Study Abroad in India!!

"Thirteen students,  mix of undergraduates, graduate and Phd candidates from three institutions, make up the first cohort of participants in the new City College of New York-India Study Abroad program starting on January 1 in New Delhi. Ten of the group are from City College, two from The Graduate Center, CUNY; and one from Lehman College..."

Read more at:

Diverse Early Childhood Education: Policies and Practices --- Chapter 4

Teaching Character, Citizenship, and Cultural Values

Chapter 4 highlights the widespread emphasis observed in the teaching of character, citizenship and cultural values in schools across Asia. Descriptions of school environments and classrooms are accompanied with a discussion to highlight how many of the curriculum decisions made and values taught in the classrooms were reflective of larger national and cultural values in these societies.

Passages from Chapter 4:

"...A cultural value that is central to the Asian worldview and which appeared to be emphasized in schools, homes and in general society is the “importance given to guests and strangers – people who represent the “other”. The notion of hospitality is pervasive and made a strong appearance during my meetings with the participants” (Gupta, 2013, p. 73). Within the socio-cultural context of India, for instance, a deeper explanation for this phenomenon “may possibly be found in the ancient scriptures where it is clearly written “atitih devo bhavah” which implies that your guest is like your God. Thus across the various socio-economic classes and castes in Indian society, it is believed that a guest should be welcomed with the utmost respect and hospitality, and this belief is practiced actively and widely…extending hospitality toward a guest or a stranger is accorded high priority in the scheme of duty..." This value given to hospitality was found in schools and institutions across other Asian cultures as well..." (page 77).

"...At the Singapore Neon primary school I was met by the principal and two teachers who welcomed me into a large meeting room with a long conference table set up for a power point presentation. Along one wall of the room was a table with refreshments: coffee, tea, mini fruit tarts, and Chinese carrot cake which is not at all the carrot cake I was familiar with. This version is a rectangular piece made by steaming rice flour with shredded turnip in it, and then deep frying the steamed cake after coating with a light batter. I have to say the carrot cake and the fruit tarts were just delicious, and our hosts were extremely receptive and attentive to us – welcoming and hospitable..." (page 78).

"...When I visited Dogwood Kindergarten in China, I was greeted warmly and effusively by the school principal and assistant principal. They spent two hours taking me around the school and introducing me to the teachers in each classroom, and allowing me to carefully observe the classrooms, interact with the children and take pictures. In each classroom, the teachers encouraged one of the children to greet me and present me with a gift: a piece of art or craftwork that children had made during their classroom activities..." (page 78).

"...One of the most memorable moments was in Sri Lanka. I was scheduled to meet with a group of early childhood educators - five women who were mostly retired or close to retiring from active service, but all of whom had been pioneers in the field of early education in Sri Lanka having been deans, founding chairs and professors in universities. They could be credited to laying down the foundations for the field of pre-primary and primary education by initiating and leading national projects for the Sri Lankan government in the 1960’s and 70’s. After an enthusiastic and very informative conversation with the group, my host invited us all to her home for lunch in my honor. That she had organized a feast is a complete understatement as the lunch included at least 10 local Sri Lankan dishes..." (page 79).

Read more  in Chapter 4 about other character, citizenship, and cultural values emphasized in schools in Asia.

Diverse Early Childhood Education: Policies and Practices --- Chapter 3

Play-based and Child-centered Pedagogy

Chapter 3 is focused more closely on this policy shift from a traditional approach to a play-based and child-centered pedagogy. The chapter begins with the definition of a “child-centered” pedagogy as constructed within the progressive education framework in the “west”. It further includes a description and discussion of where, how and to what extent the policy changes in Asia are/are not being reflected in local classroom practices with regard to teachers’ perceptions on play, the classroom environments, and curriculum planning.

Passages from Chapter 3 (pages 22-24):

"...Within the western discourse of play in early childhood education, however, there seems to be some consensus on very fundamental characteristics of play such as: play is incompletely functional and the actions involved do not contribute to a goal; play is spontaneous, rewarding or voluntary; it has a repetitive quality; it can be fragmented and exaggerated; it is initiated in the absence of acute stress; and there is a preference for performance over outcomes (Burghardt, 2011; Smith, 2010). But with national debates focusing so intently on play-based pedagogies there is no doubt that early childhood educators world over feel the intense pressure to justify that play is learning, and activities done in the classrooms are characterized and labeled as learning through play.

