Rethinking the purpose of teaching

The opinion piece by Harvard Professor David Edwards published in Wired focuses on how the fundamental purpose of schooling and education needs to be given some serious thought - a makeover in light of where the world is headed. The author highlights the important goal of teaching children to learn how to discover.

One thing that we do know is that children will learn the art of inquiry and discovery only when their teachers practice a pedagogy that supports these goals in the classroom; and when teachers can model for their students the processes of discovery and the accompanying joy and excitement it brings. Yet state governments in the US are even now fundamentally re--purposing teacher preparation programs to become even more academically driven with an ethos of high stakes testing taking over the ethos of discovery and critical thinking. When teacher education itself becomes so test driven and score oriented, then teacher educators also tend to teach to the test. It is more than likely that their students will graduate from teacher education programs, enter schools and perpetuate the cycle of teaching to the test.

Click here to read David Edward's piece:

Schooling in Finland and America

In this oped, Passi Sahlberg highlights three factors that contribute toward the high quality of Finnish schools, and that are absent in the current system of schooling in America: educational equity, the nature of teaching responsibilities, and the presence of physical movement and play for students during school hours:

Sahlberg is a former director-general in the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, and has written a book detailing the system of education and schooling in Finland titled: Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?

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!