The early childhood education sector has been highly unregulated till now. Seeing this gap, Dr Pallavi Rao Chaturvedi, Founder of Get Set Parents with Pallavi, talks about supporting parents and children through those first stages of child development and learning
Dr Pallavi Rao Chaturvedi, Founder Director, Get Set Parents with Pallavi, Vice President of the Early Childhood Association and the Founder of the Brainy Bear Preschool & Activity Club chain, on Get Set Parent and Brainy Bear are providing critical tools for child development in the first six years. Excerpts:
How did the idea of get, set parent come about?
During the lockdown, everybody was stuck at home. It was a very unprecedented time. Parents were not sure what to do with kids and since we run a chain of preschools called Brainy Bear Preschools, and I have been a part of the Early Childhood Association of India for the last 7-8 years, the teachers and parents used to WhatsApp me asking me what to do. We were constantly supporting our centres and our parents and used to record WhatsApp videos and share it with parents. Suddenly it occurred to me that in this age of social media if I am communicating it to 500 parents, might as well put it on social media platforms where more parents can benefit from what I am sharing.
That’s how the whole idea came about of supporting parents through Get Set Parent with Pallavi came about. Now we have more than half a million followers on social media. And this tells me how keen today’s parents are to listen to somebody else’s experiences and takitakernings from those.
What are the critical needs of this particular segment and how are these being actually fulfilled in our country? What are the gaps?
Early childhood education is an unregulated space. There are no norms today. It is not governed by any ministry or body, unlike primary school or secondary school secondary school education. It’s a very unregulated space under six. There is a lot of mixing match that preschools are doing in terms of the philosophy that is being followed, in terms of methodology. There is also a lot of creativity is being brought in.
Now, with the National Education Policy 2020 coming in, there is a lot of focus on the zero to six years for the first time in the history of Indian education. The foundation literacy and numeracy are being given a lot of emphasis. It says that by grade III, when children are about 7-8 years of age, there is a certain level of literacy and numeracy that a child will be expected to have achieved. So, I think that now there will be a sort of standardisation across the country regarding what has to be taught, how it has to be taught.
So far, till Grade X everybody was doing their own thing and Grade X was the first time the entire country came together for a common Board exam. But now the good thing is that at Grade III there is a level of check that every child in the country is going to pass those norms. The idea is not to have a Board exam but it is more of a guideline to all schools and teachers and this is the basic minimum needed by grade III. So, I think this is a very welcome step.
How has your organisation been actually instrumental in fulfilling those specific needs like numeracy and linguistic skills so far? And how do you now plan to take it further, now that NEP is there?
At the Brainy Bear Preschools we, have been following a philosophy which believes multiple intelligence approach. For us it’s about language, numeracy, art, and physical movement. In this age, brain development is the most rapid. In fact, by the age of five, almost 90 per cent of brain development happens. So, we considered all of these areas very important for cognitive learning and emotional development. We believe everything has to go parallelly. We also believe multiple languages can be introduced.
Now with the NEP coming in we are waiting for guidelines to come in.
But till then I think the purpose of early childhood education is to believe that every child has the potential and to maximise that potential through music, movement, art, language, numeracy, physical movement, and build emotional confidence in the child.
What is the kind of research and survey that you have been doing and also how have you built the expertise that is needed in terms of faculty and right experts?
I think when it comes to early childhood education, experience and expertise are the two legs which are very important. Because when you work with little children, experience definitely helps, in terms of understanding behaviour, the learning challenges to expect, the issues that parents may face while bringing up their children during these early learning phases.
As regards expertise, I think continuous training and development of teachers is very critical. So, refresher programmes for teachers, training programmes for teachers on communicating with children, on various methodologies of communicating the same objective in different ways are needed.
So I think the challenge in an early childhood classroom or even to a level of primary classroom is to give respect to the individual learning speed since every child learns at a different pace, but at the same time to keep the overall pace of the class. So, I think through a lot of training and continuous workshops, this expertise keeps building.
How do you plan to carry what you are doing across the geography of the country? Are there plans to take it to further cities and also to small town India?
This was something which came out of the lockdown. Pre-schools were closed for more than two years. These are also the years when a lot of learning happens at home. It is very informal learning through their environment, home, parents, siblings, house help. And pre-school is two to three hours in a day. So, we explored how can we use the current infrastructure and capabilities that we have to break out of the brick-and-motor schools that we have and reach children everywhere. So, we started creating learning products for children. In the Get Set Parent we are very diversified parent resource organisation. While on one hand we run pre-schools, on the other hand we have the social media and we provide lot of coaching and handholding to parents. And the third leg we have is creation of books and learning aids for children. We have created almost 250 different learning aids for children.
So, if a child needs help with writing, what are the different tools of the child should use? If the child needs help with reading, how can we help with reading abilities? Once children go to school, parents get guidance. But what about the first two to three years when the child is at home? Does it mean that we only play with some toys and there is no brain development happening? So, we created a very comprehensive system of learning from zero to three years. So, every month we have a box of learning aids which we send to parents at home. They can subscribe to the learning boxes. These are called the ‘early skills development boxes’.
We also publish our own books. We have more than 50 different publications of activity books and story books that we publish for children. So, the whole idea is to be a very holistic parent resource organisation for young parents. Add for children to health and ease the journey of the first six years.