Z to A of education. After almost a decade in providing IT education, Zee Interactive Learning Systems (ZILS) is now venturing towards the other end of the education ladder — opening playhouses for toddlers “in every locality” across the country.
Entitled KidZee, the programme is aimed at the two-to-four year bracket. “We are starting off in August in the four metros and a few satellite towns,” announced A.K. Khetan, ZILS chief executive officer, in town to supervise the start-up. Six centres are ready for launch in Calcutta.
The playhouses, operating on a franchisee model, will use the learning-by-doing method. “The lesson plans have been designed to develop the child’s sensory as well as intellectual perceptions,” says Khetan.
While the lessons are standardised across the country, local touches will be added in the form of vernacular nursery rhymes and history of the area.
The franchisees are mostly “qualified women” with the requisite space and a background in teaching. “As for the teachers, we have a manual on who to appoint. ZILS will then hold an orientation course for them, as well as the attendants. In the Indian pre-school system, the ayahs play an important part. They must be taught how to handle a child, what language to use with them and how to keep herself and the child clean,” Khetan explains.
While the local ZLIS office will ensure hand-holding of the franchisees, a panel of “eminent citizens” will act as independent observers. “We will take suggestions from paediatricians, retired teachers, bureaucrats, social workers and the like,” says Ashish Deb, vice-president, east.
Though KidZee is a sister concern of ZedCA, its curriculum will not be computer-based. “We may, at best, screen cartoons or have animals and alphabets on the monitor as a visual supplement to lessons,” says Khetan.
After the playhouse hours, the space will be used as an activity centre for older kids in the afternoon. “We are offering about 40-45 activities, of which the franchisee will pick those they can arrange faculty for,” Khetan explains. A nursery will also operate on the same premises for the three-to-five age group. “In a school, the nursery kids do not get enough attention, as there is one teacher to every 30-35 students. Here, the number will be kept down to 10,” he adds.
And the final chapter involves preparing both parents and kids, once it is time to knock on school doors.