In the vibrant tapestry of India’s educational journey, the concept of Preschool 5.0 stands as a beacon for the future. Envisaged to emerge around 2025 and beyond, this innovative model is not just a reflection of the years to come, but a response to a vision that foresees a world where India’s burgeoning population, anticipated to reach over 1.5 billion, plays an integral part in the global workforce.
A child today, blossoming under the nurturing sun of India, may have the extraordinary opportunity to be part of this Preschool 5.0. It’s an opportunity where dreams take wing and reality transcends borders, where a pre-schooler isn’t merely prepared for the world but is groomed to be a global citizen.
However, it’s imperative to understand that the responsibility to nurture these young minds into world citizens doesn’t lie solely with parents. It falls on the strong shoulders of the founders of Preschool 5.0, who carry the fiduciary duty to shape these children for the challenges of 2040 and beyond.
The landscape of 2040 will not be an extension of the present, but an evolution, where artificial intelligence and advanced robotics may walk hand-in-hand with humanity. It is a future where our very essence of work, society, and governance may find new meanings. We may even see our footsteps marked on the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
Amidst this anticipated transformation, our current preschool model appears to falter. Rooted in the present and clinging to the past, this model is yet to align with the dreams of tomorrow. It’s not merely a reimagining but a complete re-engineering that is needed.
The question that looms large is: What is the main objective of a preschool? Is it only to impart education? Let’s delve into the intriguing fact that humans, with their inherent genius, are programmed to learn from birth itself. The role of preschool must be to channelize this innate learning ability, make it future-oriented, and thus, make the young minds ready for a world where they will not only interact with fellow humans but also lead and collaborate with artificial intelligence and advanced robots.
In this quest for shaping the future, let us understand and embrace the essence of Preschool 5.0. It’s not merely an educational model; it is the lighthouse guiding us to the world of tomorrow, where our children will thrive, innovate, and lead. It is India’s answer to the future, rooted in wisdom, driven by innovation, and enriched by cultural heritage.
The delicate symphony of human learning starts not from birth, but from the very sanctuary of the womb. Modern research has unveiled that foetuses are attuned to sounds, tastes, smells, and even light stimuli. The third trimester itself witnesses the child’s preference for the native language, particularly the soothing resonance of the mother’s voice. However, this early connection to the environment does not translate into cognitive learning as it occurs outside the womb.
In the rich tapestry of Indian culture, this concept finds a mythological reflection in the tale of Abhimanyu from the Mahabharata. A young warrior who learned the art of breaking the complex Chakravyuha formation within his mother’s womb, Abhimanyu’s story echoes the traditional Indian belief in prenatal connections and learning. Though draped in mythology, it accentuates an age-old understanding of the deep bond between a mother and her child.
Today’s modern society, however, portrays a different scenario. The demands of urban life, the rise of nuclear families, and working mothers have necessitated the introduction of children to preschool at an early age. Infants now often find care within preschool premises or under the watchful eyes of nannies.
This is a stark departure from the ancient Gurukul system, a reflection of India’s rich educational heritage. Gurukuls, primarily residential schools, enrolled students at the age of 7 or 8, allowing them to absorb arts and sciences until their late teens. Family members undertook the task of informal education before this age, embedding in children the essence of language, culture, wellness, ethics, and history.
The modern Indian education model has veered away from this nurturing path. The introduction of NEP 2020 and its 5+3+3+4 model emphasizes early childhood education, beginning around 2.5 to 3 years of age. But there lies a poignant truth in the midst of this structural change.
Parents must recognize that while “schooling” can be outsourced, “education” and “learning” cannot, and indeed, should not be completely delegated to institutions. Those who neglect this essential wisdom often find themselves bemoaning the absence of values such as empathy, respect, mental wellness, learning abilities, and physical fitness in their children.
It’s a solemn reminder that our current preschool model, though well-intentioned, may fall short in preparing our future generations for the world beyond 2040. What is needed is a compassionate reconfiguration of our approach to early education, one that combines the best of modern techniques with the timeless wisdom of our cultural heritage. It is a path that calls for the collective effort of society, educators, and parents to forge a system that nourishes not only the mind but also the soul, weaving together a future that is as brilliant as it is wise.
