National Curriculum Framework for Foundational Stage (NCF-FS)

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    Context

    • The Union Ministry of Education released the National Curriculum Framework for Foundational Stage (NCF-FS).

    Key Points

    • About: 
      • The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) for the Foundational Stage is developed based on the vision of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, and to enable its implementation. 
    • Curriculum:
      • It refers to the entirety of the organised experience of students in any institutional setting towards educational aims and objectives. 
      • There are other matters that directly affect a Curriculum and its practice or are integrally related while not being within the Curriculum. These include:
        • The Teachers and their capacities, 
        • the involvement of parents and communities, 
        • Issues of access to institutions, 
        • Resources available, 
        • Administrative and support structures.
    • Objectives of this NCF:
      • To help in positively transforming the school education system of India as envisioned in NEP 2020, through corresponding positive changes in the curriculum including pedagogy. 
      • It aims to help change practices in education and not just ideas.
    • Characteristics of this NCF To enable its Objectives:
      • While based on the latest research in early childhood care and education, this NCF aims to be understandable and relatable to, and usable by all the stakeholders:
        • Practitioners of education, including Teachers and other educators, school leaders, and functionaries of the education system such as project officers, cluster and block resource persons, block education officers, teacher educators, examination boards, and curriculum/syllabus/textbook development teams. 
      • To provide the interested reader a reasonable understanding of what education should look like in our new vision for schools, and why, and what role individuals could play as parents, community members, and citizens of India, who all have a large stake in Indian education. 
      • This NCF is designed with the Teacher as the primary focus – the reason being that the Teacher is at the heart of the practice of education. 
      • To enable this, and to communicate ideas with greater clarity, this NCF contains different levels of detail and specificity at the level of practice, with clear real-life illustrations in a variety of contexts. 
      • To account for the reality of the current typical institution and Teacher, while being entirely in harmony with the imagination of the best-resourced institutions
      • To be deeply rooted in the reality of the country’s context, yet aspirational.
      • This new framework will help equip young ones with cognitive & linguistic competencies of the 21st century. 
      • It also lays a clear path for the goal of achieving foundational literacy and numeracy as articulated in NEP 2020, with age-appropriate strategies.
    • 4 Stages: 
      • NEP has created a 4-stage ‘5+3+3+4 curricular and pedagogical structure’. 
      • Stages: 
        • The ‘5’ refers to the first five years of education from ages 3 to 8, called the Foundational Stage
        • Then ages 8-11 (Preparatory Stage), 
        • 11-14 (Middle Stage) and 
        • 14-18 (Secondary Stage). 
      • The four stages constitute school education and have been determined by the physical (including brain), social and emotional development trajectories of children, which in turn determines what is the most effective educational approach for that stage. 

    Significance

    • It is this holistic overall transformation of the curriculum that will enable to positively transform overall learning experiences for students. 
    • The transformative nature of this phase of education is expected to qualitatively improve the contents and outcomes of education, thereby, impacting the lives of our children towards a better future. 
    • All studies and research related to the early period of development of a child, unambiguously leads to the conclusion that high-quality care and education during this period has a lifetime of positive consequences for all individuals and thus, the nation. 
    • It is based on cutting-edge research from across the world in multiple disciplines which includes among other things better understanding in the fields of neurosciences, brain study, and cognitive sciences. 
    • As articulated in NEP 2020, it uses ‘play,’ at the core of the conceptual, operational, and transactional approaches to curriculum organization, pedagogy, time and content organization, and the overall experience of the child. 

    Foundational Stage

    • The Foundational Stage is driven by the deep and long-term implications of the first eight years of a child’s life. 
    • Most Critical Years: Research from across the world in multiple relevant disciplines shows that these years are the most critical for lifelong well-being and overall development of individuals—physical, cognitive and socio-emotional. 
    • Fastest Brain Development: Neuroscience research tells that over 85% of an individual’s brain development occurs by the age of 6. 
    • Early Childhood Care and Education’ (ECCE)”:
      • The ‘Early Childhood Care and Education’ (ECCE), which refers to the care and education of children from birth to eight years, is of central importance to all societies. 
      • Children of ages 0-3 are mostly taken care of at home; institutional settings take over from age 3 onwards, so the Foundational Stage addresses ECCE for ages 3-8. 
      • This would include pre-schools, kindergartens, nursery, Aanganwadis, etc—all institutions that take care of children ages 3-6, and classes 1 and 2 across all schools.

