The Essential Guide to Curriculum in Indian Preschools


Parent 1: “I don’t even remember what kind of a preschool I went to, nor does my mother! And now look at all the options we have! There is Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, and PlayWay. I really don’t know which one to choose for my son”

Parent 2: “I know, I can relate! I don’t want to risk my daughter’s future. But it’s so tough to make a choice. Do I concentrate on a strict curriculum or just let her have a stress free pre-schooling?”

Parent 1: “Yes, play is important. But if I put him in a play focused school, how will he cope in a regular school? And how will he even write the entrance exam? I am already worried about his school education”

Parent 2: “I wish I didn’t have to deal with all this. So many options, but seems like so many more ways to go wrong! Ah, I wish it was as simple as our time!”

If you are a parent of a toddler, then it is likely that you have had similar conversations with your peers. Especially for first time parents, the responsibility of making this choice can seem daunting, with lifelong impact. Early education is an important decision. With the wide range of options available, it is necessary to make an informed choice.

Mumbai has more than 1,600 preschools, offering a variety of teaching methods (also called curriculums or pedagogies). The more common curriculums are Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, and PlayWay.

Today we understand the value of effective early education, and also its implications on our children’s future learning and growth. Each child has their own strengths and limitations. They thrive in different environments in tune with their personalities. Curriculum also differs in their approach, and different curriculums may be better or less suited to your child’s learning style. For instance, your young child may perform better when learning through reading instead of analyzing in a real-life situation. For this reason, it is important to choose the curriculum that is best suited to your child.

Source: AMI, RMIF, IASWECE, First Crayon
  • All the curriculums favour a low student-teacher ratio as they require the teacher to be closely involved in the learning process
  • In Montessori and Reggio Emilia, the teacher is a guide, and both observes and participates with the child
  • In Waldorf, in addition to planning lessons and serving as a mentor and guide, the teachers play an active role in school management
  • In Playway, the teachers themselves engage in the play activities with the students, helping build the child’s foundation for trusted relationships with adults
  • All the preschools promote the involvement of parents in the education of child. The minimum expectation is to have regular interaction with teachers to understand and aid in the child’s development
  • In Montessori, the parents are encouraged to extend the child’s independence in school to their homes as well. Parents should let the child perform simple tasks on their own. In a busy city like Mumbai, the child’s independence helps working parents and allows the family more time to engage together in play
  • In Waldorf, parents and teachers actively manage events and classroom activities together. Parents are encouraged to limit their child’s exposure to television and other media as it is believed to limit the children’s development of imagination and creativity
  • Reggio Emilia expects parents to actively participate in lessons along with their child
  • Waldorf and Reggio Emilia are the most demanding curriculums for parents, and may be difficult for a nuclear family in Mumbai to manage
  • In Playway, there are no set guidelines for parental participation. Similar to Montessori, parents are encouraged to extend the school learning to the home environment
  • Montessori curriculum focuses on building the child’s independence. Children are encouraged to be hands-on. They learn in continuous work periods that are 2–3 hours long. Unlike other curriculums, Montessori includes academic components
  • Waldorf curriculum focuses on imagination and make-believe. Academic education is de-emphasized. The focus on children learning through sensory experiences and having the children get involved in practical activities. Waldorf uses a topical approach to teaching. When a certain topic is being taught, it is taught across all the subjects
  • Unlike the defined curricula of the Montessori or Waldorf, the curriculum in a Reggio Emilia classroom is not predefined and evolves based on the children’s responses and interests. The learning is documented across various media, which then become the learning tools
  • Playway also does not have a defined curriculum. The learning is encouraged through play
  • None of the methodologies follow a strict set of assessment rules. Each curriculum has a set of learning objectives that is used as a guide
  • Montessori is the most known curriculum in India. 1 in every 3 preschools claim to follow this curriculum. There is an established ecosystem of preschools, teacher training institutes, and literature on the subject. The inception and rapid growth of Montessori in India can be partly credited to Rabindranath Tagore and Theosophical Society of India
  • Waldorf and Reggio Emilia are emerging curriculums in India. Each of them are followed by less than 1% of preschools in India. Due to the stricter nature of requirements, they have not been taken up with the same vigour as Montessori
  • Given the number of interpretations of what constitutes as play, most preschools (1 in every 2 preschools) claim to follow this curriculum in conjunction with other, more defined curriculums
  • There is no certification for being a Montessori school and in fact schools in Mumbai use the term ‘Montessori’ quite liberally. You can identify an authentic Montessori school only by way of their teaching methods
  • The IASWECE governs Waldorf Schools worldwide. They have strict rules for governing the schools like teacher controlled management, non-profit structure and 3 qualified teachers
  • There is no governing body but Reggio Emilia India Foundation assists the schools following the curriculum. The curriculum is not yet commercially popular in Mumbai and hence one can evaluate the schools on their teaching strength
  • There is no governing body for PlayWay. Preschools combine the PlayWay methods with their own curriculum

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