Now let us understand how the current model of Preschool has evolved over the years.
Evolution of Preschools
In the modern historical records of early childhood education, the concept of what we refer as Preschool 1.0 evolved in the modern day Europe in the 18th Century. We have tried to align these with the major industrial revolutions as well.
1. Preschool 1.0 (1770s-1870s): Rooted in traditional practices during the First Industrial Revolution, this phase emphasized discipline and routine. Learning was often rote and teacher-centered.
· Angyalkert (Angel Garden) in Budapest, Hungary: Founded by Countess Theresa Brunszvik in 1828, inspired by Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi’s educational philosophy, it indeed plays a significant role in the history of preschools.
· The Infant School in New Lanark, Scotland: Founded by Robert Owen in 1816, this school reflects Owen’s beliefs in early childhood education and social reform.
· Ragged School Union in London: Founded in 1844, the ragged schools were instrumental in providing education to the underprivileged children of London.
2. Preschool 2.0 (1870s-1970s): Emphasizing hands-on learning, independence, and individualized education, this stage reflected the global shifts towards recognizing the uniqueness of each child with the advent of the following three approaches:
· Montessori Method: Child-centered approach focusing on self-directed activity and hands-on learning.
· Froebel’s Kindergarten System: Emphasizing play and creativity, considering children’s uniqueness.
· Reggio Emilia Approach (Early Influence): Began taking shape post-WWII with a focus on community-driven learning.
· French École Maternelle (1881): Focuses on preparing children for primary education, with emphasis on language development and social skills.
· Bank Street (1916): Emphasizes the importance of play in learning and problem-solving skills development.
3. Preschool 3.0 (1970s-2000s): Collaborative STEM education, smart classrooms, and cultural sensitivity defined this phase. It marked an era of technological integration without losing the human touch.
· Reggio Emilia Approach: Prioritizing collaboration, self-expression, and community engagement.
· Waldorf Education: Holistic approach balancing academic, artistic, and practical skills.
· High Scope: Active participatory learning, promoting child independence and decision-making.
· Berlin Model (mid-20th century): Supports individual development paths, emphasizing language, mathematics, and natural sciences.
· The Creative Curriculum (1970s): Focuses on hands-on, experiential learning for skills and knowledge development.
· Te Whāriki (1996): A pioneering framework in New Zealand that has influenced early childhood education globally.
· Berlin Model (mid-20th century): Supports individual development paths, emphasizing language, mathematics, and natural sciences.
· Emergent Curriculum (late 20th century): Allows the curriculum to emerge based on children’s interests and needs.
· Curriculum Framework for Children 3 to 6 (China) (late 20th century): Focuses on whole-child development, including health, language, society, science, art, and morality.
4. Preschool 4.0 (2000s-2024s): Focusing on digital literacy, STEM education, adaptive learning technologies, and global collaboration, this stage embraced the global community, preparing children for a connected world.
· Project-Based Learning: Focus on complex tasks, reflecting real-world issues.
· STEAM Education: Integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics.
· 21st Century Skills Approach: Emphasizing critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.
· Inquiry-Based Learning (2000s): Develops critical thinking skills through exploration of open-ended questions and problems.
· Curriculum for Excellence (Scotland) (2004): Covers education from 3 to 18 years, focusing on skills for learning, life, and work.
· Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) (UK) (2008): Sets standards for children’s learning, development, and care from birth to five years old.
· Framework for Early Learning (Ireland) (2009): Emphasizes learning through play and exploration, involving family and community.
· Swedish Preschool Curriculum (2010): Focuses on play, development, learning, with emphasis on democracy, gender equality, and sustainable development.
· National Quality Framework (NQF) (Australia) (2012): Benchmarks for early childhood education, focusing on outcomes, health, and safety.
