How prepared are pre-schools?

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The early years are crucial in the development of a child’s brain. Almost 80 per cent of a child’s brain develops by the time they turn three, and 90 per cent by five. “If the child misses this window, it can have a deleterious effect on the overall development of the child,” says Anjali Bowen, principal, Ryan International School, Kandivali, Mumbai.

Covid-19 has altered the sector on every level. In 2020, pre-schools remained shut for the better part of the academic session (they have been closed since March). So, how are they gearing up for nursery admissions for the 2021 academic session?

While several parents opted to wait and watch in view of the pandemic, they are now concerned after finding gaps in the learning of their young children. Prajodh Rajan, co-founder and group CEO of EuroKids International, says, “Parents have started to take admissions. We are witnessing a shift in parents’ behaviour from initial concerns around screen time and low attention span, to lack of continuous learning.”

 

A Fresh Start

In their interactions with parents over the past few months, most pre-schools across India have found that parents are interested in understanding how their child’s learning and development can restart next year. “We have begun the admissions process for pre-school for the 2021 academic session and are speaking to parents to explain our resumption protocol and how we plan to ensure the safety and hygiene standards at each of our 1,000 plus centers,” adds Rajan.

Ryan International is getting a lot of enquirers from parents and there has been a spike in request for information since after Diwali. It is accepting registrations for admissions to all its schools for the session starting April 2021. KLAY Pre-schools, with centers in metros, on the other hand, is letting parents block a seat for their child for the next academic year in a center of their choice and will be starting official communication by January 2021. “We typically start a couple of months in advance in the traditional set-up, but considering how unpredictable the last couple of months have been, we are adapting to developments as they come and letting parents make decisions as per their convenience,” says A.K. Srikanth, CEO, KLAY Pre-schools.

A Blended Approach

Since centers are not open even for admission walk through, KLAY is taking the admission counselling process online so that they get to see the child and talk to the parents face-to-face. Says Srikanth, “This will help address the queries of parents on our preparedness and how they can manage their child’s transition to school next academic year.”

Something similar is happening at Euro Kids International, which is reaching out to parents who have sent in enquirers for pre-schools. The center heads are speaking to them on a one-on-one basis about the resumption process. “Parents can enquirer online, procure and fill admission forms, receive enrollment counselling and pay online as well,” says Rajan.

A unique online platform for interacting with the parents and having conference calls with them have been put in place at The Ryan International School. Says Bowen, “We have created a chat bot based on artificial intelligence algorithms that provides a lot of responses to the parents. We are also in the process of providing virtual tours to the parents, which obviates the need for a physical visit to the school.”

New Learning Module

Pre-schools will have to wait for the government on the probable start date of the next academic session, but most feel they will be the last of the age groups to open. By all estimates, they feel they could reopen between April and June, especially in cities that have zero or low case loads. “For other cities where we can’t open, we will continue with remote learning programmed Home Buddy, an app assisted learning format—and gradually transition to physical classes when it becomes safe for children to attend,” elaborates Rajan.

Online or offline, the early years of education are critical, and realizing that need, The Ryan International School has also devised a way to effectively deliver the learning process online. “We need to take inspiration from Darwin’s Origin of Species, where he explained that it is not the strongest who survives, but one that is best able to adapt to the changing environment,” says Bowen.

The pre-schools that do this will, in the future, be ones that adapt to the situation and ensure the child’s development continues.


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