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Early Childhood Care and Education - Nature Vis-a-vis Nurture l English Article by Sukanya Bharadwaj

 Early Childhood Care and Education - Nature Vis-a-vis Nurture

(An excerpt from the research paper on ECCE presented at Convoke 2020)

 A child is often likened to a seedling. Just like to grow into a healthy plant, a seedling requires tender care and nourishment, so does a child in his early years, need affection and care for proper growth and development. An ideal environment is the other quintessential factor that influences their growth in early childhood. It assumes relevance here as, whatever they see, hear and learn at this age has the strongest impact on their psyche. This is the stage where nearly 90% of the brain development takes place, as it also sets the trajectory for the child's lifelong learning and well being. 

          In India the period between 0 to 6 years is considered as early childhood. Early Childhood refers to the formative stage of the first six years of a life with well marked sub-stages (conception to birth; birth to three years and three to six years) having age specific needs. Hence, Early Childhood Care and Education(ECCE) centres around the attention from the caregiver which ensures a holistic development of the child, including his physical, social, emotional and cognitive abilities, that go beyond being a mere preparation for primary school. Parents and the home environment play a significant role here and can provide maximum stimulation towards development of healthy habits attitudes and behavior. Once the child joins school the same role is shifted to teachers and the school environment. The study however, delves into the question whether nurture alone is the determining factor in child's growth in the early years or does his/her inherent nature too have a bearing on it. 

        Though in the first three years more focus is given on care, yet nurture alone cannot cater to a child’s much needed growth needs. Nature and nurture both plays a vital role in the child’s development at this stage. Every child is born unique. As parents and educators we need to accommodate their individual differences while supporting their growth. Just like cherry, peach, and plum mature at different times so does a child grows at his own pace. Thus, while nurturing them we need patience to allow their growth according to their pace and respect their individuality.  While nature refers to all the genetically acquired characters that dominates a child’s behaviour, nurture on the other  is the surrounding or environment which has a direct influence on the child’s development. Needless to say that nurture facilitates modification and adaptation of the child's behaviour. Infact both nature and nurture are indispensable aspects in the child’s growth and development process.

The uniqueness of the child becomes apparent from behavioral traits, interests, temperaments that he displays in varied situations. Conventionally, child care providers be it parents, teachers or any other, often either overlook or are ignorant of the child's individual difference. Even though government initiatives aim at recognizing the child’s individual difference  and fostering them accordingly, yet when implemented the thrust gets limited to child's well-being usually only concerning nutrition, immunizations and achieving growth milestones. Where again the child’s entity as separate individuals doesn't get due attention. In this way the whole intention of ensuring child’s holistic development stands defeated. This is largely an outcome of inadequate understanding of the concept of ECCE and its basic premises, its philosophy and importance among all stakeholders. At a young age the kids are generally curious about everything they see, sense and experience. Hence enrollment in an early learning centre that provides rich experience contributing to their overall development becomes imperative.

  Parents need to realize that our children are sovereign beings and they have a mind of their own. Imposing their unfulfilled hopes and aspirations and trying to realize them through their children sometimes even kills their individual potential which cannot be restored later. It’s a common tendency among parents and care providers to expect their child to excel. The flipside of the story also entells that often parents try to realize their unfulfilled desires through their child without even caring to know the child’s area of interest. In worse cases an unhealthy competition grows with other children of the same age where comparisons are made between them. 

When a child is just about the age to stand upright, the activity he derives great joy from is, doodling on the walls of his house with some writeable material. In the process he may accidently draw forms that resemble things from the real world. Some parents here start looking for a child prodigy in him, while on the other he performs such activities merely for muscular coordination. As eminent educationist Maria Montessori puts it, “Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child open up himself to life. How often do we allow the child to discover his own self? The nurture we give to the child should only allow him space to discover his innate qualities and interests, be it during the informal home learning stage or early schooling. Respecting the child's sovereignty does not however mean that no effort is needed from guardians in making him disciplined. Rather, they have a huge role to play in training their senses towards routine, order and discipline. This is the best time to teach them good habits which leads to a modification in their behaviour. Having daily routines is also essential as it orients in his mind a sense of structure, that he gets habituated to. Habits are hard to imbibe at a later stage, so to mould traits of rightful behaviour, there cannot be a better time to train the tender minds.The only thing that needs to be paid attention by care givers is that they have to adapt to the child's accepted mode of learning. 

       Another thrust area of ECCE is to enable the child to make effective communication and foster both receptive and expressive language. Knowledge of mother tongue gives them a better understanding of everything; helps express themselves well and enjoy their own culture. Besides, knowledge of one’s culture paves way to a lot of enriching activities that helps them to know and identify their culture. Story telling and drama are very effective exercises towards expanding the child’s intellectual and creative horizons. It also helps them to understand their own culture. In this age of growing digitalization, the early learning centres/schools have a vital role in recognizing and valuing the human interaction skills. Every child learns social skills by observing and imitating adults around them. The environment whether home or school must provide them with positive role models. At the same time they should train the child in certain social skills like: 

• Expressing their emotions

• Communicating thoughts appropriate to his age upon attaining 2-3 years.

• Listening-Though the listening skill is innate it needs to be enhanced by providing them opportunities for listening.

• Free talking sessions- Early leaning centres should provide enough scope to the child for interaction and talk with his peers.

• Provide Scope for exploration-Children have active imagination and ability to explore their surrounding by using their curiosity without inhibition.

• Stimulating Curiosity- Stimulating their curiosity makes them ready for future learning.

              According to Kartz theory noof disposition, “we should provide lots of opportunities for children’s natural curiosity to manifest itself. With very young children our role is that of a supporter, guide and facilitator.” 

           Play it is said is the index of social development. Nothing works better than play for young children. Most of what children need to learn during their early childhood years cannot be taught; It is discovered through play. Play is a child’s favorite way of learning. Play provides a forum for exploring, inventing, thinking, relaxing and inculcating a host of other values. This activity alone helps the child discover the joy of freedom, while also prepares him for both victory and defeat which in turn foster in them the quality of acceptance. Again it is a means to discover his strengths and weaknesses. With play a child also learns to negotiate with self problems and adjust with peers. According to Kartz theory of disposition, “we should provide lots of opportunities for children’s natural curiosity to manifest itself. With very young children our role is that of a supporter and guide.” 

     Considering a child’s sovereignty, we should never impose education on a child. The only way to do it is by motivating the child and creating readiness in him for learning through activities that he takes interest in. This however may vary from child to child and again the onus is on the guardian to figure out these areas of interest in every child. Stimulation should be in the form of activities that create maximum curiosity and activate his own desire to learn The study revealed that nature and nurture are equal determinants of child's development at the early stage. Both go hand in hand in the process of fostering growth in the child.

        A good ECCE programme respects the different pace of development of all children and ensures that the child develops physically, socially, emotionally, morally and intellectually to their full potential. Tender care and nurture is food for his growth .Giving each child the best start is therefore an assurance of a better future.

Sukanya Bharadwaj

Writer's Address:

Sukanya Bharadwaj

Assistant Teacher

Upperdani High School 

Rani Block


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