· Singapore’s Nurturing Early Learners (NEL) Framework (2013): Focuses on holistic development and active learning.
· Ontario’s Early Learning Framework (Canada) (2014): Guides programs with play-based learning across six areas of learning.
· India’s National Education Policy (NEP) 2020: A comprehensive framework that aims to transform India’s education system. It emphasizes early childhood care and education, fostering foundational literacy and numeracy, and promotes an integrated and flexible curriculum.
5. Preschool 5.0 (2025 and beyond): This futuristic model places emphasis on purpose-built infrastructure, a modern curriculum framework, personalized learning, virtual reality experiences, sustainability, ethics, and social responsibility, nurturing the holistic development of the child. Some of the elements of this model include:
· Blended Learning Models: Combining futuristic approach with ancient wisdom.
· Personalized Learning Pathways: Tailoring education to individual interests, needs, and abilities.
· Gamified Learning: Engaging children through virtual experiences and educational games.
· Sustainability Education: Teaching about ecological balance, sustainable development, and social responsibility.
· AI and Robotics Education:
a. Understanding AI Ethics: Educating children about responsible AI use, data privacy, and the potential social and ethical implications.
b. Robotics Interaction: Introducing robotic tools that encourage problem-solving, creativity, and collaboration, building familiarity with machines that will be common in the future.
c. AI-Enhanced Personalization: Using AI algorithms to create customized learning paths, adjusting the curriculum to each child’s pace and interests.
d. Preparing for Human-Machine Collaboration: Developing skills that foster effective collaboration with AI and robots, emphasizing the human skills that machines cannot replicate, such as empathy, ethics, and cultural understanding.
e. Career Readiness for AI-dominated World: Offering insights into potential future careers in technology, enabling children to explore and adapt to professions deeply intertwined with AI and robotics.
· Emphasis on Empathy, Ethics, and Holistic Human Development:
a. Cultivating Empathy: Encouraging children to understand and share the feelings of others, fostering compassion, kindness, and social bonds.
b. Teaching Ethics: Guiding children in developing a moral compass, understanding right from wrong, and respecting diversity and the environment.
c. Holistic Development Approach: Focusing on the complete well-being of the child, not just academic but also emotional, social, physical, and spiritual growth. Integrating traditional Indian values with modern pedagogy to create balanced individuals.
d. Values-Based Education: Embedding core human values into the curriculum, activities, and daily interactions to make values an integral part of children’s lives.
e. Mindfulness Practices: Incorporating mindfulness exercises like yoga and meditation, aiding children in self-awareness, emotional regulation, and focus.
f. Parent-Teacher Collaboration: Building strong partnerships with families to reinforce these values at home, ensuring consistent value education across home and school environments.
g. Community Service Opportunities: Providing opportunities for children to engage in community service, teaching them social responsibility, and the importance of giving back.
Our Model — Preschool 5.0
I am proposing a model, which needs further research and experimentation to be made more robust and effective. The model aims to address the learning needs of a child right from his birth. It includes elements that impact prenatal learning and the physical and mental wellness of both the mother and the child from an early stage.
It is a complex, multidimensional approach to early education, seeking to bridge the gap between ancient wisdom and modern technological advancement. This model looks beyond conventional educational boundaries to create a comprehensive, holistic, and integrative framework for child development.
I believe that the development and implementation of this hybrid model could lead to a transformative change in early education, not only in India but potentially across the globe, setting a new paradigm for how we nurture, educate, and prepare our children for the future.
