Are young learners losing because of a failing education system?

By Sajid Chamim,

With parents determined to set their children up for success, it’s never too early for children to start learning. But young learners need special care to ensure the best results. Unfortunately, our education system is not yet adapted to the needs of our youngest pupils, and this is a problem.

Why early learning is important

By the age of five, a child’s brain is 90% developed. At six years old, the child has acquired cognitive, linguistic, social and psychomotor skills. Some of this happens naturally, but education also plays a role. The degree to which these skills are developed is correlated with the stimulation of learning and the support made available during this critical period.

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Quality early childhood education has repeatedly been associated with success in school and, much later, in the workplace. Meanwhile, ineffective early learning techniques can lead to learning delays as the child progresses from kindergarten to higher grades.

Stumbling Stones for Early Learning

The preschool market in India is expected to grow by USD 957.86 million between 2022 and 2026. While this is encouraging for the sector, one must wonder whether early childhood education is appropriately tailored to its audience.

Learning through play, educational songs and reading activities make school fun and motivate young people to keep learning. But many teachers and parents believe that learning shouldn’t be too enjoyable. There is often a rush to return to more formal ways of teaching while teaching children to read, write and do math. This often leads to a one-way flow of information and an emphasis on rote learning that does not allow young students to think creatively. Worse still, it erodes their interest in learning from an early age.

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The lack of teacher training in game-based teaching techniques also needs to be addressed. It is not enough to sing a song or play a game. The teacher needs to understand how an activity benefits students in the preschool and elementary school.

Even among educators who recognize the value of play, implementation can be a difficult climb. When there are well over 30 students in a single class, coordinated play is difficult to control and there may not be enough learning materials for everyone.

Fixing our early learning system

The 2020 National Education Policy (NEP) set out guidelines to make early learning activities more developmentally and contextually appropriate. It was the first time that early childhood education was extended to children aged three and over.

By the end of 2020, students of all ages had become familiar with video-based learning following the pandemic shutdowns. But while technology has changed, one-way learning still prevails. Books have given way to screens and physical classes to virtual classes, but the old models are still here. Even popular video-based e-learning apps are just reinventing the wheel.

Augmented reality (AR) could offer a way forward, helping young learners grasp abstract and spatial concepts more effectively. AR technology could convert two-dimensional learning into an immersive 3D experience. An interactive video could encourage the child to pack. A more advanced module could show the learner how to build a machine. Since learning is interactive, it is less tedious. Additionally, the child gets hands-on experience through AR technology, which is why the lessons tend to stick.

Future priorities should include training teachers at regular intervals, translating learning materials into vernacular languages, and building lightweight digital modules available both online and offline. As the program evolves, emphasis should be placed on ensuring that no child is left behind.

(The author is a co-founder of Genions, the first AR (augmented reality) based integrated learning program for children in India. The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress. com.)