“Live by appreciation, not by comparison – it makes envy impossible.” This quiet and wonderful note struck by historian, journalist, author and peace builder, Rajmohan Gandhi, was the perfect contemplative start to Day 2 of the 6th Early Childhood Association Annual International Conference. Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, he shared his own life experiences on a number of small but significant points such as the additional magic words – ‘Congratulations’ and ‘I don’t know’ – which seem to stick in our throats. Rajmohan Gandhi also pointed out the value of taking pride in manual work, smiling at yourself and being ready to weep over the sadness of others, the importance of teamwork, and the need for educators to allow children the opportunity to hear their inner voice. The 430+ delegates in attendance were seen clapping and raising the thumbs-up pointers as they expressed resonance with his thoughts.
Dr Reeta Sonawat provided fresh food for thought as she endorsed a competency-based curriculum kindergarten as the future, with research being the future of kindergarten. Former Head of Department and Dean of the Department of Human Development SNDT Women’s University, she held forth on the competencies including Communication & Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Creativity & Imagination, Citizenship, Digital Literacy, Learning to Learn, and Self Efficacy.
Sharing pertinent points on what it takes to effectively communicate with parents, Dr Tushar Guha, Founder Chairman Nrityanjali Group, had the audience hooked. Education means adaptability, he pointed out, adding that the truth must be said – but palatably. Break inhibitions, be humble but assertive when needed, use humour and wit, and speak using ‘we’ as opposed to ‘you’, he advised.
Ashraf Noorani shared tips for teachers to discover their own emotional intelligence, as she led the participants through a brief exercise in recognising their own emotions.
The Future of Inclusion – An Inclusive Future… This formed the core of Dr Samir Dalwai’s speech. A Developmental paediatrician and Director at New Horizons Health and Research Foundation, he spoke of the equitable – as opposed to equal – treatment of all citizens. “Inclusion begins at home,” he pointed out, “because exclusion also begins at home.”
Prajodh Rajan, Co-founder and CEO Eurokids International Preschools, drove home the key role of the private sector in Early Childhood Education. He underlined the importance of the phrase – Education costs money but so does ignorance.
The Power Talk by Dr Swati Popat Vats, President – Podar Education Network and ECA India, held the educators’ rapt attention as she enumerated the 10 Global Ideas for Kindergartens to Nurture the Future. Teacher sensitivity, making math visible and important, building the child’s executive functions, cognitive flexibility, and labelling emotions were some of the points she touched upon with illustrative examples.
Post-lunch, Rekha Shahani discussed Social Skills for the New Digital Generation, while Aditi Shah and team from Musicaalay had the participants on their feet enacting action songs. Their belief: Happy minds emit happy thoughts; let’s work towards a happy future.
Pratiksha Seth from Grooming Babies discussed Learning that is Child-led, while Mehek Valecha shared her pointers on Parent-School Partnership. Sometimes a hug is all it needs!
Vinitha Ramchandani, editor, author and content strategist, shed light on empathy in ECE, while Alokananda Roy, classical dancer, dance educationist and therapist, spoke movingly about the education of children of prisoners.
Asha Varma, ECE consultant and life skills co-ordinator, shared the Ten Commandments for the Pre Primary Teacher, while Kausar Sayeed, Founder Learn2Lead, discussed the usage of STEM in Early Childhood Education.
Post-tea, Dr Kamini Rege, Assistant Professor Dept of Human Development, College of Home Science, Nirmala Niketan Mumbai, conducted a Knowledge Sharing session. The topic was Redefining the Importance, Challenges of and Recommendations for Early Childhood Development Profession for the Future of Kindergarten.
Chief Guest, Union Skill Minister Anant Kumar Hegde was welcomed on stage, and lit the ceremonial lamp along with committee members of the ECA. In his speech, he stressed upon the education of values learnt in the mother’s lap.
It was then awards time, as the 2017-2018 Best Practices Innovations in ECE were conferred by the Early Childhood Association! Cheered along by their peers, the award winners were justifiably proud and thrilled by the recognition of their admirable work.
The conference concluded with a heartfelt vote of thanks by Dr Kamini Rege, as spirits continued to stay high. Like one ECE teacher had earlier mentioned during a sharing of feedback, “Working with young children is the most wonderful thing in the world – it’s no wonder people tell us we look so young ourselves!”