The COVID-19 era seems like a distant memory, but not so much for the Indian preschool sector. It was a time when parents hurriedly abandoned preschools, making it the most dispensable part of the education sector.
Many preschool chains suffered irrecoverable damage. Some of them haven’t been able to reach pre-COVID-19 numbers even today. After the doom and gloom situation of 2020-21, the sector has slowly been resurrected. Parents started coming back in 2022.
Finally, 2023 was the year when preschools saw signs of recovery from COVID-19-induced problems.
As we stand at the cusp of 2024, the lessons and trends of the last few years will play a crucial role in strengthening the sector and taking it to new heights.
The Indian preschool market was valued at USD 957.86 million in 2023. It is expected to witness healthy growth in the forecast period of 2024-2032, growing at a CAGR of 19.20 percent aided by the shift away from traditional education practices and growing acceptance of experiential teaching.
The role of technology has changed drastically. It was like the proverbial bridesmaid taking centre stage during the COVID era. But the truth is that until robots and humanoids become mainstream, preschools and daycares will keep needing humans. Tech-based products and services that efficiently support the operations of educational institutes, however, keep getting cheaper and more accessible.
From ERP systems to parent communication platforms, vehicle tracking systems, and invoicing solutions, technology will be available to all childcare providers, private and public.
The majority of schools aren’t satisfied with the current teacher training platforms, and every school/childcare provider has to design their training programs to bring the teachers up to par with the market requirement.
Collaboration between the teacher training course designers and private schools will bring about a much-needed upgrade of teaching skills including adaptation to newer teaching-based technologies. We will see the rise of private teacher training institutes backed by private schools.
Preschool curriculums are shifting towards a STEM and STREAM-based approach, aiming to lay a solid foundation in children from an early age. Robotics, analytics, programming, and multilingual learning are increasingly becoming part of the regular syllabus. As new research in child development becomes more accessible to preschools, the foundation years curriculum will keep up the trend of adapting to future needs.
Nature and creativity
Metros keep expanding, and mini-metros are cropping up in every corner of India. A huge number of children growing up in cities now need to connect to nature more than ever.
Preschools are coming up with different methods and practices to bring nature to classrooms and children to nature. Preschools also dedicate time to instil environmental awareness and a sustainable approach towards the planet in young kids. Nature-based learning and eco-friendly practices will become increasingly popular.
A community-based approach is instrumental in forging a sense of belonging and social and emotional development. Activities and events that require students to have meaningful engagement and interactions with peers are carefully planned to nurture the social well-being and sense of community in kids from a young age.
Preschools are also encouraging parents to be actively involved in their child's education journey and engage with other parents to build a strong support system.
The lines between traditional daycare and preschools are getting more and more blurred. Preschools offer comprehensive childcare services with flexible schedules to accommodate the needs of working parents. Some preschools are extending their services to weekends and also providing emergency daycare. Metros will again see a rise in childcare facilities to meet the demands of nuclear families.
Preschool to foundation years
The Preschool and early education period is being increasingly referred to as the Foundation Years. Focus has shifted towards holistic development of children by ensuring cognitive, social, emotional, and physical growth.
It emphasises the idea that preschool isn’t just about preparing children for school, but for the real world. Under the NEP guidelines, there is an opportunity for preschool providers to extend their services up to second grade.
It entails preparing children to face the complexities and challenges of the modern world that is constantly changing and evolving. Along with formal education, students also need to develop social and emotional skills, problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, general awareness, and practical life skills to become ready to face the world.
Preschools focus on carefully planning activities that can nurture the above-mentioned skills to sow the seeds early on in life.
NEP and K12 Collaborations
The National Education Policy (NEP) provides the framework for K12 education in India. NEP places great emphasis on early childhood care and education.
Application of the NEP framework will lead to major changes in India's curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, and overall educational philosophy. This also allows preschools and K12 to collaborate; rather than vying for the same pool of kindergarten children, strategic tie-ups and collaboration can guarantee the growth and survival of both.
Social and Emotional Development
Laying a strong social and emotional foundation in children will contribute to their future relationships, self-esteem, and overall well-being. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is being adopted as the cornerstone of preschool curriculums, recognising its significance in shaping well-rounded and emotionally intelligent individuals. In a future where tech will take over all mundane and repetitive tasks, children will need social and emotional maturity the most to cope with the ever-changing world.
All the above changes only point to the fact that the Indian preschool sector is poised for great changes in 2024 and beyond. By staying attuned to these developments and adapting accordingly, preschools can position themselves to ride the great wave of change that is on the horizon