ECD curriculum ought to be flexible and dynamic as ECD demands more flexibility with active engagement and participation of children. Seto Gurans NCDS introduced an easy-to-use curriculum framework known as ECD Mandala. Mandala in Nepali means a schematized representation of the cosmos, chiefly characterized by a concentric configuration of geometric shapes, each of which contains an image of a deity or an attribute of a deity. Seto Gurans NCDS used the curriculum in a circular representative manner and hence named as ‘ECD Mandala’. It provides a framework for the ECD curriculum, sets out a number of different activities in the form of six circles extending from the center. This curriculum framework emphasizes an integrated learning approach to ECD. Integrated learning approach is an important and effective tool for the early age children in many ways. In the early stages, when it is not appropriate to follow subject areas that are used later in formal schools, the Mandala showcases various subject topics that just not focus on educational, but also in emotional, social, cognitive, cultural, physical and spiritual development of the children. The emphasis on such aspects form a familiar construct and people tend to expect learning to be divided into these areas. The ECD curriculum visits all of these subject areas through an integrated curriculum.
The first (innermost) circle represents the holistic development of the children. It includes cognitive, spiritual, cultural, physical, emotional, and social development, and covers the overall goal of the ECD programs. The second circle represents the subjective areas that children learn through integrated teaching. It displays the relation of different themes with subjects. A young child encounters the world in a holistic way and what we regard as different areas of learning merge and complement each other. Children singing a counting rhyme may be learning about animals (science and technology), numbers (pre-math), new words (language) combine with the movement learning.
The third circle is about the daily activities that occur in the classroom. They sing, dance, read, have story time, engage in creative arts and reflect upon the whole day. ECD facilitator responsible for the center follows these activities accordingly. The facilitator needs to make and keep adequate plans and records. These must be meaningful and useful, and equally, user-friendly. Other records also need to be kept methodically.
The fourth circle describes the events that influence a child’s everyday life and operation of the ECD centers. These could be life, seasonal, cultural or national events being celebrated at the centers. These events, in turn, help the children learn about the society and its interaction at the course of particular celebrations. The fifth circle represents the themes that are demonstrated through the center activities. One of the themes is ‘me and myself’, exploration of which provides the children with the opportunities to learn about their bodies, families, senses, food etc. They would move on to learn about ‘Other People’ later. The sixth circle is the national/international policies and environment (institutions) that influence the children in different ways. These are mostly actions driven by the policies and practices.
Each theme is approached through a whole range of activities. The facilitator has an important role in using this framework to incorporate these events into the activities along with themes for the learning and development of the children. Also, facilitators are supported and encouraged to create less stressful and more pleasurable classroom environments.