According to the new syllabus for pre-kg, LKG and UKG, the classroom hours will start at 9:30am and end 4pm. This means children from two to five years old will spend nearly six and half hours in class every day.
These hours include 45 minutes of lunch break, from 12:15 pm to 1pm, and two hours nap time, from 1pm to 3pm. The framing of kindergarten syllabus by SCERT follows the announcement by the education minister K A Sengottaiyan in the Assembly that kindergarten will soon be started in government schools.
Nuclear families, working parents, increased awareness for the need for pre-school education, and higher family incomes are some of the reasons the government cited for starting kindergarten in government schools.
Educationist S S Rajagopalan says that the syllabus seems to have drawn from a variety of sources: Montessori, kindergarten, nursery and so on. He says SCERT also went by a book by educationist Mina Swaminathan on pre-school education for children.
He wonders what facilities have been made to help children take their afternoon nap, besides toilets and drinking water. Besides teachers, one ayah will be needed for five children. There is also the question of lack of trained teachers for pre-school children.
Unicef educational specialist Aruna Rathinam says the state government pre-school syllabus is “straight to syllabus without a curricular statement or position paper on what Tamil Nadu considers essential for this age group and its development. A joint paper from Health and Family Welfare, ICDS and School Education Dept needs to guide the syllabus making exercise, and this has not happened.”
The hours are very long, she adds. “We want pre-school to serve as day-care centre without appropriate provision for the latter – best way to ruin both,” she says.
The adult to children ratio needs to be 1:10 or 12. “The themes are quite abstract by themselves: vegetables and fruits are categories which 2 to 3 year olds may not understand. We could begin with food rather than classification categories,” she says.
“Please have a stand on whether we want children to recognise letters, thus do pre-reading activities or whether we want children to write first. Many children may do both but for conceptual clarity of the teacher-trainers and teachers, please do have a rationale for reading/ writing or both,” she concludes.