            The above ideas that accompany the conceptualization of a child-centered and play-based pedagogy are, nevertheless, still challenged in their actual implementation in the classrooms of most schools in the developing world. The practical application of child-centered approaches is consistently challenged by the difficult ground realities of classrooms...

• cultural incursions that occur due to conflicting worldviews;

• political contexts that do not support the democratic essence of learner-centered education,

• inadequate space available in schools and classrooms;

• inadequate basic health care and nutrition available to all children;

• scarcity of basic supplies in schools and classrooms such as furniture, running water, electricity and sanitation facilities;

• inadequate classroom resources including learning materials, time and space;

• teachers who have inadequately, or never, been trained in the pedagogy of play and child-centered approaches, and who are unable to make classroom decisions on a regular basis with regard to the use of classroom materials and the use of classroom time.

• teachers who have been inadequately trained and equipped with the tools and time to document children’s voices/experiences to create assessment portfolios which are key to assess individual children in a learner-centered classroom. Assessment techniques recommended in the “western” discourse of child-centered education include capturing moments of children’s play and work using tools like cameras, camcorders, anecdotal reports, and observations of children in centers like the block area, book corner, writing center, dramatic play, art center;

• large class sizes which do not support the one-on-one teacher child instruction that is central to learner-centered pedagogy, children in classrooms of 40-60  cannot voluntarily engage with activities related to their interests;

• children who do not start school equipped with decision-making skills that are essential to successfully navigating a child-centered and choice-based classroom, and are unfamiliar with making choices with regard to their engagement with classroom life

...The last two items on this list are, perhaps the most challenging in terms of cultural differences and reflect on the fundamental nature of the Asian worldview regarding the child-adult relationship: first, there is generally, a longer dependency period and a more extended child-adult continuity within Asian families; and second, the right to choose according to one’s own interest is based on an individual-orientation worldview, whereas general childrearing practices in Asia are based on a group-orientation worldview.

Tobin et al (2009) demonstrate that schools in urban China have embraced an emphasis on dramatic and imaginative play in the early childhood curriculum because the stakeholders there are now viewing imagination and creativity to be the prerequisite skills for later success in entrepreneurship. But here too, as is to be expected, the full implementation of this pedagogy is challenged by factors such as teachers’ own inexperience in play and play methods; and parents’ expectations for skill mastery in playing musical instruments, writing Chinese characters, and knowing how to use the abacus to solve math problems (Vong, 2012)..."

Diverse Early Childhood Education: Policies and Practices --- Chapter 1

 Introduction: Expanding the Discourse of Early Childhood Education and Teacher Education

Chapter 1 introduces the book with a narrative account of existing tensions between the dominant discourse and local practices in non-western school settings. The chapter emphasizes the interfacing of local and global elements in the creation of a hybrid space in some classroom practices in Asia, and urges the development and expansion of a third space in theory based on research conducted in the local context. A discussion on the conceptual frameworks utilized in the study follows, with an overview of the current global spotlight on early childhood education. The chapter ends with a brief overview of the research methodology underlying this study.

Passages taken from Chapter 1:

"...Cross-cultural research has indeed consistently highlighted the different constructions of childhood within diverse social, political, and cultural contexts (Cannella, 1997; Bloch, 1992; Kessler, 1991,1992; Delpit, 1995; Katz, 1996; Viruru, 2001; Trawick-Smith, 2006; Gupta, 2006; Tobin et al., 2009; Marfo & Biersteker, 2011; Brooker, 2011). However, for the longest time, it has been the Western voice and knowledge that have dominated the early childhood educational discourse. Emerging diversities regarding images of children and childhood have thus worked to create a tension between the Western discourse of early childhood education and teacher education theory, and the cultural worldviews of the non-West..." (page 1)

"...This then begs the question of how the “voice” of pedagogy and educational theory can be made more inclusive and multilayered. A good place to start is by asking what it is that sustains the status quo of educational and teacher education theory and what prevents it from incorporating a more expansive knowledge base. Referring to the important ways in which indigenous knowledge could contribute to the educational experience of all students, Semali and Kincheloe note that “because of the rules of evidence and the dominant rules of epistemologies of Western knowledge production, such understandings are deemed irrelevant by the academic gatekeepers” (Semali & Kincheloe, 1999, p. 15)..." (page 2).

