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Friday, December 23, 2011

Can we offer value education at pre-school level?


I visited a pre-school last month where value education is being given to children below 6. If you visit the website of Living value international, you will understand the work that is being done to inculcate values at the stage of school. Values that are typically inculcated are of peace, respect, love, responsibility, honesty, cooperation, humility and others.

Although i could see the huge effort to inculcate values, i am not sure if it is really useful if given in the way it is typically given. Let me explain.

As the child's mind is absorbent mind till the age of 6, that i talked about in my blog , the child takes in things without understanding anything. How can such a mind 'understand' the concept of 'peace' or 'humility' which is very nebulous, vague and requires 'conscious intelligent mind' to comprehend ? At this stage, the child cannot even comprehend the difference between 'real and unreal', which is why when such a child is introduced to 'unreal' stories of comics and fairy tales, his mind absorbs it unconsciously and becomes a 'chaotic mass of impressions'.

Although the child, due to his absorbent mind, may 'recite' the meaning of values verbatim, he is not likely to practice them until he understands them ( which is unlikely because he is still developing his intelligence). In such a situation, can something be done to help the child 'imbibe' values before the age of 6? The answer is definite yes, but it will only work if it is done by following the laws of the child's nature, not by avoiding it. Here are some suggestions:

1. As the child's mind is absorbent mind, he learns through constant observing and repeating the 'behaviour'  he sees around him. This is the dominant mode of learning at this age. If the child has to 'imbibe' these values at this age, it will only 'imbibe' them, only if the environment around him is nurturing that type of behaviour.

That is why Montessori method of promoting the value of 'social development' through design of the environment is so effective. We have seen how through design of the environment, Montessori method enables child to imbibe the social skills ( which sometimes are also called values) such as  'patience' and  'respect'.

2. Because the child's mind is absorbent mind till 6, these values cannot be 'taught' in a class-room fashion through instruction or even facilitation, as is done in a traditional school.

One has to ensure that the behaviour is practiced infront of the child consistently to make him 'absorb' the value, so to say. For instance, if you are trying to enable the child to show 'respect', he will 'learn respect' only if the behaviour is consistently practiced with him and infront of him.

Consistency is the key.  If he does not want to eat, and you are pushing him to eat because it is lunch time, you are not showing your 'respect' to his views that 'he is not hungry'. If you want your child to play till, say 6 pm, you have to show him respect by telling him 'he can play till 6 pm' beforehand. You cannot just 'tell him to stop playing abruptly' at 6 pm.

3. Because 'values' are tied to 'behaviour', it is better to relate the value to the child's interpretation of value rather than your interpretation. For instance, if the child of age 5 says that 'respect' means 'not interrupting another child when he is working', you should resist 'giving' your definition of value to him.

More importantly, you should not 'force' the child to 'practice' the behaviour because it is 'right'. The child is more likely to practice the behaviour only if he 'voluntarily accepts' to practice it. Do not force any agenda in value education. Instead it is far more prudent to let the child dictate the agenda. As systems thinkers say Slow is fast.

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