Our last topic touched upon the issue of what we teach our children in pre-schools today. Skills, rather than content, we argued, should be the focus of development in a pre-school. Lets take a look at why. In India, we’ve had a historical problem of not being able to adapt to changing environments, and especially technology. In today’s day and age, with instant access to information, your success at a job is primarily defined by how skilled you are – not how much you know. Don’t get us wrong, how much you know is certainly important, but the application of skills has gained so much more importance today, that it isn’t something you can afford to pick up over a period of time. Take the example of a manager – The ability to lead a team of people, the ability to think out of the box (multi-directional thinking) etc are all skills. Skills that require constant practice and honing.
We’re no longer competing on who knows most, were competing on skills.
We develop most of our primary skill sets between the ages of 2-6. Motor Skills, Language Skills, Listening skills, the ability to sequence, understanding of sizes and dimensions… the list is almost endless. Unfortunately, in our rat race, we’ve started advancing content to the lower classes. We start teaching ABC at LKG. Eg: Writing ABC implies the physical skill of being able to hold a pencil – fine motor. And being able to say numbers in ascending or descending order implies cognition of concepts like more and less, bigger and smaller etc.
At Wunderbar Kids, we focus on 4 skill areas that encompass all of a child’s development. We also have clear developmental milestones that are defined for each area, and for each learning level. These milestones indicate the progress of a child within the area. Sounds familiar? We know it does… so what do we do differently?
The biggest challenge we faced was driving our teachers, and our content developers to focus on skills, rather than pure content. This was tougher than you would have believed possible. But after 2 and a half years, we believe we’ve addressed this issue, more so than any other pre-school in the country. We worked backwards and asked ourselves these all important questions.
1. How can we make our teachers facilitators of development, rather than knowledge disseminators?
2. How do we let each child develop at his or her own pace, rather than the pace of a class?
3. How do we build into our content, the acquisition of lesser explored skills – perseverance, creativity and the like?
The answer – Skill Stations.
All our centers are based around skill stations. Each station is an immersive environment that compels children to acquire or enhance a specific skill.
For example our language station has all sorts of language based tangible objects – a Word wall, story books, an interactive alphabet floor, letter blocks, object tags, scribble sheets … the list is endless. And all our children spend a certain amount of time in the language station every day. They have the option to do what they want within it, with the teacher looking on, encouraging, assisting and helping each child individually.
There are multiple ways to interact with the station – listening, reading, repetition, observing, playing. Our kids can acquire skills at their own pace, not at the teachers comfort, and not because they’re all the same age. Basically, a skill station doesn’t force all children our children to run together. It changes the student teacher dynamic completely. There are many more opportunities for the teacher to facilitate individual children, because she doesn’t have to control the whole class – making learning truly personalized.
The focus on such skills, rather than content, is what will define tomorrows leaders. Our curriculum is built so that such skills are imparted at an early age, giving every child a foundation upon which to begin application. Through our four skill stations, the aim is that by the time the child reaches mainstream schooling, he or she is able to apply without thought – the only path to mastery.
The results of our innovation have truly been encouraging. We’ll cover a lot more ground on skill stations later, so keep watching this space.