"...Curricular reformers in Asia today are grappling with the hegemonical expectations of Western culture at the global level on one hand and the need for a more culturally relevant curriculum at the local level on the other hand. During the course of this research in Asia, it was observed that many educational centers/schools for young children were touting philosophies and mission statements that were couched heavily in the language of the Western discourse. Being seen as an “international school,” a “world-class school,” a school having “global standards,” a school based on “international methods” and offering “English-medium instruction” seemed all of a sudden to afford the centers credibility and make them eligible for funding from a variety of local, national, and international sources. This is painfully reminiscent of the educational policies in colonial India that required schools to use English as the language of instruction if they were to be funded by the British Administration. Today, that language of pedagogy is taken from the progressive discourse of the West against whose standards schools are evaluated around the world...." (page 4).

For more, please read Chapter 1 in this book.

Diverse Early Childhood Education: Policies and Practices

The full title of my book that was published by Routledge in 2014 is:

Diverse Early Childhood Education: Policies and Practices

Voices and Images from Five Countries in Asia

In subsequent posts I will be highlighting one chapter at a time, providing a chapter overview, as well as a passage taken from the text.

Stay tuned!!

The wide teacher pay gap continues to grow

This new Report from the Economic Policy Institute published on August 9, 2016 only continues to reiterate the sad and disappointing perception widely held on teaching as a profession. The most important way to improve the quality of education is to ensure that teachers have the respect and status that they need and deserve:

"...An effective teacher is the most important school-based determinant of education outcomes. It is therefore crucial that school districts recruit and retain high-quality teachers. This is particularly difficult at a time when the supply of teachers is constrained by high turnover rates, annual retirements of longtime teachers, and a decline in students opting for a teaching career—and when demand for teachers is rising due to rigorous national student performance standards and many locales’ mandates to shrink class sizes..."

Read the Report here:

The Biochemistry of Motherhood

In this 2015 article published in The Atlantic, author Adrienne Lafrance describes the biochemical reactions that take place within a woman as she starts her journey into motherhood. In fact, the Lafrance explains that the parenting instincts kick in for both new mothers and new fathers: "...the blueprint for mothering behavior exists in the brain even before a woman has children.Perhaps, then, motherhood really is like secret space in a woman's brain, waiting to be discovered. "Although only mothers experience pregnancy, birth, and lactation, and these provide powerful primers for the expression of maternal care via amygdala sensitization," researchers wrote, "evolution created other pathways for adaptation to the parental role in human fathers, and these alternative pathways come with practice, attunement, and day-by-day caregiving"....",26e397a7-d884-9452-cb37-2aa827fbadcahttp://

The research article on the father's brain being sensitive to childcare experiences can be read here:

A Starbucks inspired clasroom

In a delightful article Kayla Delzer writes about re-designing the classroom.

" my local Starbucks and, looking around, I realized that everyone seemed to be happy, engaged in their work, and relaxed. Some people chose the traditional chairs and tables while I opted for a big, comfy chair with my MacBook on my lap. The quiet music, perfect lighting, and overall aesthetics of the coffee shop were favorable for a variety of learners. And if I wanted to switch up my seat during my stay, I was free to do just that. That's when I decided that our classroom in 2015-2016 was going to look radically different than anything I'd ever done before..."

"To see that some classrooms look the same now as they did 70 years ago is shameful. The students we share our classrooms with don't know life without constant connectivity, wi-fi, and a global audience. Outside the windows of our classroom is a dynamic, fast-paced, and ever-changing world full of choices. How can we expect our students to solve problems and make choices independently if we constantly solve their problems and make their choices for them? Our classroom environments should be conducive to open collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking..." 

For more click on the link below: