An integrated pedagogical and curricular framework for the foundational stage: insights from enactment of child-centred early childhood education policies
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The National Education Policy (2020) and the National Curriculum Framework for Foundational Stage (2022) have introduced a new integrated pedagogical and curricular framework for children in the age group of 3-8 years, who are at present covered under pre-primary and primary schools. What does this integration of two stages, each with its own history and policies, but sharing a common vision of a child-centred approach to learning, mean for the ground-level actors in the public system? I explore this question through an examination of how the two key educators of the 3-8 age group, the anganwadi worker and the Class 1-2 teacher, seen as a dyad working in the same socio-cultural context, but under different government ministries, enact early childhood education policies that belong to the same ‘policy archive’ of child-centred discourse. I draw on the policy enactment literature to study how discursive interpretations of policy, the manner in which structures selectively shape action, and the agentic actions of actors, combine to shape educational practice. I adopt an interpretivist approach to the analysis. Non-participant observations of the teacher-anganwadi worker practice in six villages of Gujarat, India, semi-structured interviews of the educators, and analysis of various policy documents were the main methods used. A within-case analysis of the six sites was followed by a cross-case thematic analysis. In addition, secondary data on projects carried out by Class-1 teachers to address perceived deficiencies at the entry level was analyzed to develop an understanding of the disjuncture between the two stages. The key finding of this study is that the dominant patterns of structured interactions of the two sets of educators with various stakeholders are similar (consonant), but they serve to uphold negative educational outcomes. In a few cases, the non-dominant counter-discursive attempts to change structures show the possibilities that training systems can build upon. It is, therefore, important to assess the net impact of policy enactment in a common setting through a study of the actors’ consonant-dissonant actions in upholding-challenging dysfunctional structures. Governmental training systems must inculcate a sense of shared responsibility but concerted action for a successful integrated foundational stage.
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