With the inspiration drawn from foreign countries, pre-primary education took root in the Indian soil. This system for the first time came into existence in Germany and it has come to India from there. As such, for its proper study it is necessary to have a glimpse of its progress in the Western countries.
Pre-primary Schools in the West:
In the Kindergarten school set up by Froebel, children of four years of age were admitted and they were taught things relating to personal conduct through play and games. Besides, some practical knowledge was also imparted to them in a psychological manner. This system introduced by Froebel proved very successful.
Mrs. Margaret Macmillan, keeping in view the proper physical, mental and intellectual development of children started nursery schools. The main aim of these schools was to keep babies in the care of efficient matrons in the school and give them proper guidance. These institutions provided fresh and healthy atmosphere to children living in slums and in densely populated areas. Children between the ages of two and four years were kept in these nurseries.
Later, Dr. Maria Montessori established Montessori schools where the Montessori system of education was introduced. The child in a Montessori school is provided with equipments and he himself learns independently with the aid of these equipments. In these way children from two years to six years of age received pre-primary education.
The importance of pre-primary schools should be realized and the responsibility that rests on a country and society in relation to pre-primary schools, Pre-primary is that stage of education which leaves its mark on the entire life.
It is because of this that lot of care is taken in developing children in 4 psychological manners. Out of the three, i.e. the Froebel, the Nursery and the Montessori systems, any one may be adopted. These schools provide an all-round development of children, i.e., they try to develop a child mentally, physically and morally.
Regular medical examination takes place in the pre- primary schools for ensuring proper physical development. Children are given ample opportunity to enjoy fresh air and ample sunshine. They are given nourishing diet. Good habits are developed in them to ensure good character.
In order to develop their personality and infuse in them a sense of respect towards the society they are taught how to live and adjust themselves in society during the play hours.
Besides, their relations with their families are strengthened. In this way while engaged in play, the child builds his character and develops his personality. He is given education in arts, language, arithmetic and music in a psychological manner.
Pre-primary Education in India:
There were 330 pre-primary schools in India in 1951-52 but in 1957 this number was almost doubled and now over four hundred schools or more are being opened every year since then.
In these schools the Montessori or the Kindergarten system is adopted along with games and sports. But the government has always been apathetic in this sphere.
The pre-primary schools lack equipments due to shortage of funds. The pace of progress being slow, there is a dearth of trained teachers and child literature in this field of education.
It is difficult to deny the importance and value of pre- primary education. Pre-primary education may be regarded as pre-requisite to primary education. So proper arrangement should be made for it. The efforts of Dr. Montessori and the recommendations of Sargent Scheme have attracted some persons in the field of pre-primary education in India.
New Experiments and Researches:
In view of the importance of pre-primary education, educationists in India have begun to pay some attention to this vital stage of education. So far the pre-primary age for children in India has been from three to six years. But now the educationists have divided it into four stages;
(1) prenatal period, (2) upto the age of two and a half years from the day of birth, (3) from two and a half years to four years, and (4) from four to six years.
The child remains solely in contact with his mother since conception to the age of two and a half years. As such, there is a need of maternity welfare centres attached with pre-primary schools. After this age, the child may receive education independent of his mother in schools.
During this period the teacher is required to study minutely the child’s tendencies and aptitudes and create accordingly an atmosphere for his education and all-round development.
Careful handling and regular medical examination is needed to ensure his proper physical development. He is taught language, art, arithmetic, science and music in a psychological manner through the medium of play.
So far we have had to adopt the foreign system in the sphere of pre-primary education such as Froebel, Montessori or play-way systems. But now efforts are being made and new researches are being conducted in order to evolve a pattern suiting the Indian atmosphere. Now a mixed system comprising of Montessori and pre-basic system has been adopted by many schools in our country.
The Bhav Nagar Bal Shikshan Sangh is evolving a new system by incorporating the good qualities of both the above mentioned systems. There, therefore, appears to be a bright future for pre-primary education in India.