Our ECD classrooms in Khorog are teaching us that toddlers hold the key to promoting pluralism.
When the Aga Khan Education Services (AKES) opened up two Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres in Khorog, Tajikistan, the largest township in the region, it was delighted to hear up to half a dozen languages being spoken in a single classroom.
Besides being a fertile environment for children to learn multiple languages and experience various cultural backgrounds, the region provides a unique laboratory to observe how children perceive and approach differences in a classroom.
Soon after the ECD centres launched, AKES also started an ECD Resource Centre which sought to learn more about early childhood education best practices in order to continue to improve the programme -- and perhaps the scope of ECD education altogether.
Since the ECD Resource Centre opened in February 2018, it has fostered partnerships with Queens University of Belfast and UNICEF to explore concepts about child development. How does exclusion and inclusion impact children of multiple ethnicities or children with special needs? What are the factors that influence children’s behaviour towards those of different backgrounds than their own? In addition to these topics, the Resource Centre also hosts other programmes including training teachers in the broader community.
By providing resources to facilitate learning through play, and an environment where children can grow and develop holistically, the ECD centres have been promoting peace and positivity in a region that has had a troubled history since the fall of the Soviet Union. “He used to play with toy weapons, fighting and so on. But now he tries to go out to the yard, or build things with available resources,” says the parent of a six-year-old enrolled in AKES’ ECD programmes in Khorog.