators enthralled, as she shared her personal experiences connected with Early Childhood learning. From her mother’s recognition of her failing in an Urdu Municipal school as a sign of protest, to the family’s view of art as an instrument of social change, where gender equality was a given, Azmi’s words captivated and inspired.
She, joined by the committee members of the Early Childhood Association, also lit the ceremonial lamp, and invoked the spirit of enquiry and learning.
The feisty Dr Swati Popat Vats, President ECA, tackled several key questions about the future of kindergartens in India. Will they remain ‘preparatory schools’ for standard one? Or will good sense prevail and we will stop this ‘schoolification’ of kindergarten? Will safety continue to be a knee-jerk reaction? Or will sense prevail and kindergartens and parents become alert and sensible about safety standards? What will the kindergartens of the future be like? Forest kindergartens? Home schooling? Will play be the focal point? Or will kindergartens simply disappear – these questions demanded discussion.
Dr Popat Vats also reiterated the need for One Nation – One Policy, when it comes to developmentally appropriate curriculum, safety standards, age of entry, teacher training and salaries.
Launches are special and Day One saw no less than seven exciting unveilings…
The February issue of ScooNews magazine, a special issue on Early Childhood Education, drew high praise from Dr Swati Popat Vats, who hailed it as a bible for all ECE educators.
The occasion also marked the launch of the ECA booklet, which is a Comprehensive Quality Audit Tool for Preschools/ Kindergartens and ECE centres.
Dr Swaroop Sampat addressed the gathering via a pre-recorded video, as she presented the Early Years Life Skills Curriculum Framework.
Pooja Taparia, from the NGO Arpan, unveiled My Safety Book, a simple and effective guide to educate children about good touch vs bad touch and personal safety skills.
The ECA booklet – Teacher Training Module for Early Childhood Care and Education was also unveiled.
A new app for Early Childhood Teacher Enrichment and Education was launched, with much enthusiasm.
Last but not least, the BetterPlace learning digital app was also launched.
The Early Childhood Association awards were presented, to resounding applause. The winners were as follows:
Felicitating the author:
Most Committed NGO in ECE:
CAN Kids – Sabita Vijayan
Child Rights Foundation – Jatin Katira
Life Trust – Poonam Lalvani
Most Committed CDPO:
Preeti Ben (Bhavnagar)
Most Committed ICDS:
Laxmi Bai (Supervisor of Mandals and reports to Project Head for Anganwadis (Telangana)
Exemplary Contribution in ECCE Award:
Exemplary Contribution Towards Safety in Early Years
IPS Officer - Aparajita Rai
BetterPlace – Pravin Agarwala
Post lunch, the conference split into separate spaces for a more intimate exchange of ideas. Emerging Paradigm 1 saw Meena Naik, Head of the University of Mumbai’s Puppetry course since the past 6 years, and Chairperson of Sahitya Kala Mandal, Kalsootri, discussing Experiential Methodology, while Chirag Singal, Proprietor – Giraffe Uncle, explained the attributes of Playful Learning in Emerging Paradigm 2.
Swara Patel, of Rhythmus Happy Feet spoke about the Importance of Kinesthetic Learning in ECE, while Mona Singh, VP – Sesame Schoolhouse discussed the Meeting of Childhood Development Needs in the Digital Environment.
Pooja Jain, Principal – Podar Jumbo Kids, Aundh and Baner, shed light on Promoting Mental Well-being in Kindergarten, while Greshma Momaya Shah explained the 3 Cs of Emotional Engagement and its Impact on Learning.
Sonal Ahuja, Founder Shri Ram Foundation Preschool, educationist, and global career counsellor, spoke on Feelings – How I Feel is More Important Than Why… In the adjoining section, Sanghya Ojha, co-founder The Puppetarians, had the audience hanging on to her every move with her practical presentation on Puppet – Teacher’s Best Friend.
Vikrant Kapoor, CMD, Angel’s Paradise Preschools, Amritsar, discussed Music as Language of Learning. Simultaneously, Preethi Vickram, Educator, Parenting Coach and Brand Champion spoke on Superhero Play in ECCE – Hero or Villain?
Post the tea break, Dr Robert Titzer, Infant Researcher, Brussels – Belgium, discussed the Longitudinal Effects of Learning to Read Early.
The panel discussion – Future of Kindergartens and Kindergartens of the Future was moderated by Dr Swati Popat Vats. Panellists included Dr Seema Hingorrany – Clinical Psychologist and author; Arunabh Singh, Principal – Nehru World School; Francis Joseph, Co-founder School Leaders Network, Vice President ECA; Dr Sagar Mundada, Psychotherapist – specialist Early Childhood Behaviour and Abuse; Dr Robert Titzer, Infant Researcher, Brussels – Belgium; Preeti Kwatra – Founder and Principal Petals Preschool Delhi; Ruchita Dar Shah, Founder – First Moms Club and VP ECA; Pravin Agarwala – CEO BetterPlace; and Jaya Sastri – Founder-Director of SEED and Seed Academy group of schools.