Amita Gupta: Upcoming Speaking Engagements

Thursday July 17, 2014 (3-5pm): National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) - New Delhi

Book Talk - Diverse Early Childhood Education Policies and Practices: Voices and Images from Five Countries in Asia


Thursday September 18, 2014 (5-7pm): Columbia University Teachers College, New York

Book Talk - Diverse Early Childhood Education Policies and Practices: Voices and Images from Five Countries in Asia


Friday October 17, 2014 (6-8pm): Asian American-Asian Research Institute of CUNY (AAARI): New York

Book Talk - Diverse Early Childhood Education Policies and Practices: Voices and Images from Five Countries in Asia


November 4-6, 2014: World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), Qatar Foundation, Doha

Speaker: Participant in debate on Early Childhood Education

 

November 18, 2014: Center for Worker Education (CWE - CUNY), New York

Book Talk - Diverse Early Childhood Education Policies and Practices: Voices and Images from Five Countries in Asia



November 22, 2014: The India Center, Baruch College, New York

Speaker at The India Festival


Urban preschools in India: Two vastly different settings in Mumbai and Kolkata

My biannual visits to India usually include school visits to a variety of early childhood centers. I am always struck by how many new schools for young children are opened each year and quickly fill up to capacity, highlighting the dearth of good preschools even in the heart of urban centers. It seems that new schools cannot mushroom fast enough to keep pace with the burgeoning populations in Indian cities. My most recent visits included a new private preschool and day care in Mumbai, and a small one-room preschool for street children located in a high-crime area in the heart of Kolkata. Both these schools are as different as day and light, and yet both these schools share the same core beliefs: valuing the child, and teaching with passion and commitment.

Earlier this week in Mumbai I was scheduled to speak at a new preschool where I have been a founding consultant. The Courtyard Day Care and Early Learning Center accepts infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children. It was launched in August 2013 and is marking its first anniversary this summer. Nestled in the heart of a busy bustling neighborhood of South Mumbai, The Courtyard is located on the ground floor of a large commercial complex. But once inside visitors are enthralled by the multiple rooms with hardwood floors, brightly painted walls, as well as the colorful artwork of children that is displayed profusely within the school. It is a space that promises children and their families safe nurturing. It is a space that is open to diverse ideas from within the field of early education, and one that will support a balance between imaginative play and academic work. I met with the parents and teachers to discuss topics in early childhood education and was just delighted with the passion, dedication and commitment to early learning that they demonstrated.

A few months back when I was in Kolkata presenting at a conference, my friend and colleague took me to visit a small one-room preschool called Naba Disha, managed by the NGO Vikramshila and located in a high crime area. Some years ago the founder of the NGO (an experienced early childhood educator who has started and managed other schools for street children) was approached by the local police to start an educational program for the street children in this neighborhood with the hope that over the years it would decrease the crime rate in the area. The lack of space did not deter those who were involved. In a decision that was based on sheer imagination, innovation and determination, a large garbage receptacle that measured approximately 30x10 feet was cleaned out, painted, equipped with toys and learning materials, and voila! A school was ready to offer early learning experiences. The founder combined her Montessori training with some core ideas of child-centered progressive education, trained a couple of local women to teach the children, and successfully created a wonderful learning environment in which children love to be and which continues to thrive today. The rich array of learning materials that are mostly teacher made and locally found demonstrate clever imagination and promise a culturally relevant experience for the children in the classroom.

Yes, there is a dire need for good schools for young children regardless whether they belong to economically privileged or disadvantaged families. And yes, good early childhood education can happen in small spaces or large, in affluent areas or slums, with store-bought or teacher-made materials, in English or Bengali. What matters most is teachers’ dedication, their love for children, their desire for the educational welfare of children, and their belief that all children have the right to go to school and experience joyful learning.

New Book on Early Childhood Education!

My latest book titled "Diverse Early Childhood Education Policies and Practices: Voices and Images from Five Countries in Asia" has just been released by Routledge and is hot off the press! Please share this information with colleagues and friends who might be interested in researching and teaching comparative and international early childhood education. 

In the weeks to come I will be highlighting sections of this book and posting selected excerpts from various chapters to give you a flavor of the book.

Stay tuned!


How far does parent involvement in schools enhance children's academic success?

Findings from an interesting study were published in The Atlantic on the effect of parent involvement on children's academic achievements. The researchers looked at several factors such as parents who were more involved physically in the school, and those who were more involved with their children's academic work at home, as well as the socio-economic situation of the families. Read the article at the following link for the results!

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/04/and-dont-help-your-kids-with-their-homework/358636/


Skills that really matter....

According to a recent op-ed by Tom Friedman, Google's hiring criteria focus strongly on the demonstration of soft skills such as "leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn"...the sense of responsibility to step in when needed and the humility to step back and embrace the better ideas of others'... recognizing that in order to be "an effective leader in this environment you have to be willing to relinquish power.”

Many of these skills form the basis of good early childhood pedagogy and it may help if early childhood education beliefs and practices were extended up into the higher grades in schools rather than allowing a test-driven curriculum filter down into early childhood classrooms. 

To read the entire piece by Friedman go to

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/opinion/sunday/friedman-how-to-get-a-job-at-google.html?_r=1


In New York the spotlight is on early childhood education!

These are exciting days for some of us in New York City with the focus of both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo squarely on expanding and universalizing Pre-K. But along with the excitement is also the trepidation of how some of the inevitable challenges will be overcome - procuring the funds, finding the space in a densely populated city, maintaining an adequate supply of well qualified Pre-K teachers... As the mayor's office works with early childhood educators and teacher educators in New York City it would serve us all well to keep an open mind and find examples of already implemented early childhood educational models to examine. As an ancient saying goes: Good ideas come to us from all directions. One such model was featured yesterday in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/27/nyregion/to-expand-prekindergarten-new-york-may-find-model-in-new-jersey.html?_r=0