    Importance of Foundational Stage

    • This stage will enable addressing all domains of development—physical, socio-emotional-ethical, cognitive and language as well as literacy, aesthetic and cultural aspects—more effectively. 
    • Developing foundational literacy and numeracy is critical for all future learning and the NCF-FS enables us to leverage all five years of the Foundational Stage to achieve this.
    • The pedagogical approach recommended in the NCF-FS is play-based
      • It includes conversations, stories, songs and rhymes, music and movement, art and craft, indoor and outdoor games, field trips, being amid nature and playing with materials and toys.
    • It emphasizes the need for teaching and learning to be situated in the context of the child
      • This includes use of the child’s home language and usage of content such as local and traditional stories, rhymes, songs, materials, and games. 
    • It is also about catering to different needs and levels of children, including children with special needs, for learning to be truly inclusive.
    • Assessment in the Foundational Stage is seen as an enabler for learning and development. 
      • It is an integral part of the everyday classroom process and largely based on systematic and careful observation of children and analysis of their work— such as craft, projects and simple worksheets.
    • It focuses on building an enabling ecosystem that’s necessary to make it all happen. 
      • This includes empowering teachers and enabling a supportive academic and administrative support system. 
      • It also emphasizes the need to ensure adequate infrastructure and learning resources in each institution.
    • The NCF-FS speaks directly to teachers. It focuses on classroom practices with real-life illustrations from a variety of contexts. It is hence relatable and provides realistic pathways for teachers and others.

    Challenges

    • There will be several challenges arising from the needs of developing innovative methods and approaches.
    • Problems of access, quality-related deficiencies such as a developmentally inappropriate curriculum, the lack of qualified and trained Teachers, and less-than-optimal pedagogy. So, a lot of level up is required and at a faster speed.
    • Low enrolment and attendance in preschools compared to primary school.
    • National Early Childhood Care and Education requires strong investment.
    • The challenges of achieving Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) have become deeper and more widespread because of the learning loss due to school closure during the pandemic.

    Way Ahead

    • NCERT should place this NCF in public domain, take it to SCERTs and to all stakeholders involved in early childhood care and development.
    • The framework must be improved with feedback from implementation on the ground, and that we shall do, after a reasonable experience of its implementation. 

    Panchakosha Vikas

    Image Courtesy: NCERT 

    • The Panchakosha concept and imagination also maps into the different domains of development envisaged in ECCE.
    • Physical Development (Sharirik Vikas): Age-specific balanced physical development, physical fitness, flexibility, strength, and endurance; development of senses; nutrition, hygiene, personal health, expansion of physical abilities; building body and habits keeping in mind one hundred years of healthy living in a human being.
    • Development of Life Energy (Pranik Vikas): Balance and retention of energy, positive energy and enthusiasm, smooth functioning of all major systems (digestive, respiratory, circulatory, and nervous systems) by activation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
    • Emotional/Mental Development (Manasik Vikas): Concentration, peace, will and will power, courage, handling negative emotions, developing virtues (maulyavardhan), the will to attach and detach from work, people and situations, happiness, visual and performing arts, culture, and literature.
    • Intellectual Development (Bauddhik Vikas): Observation, experimentation, analytical ability, abstract and divergent thinking, synthesis, logical reasoning, linguistic skills, imagination, creativity, power of discrimination, generalization, and abstraction.
    • Spiritual Development (Chaitsik Vikas): Happiness, love and compassion, spontaneity, freedom, aesthetic sense, the journey of ‘turning the awareness inwards.’ 
    • Panchakosha is an ancient explication of the importance of the body-mind complex in human experience and understanding. This non-dichotomous approach to human development gives clear pathways and direction towards a more holistic education.

    Source: LM

     

    Mains Practice Question

     

    [Q] Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is of central importance to all societies. Discuss in the context of the National Curriculum Framework for Foundational Stage (NCF-FS).