Some of the key elements of the model include:
a. Prenatal Learning: Recognizing that learning begins in the womb, this model emphasizes the importance of the mother’s well-being and the early exposure to positive stimuli like sound, taste, and light. It seeks to foster a nurturing environment even before birth, tapping into the natural ability of the foetus to sense and react to the external world.
b. Hybrid Approach: Leveraging both ancient Indian civilizational wisdom and futuristic technologies, the model creates a seamless blend of tradition and innovation. By integrating aspects of the gurukul system with AI-driven tools, it offers a unique combination of time-tested methods and cutting-edge practices.
c. Home, Preschool, and Community Integration: Breaking free from the limitations of the four walls of a preschool, the model extends the learning environment into the home and the larger community. By weaving family, educators, and community members into a unified learning ecosystem, it nurtures children’s empathy, values, habits, ethos, culture, and wellness.
d. Physical and Mental Wellness: Acknowledging the integral relationship between mind and body, the model prioritizes both physical and mental wellness. It seeks to cultivate mindfulness practices, physical activities, and mental resilience from an early age.
e. Art and Musical Abilities: Encouraging creativity and artistic expression, the model recognizes the importance of arts and music in cognitive and emotional development. It fosters a natural appreciation for aesthetics, harmony, and creativity.
f. Global Citizenship and Human-AI Collaboration: Preparing children for a world where human-machine collaboration is the norm, the model emphasizes skills that facilitate effective interactions with advanced robots and AI frameworks. It strives to cultivate global citizens who are technologically adept yet firmly grounded in humanistic values.
g. 8x8 Matrix: Mapping the 64 “kalas” or arts and sciences of ancient India with the eight intelligences proposed by Howard Gardner, this matrix serves as a comprehensive framework. It helps tailor the educational experience to individual children’s strengths, catering to different learning styles and fostering a well-rounded growth.
The ancient gurukul system is known to have imparted 64 “kalas” or “arts and science” to students. Now, with a vision to create a hybrid model I have created a 8x8 matrix mapping 64 kalas of ancient India with the 8 intelligences propounded by Howard Gardner (father of multiple intelligences).
You may have noticed that these 64 kalas are from a different timeline and therefore not entirely relevant for the world of 2040 and beyond. Recognizing these challenges I have tweaked the kalas to meet the needs of the future but keeping the above framework intact. Please note that many of the skills required in the world of 2040 and beyond are hard to predict and remain speculative.
It can be observed that many of these skills cannot be imparted to children in the age group of 2–6 years and in a preschool / school set up. With a view to make it relevant to preschool educators, the following matrix has been created, which hopefully can be fitted into the preschool 5.0 model.
Preschool 5.0 is designed to provide a holistic learning environment that supports the unique needs of each child. The facilities and activities offered by Preschool 5.0 may include:
1. Adaptive Curriculum: A curriculum that is tailored to the individual interests and learning styles of each child.
2. Innovative Leaders and Teachers: A talent pool of leaders and teachers who have a futuristic outlook and are open to continuously learning and evolving.
3. Purpose Built Infrastructure: A modern infrastructure which is a purpose built preschool
4. Sustainable Architecture: A focus on environmental stewardship and sustainability.
5. Flexible Learning Spaces: Classrooms that can be adapted to meet the needs of different activities and learning styles.
6. Nature Connection: Opportunities for children to connect with nature and learn about the environment.
7. Global Collaboration: Partnerships with schools and organizations around the world to provide children with a global perspective.
8. Emphasis on Soft Skills: A focus on developing the soft skills that children need to succeed in school and life, such as empathy, creativity, and collaboration.
9. Innovative Facilities and Activities: A focus on creating a stimulating and engaging learning facilities and activities that encourages children to explore and learn.
10. Technology Integration: The use of technology to enhance learning and creativity.
Preschool 5.0 is more than a model; it’s a visionary approach that sets a new standard for early childhood education, imbued with the vibrant ethos of India. Offering a harmonious blend of an adaptive curriculum, state-of-the-art facilities, global collaboration, and a strong emphasis on human values, it’s a resonating ode to the future.
Aligned with the futuristic vision of the Fifth Industrial Revolution and integrating insights from best-in-class preschools, the Vision for Preschool 5.0 prepares children for a future adorned with artificial intelligence, advanced robots, and unprecedented technological advancements, all while preserving the essence of humanity. It signifies the dawn of a new era in early childhood education, grounded in creativity, innovation, and holistic child development, a reflection of India’s rich heritage and forward-thinking dynamism.
HSR Layout, Bangalore, Bangalore Urban, Karnataka, India