According to UNICEF, schoolchildren around the world have lost an estimated 1.8 trillion hours and counting of in-person learning since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Disruption to learning, particularly in the formative years, has been significantly impacted. It is the youngest learner in the family who often goes without access to education, due to financial barriers or limited or no access to technological devices. Thus, to reduce the negative impact on the following years of schooling, it is critical to minimise learning loss for preschool-age students.
In India, the Aga Khan schools – which have been delivering quality early childhood development programmes since 1978 – have developed a home-based blended learning “e-School for Preschool” programme for students aged 3-6 years: 1’000 children across urban and rural regions in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telangana are learning and connecting digitally from home.
e-School for Preschool is based on the concept of Shishu Pahel Paddhati®, a child-initiated learning approach, which provides opportunities for physical, emotional and social development. Parental involvement has been key to the success of the programme. Teachers have curated thematic student learning packs with a robust teaching and learning feedback process. A low student-teacher ratio (15:1) maintains a focus on quality learning. Staying true to best practice, the programme also adheres to the recommended screen time by the World Health Organization, ensuring a balanced approach to remote learning.
Designed by early childhood experts, the learning packs include a rich collection of resources, such as: graded reading books, flashcards, vocabulary cards, reusable tracing sheets, art materials and resources for science projects.
Reflecting on the project, Tasneem Janjali, Pre-primary Section Head at the Diamond Jubilee High School in Mumbai remarked:
“e-School for Preschool was the need of the hour. Parents and students were excited to learn that school was coming home through a learning pack. The synchronous and asynchronous experiences were meaningfully planned to optimise student learning. Each class was interactive with multiple platforms used to engage the child. Students loved activities like Spin the Wheel on platforms like Toy Theatre. The excitement ensured high attendance and excellent participation.”
Programmes like this aim to empower students and their families and keep learning alive during these unprecedented times. One of the parents echoed this sentiment and remarked:
“Students are encouraged to think aloud and fearlessly share their thoughts…Special thanks to the school management for making quality learning accessible to all during these challenging times.”