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Learning by playing

India’s first barnehage (Norwegian kindergarten) – Papagoya – opened its doors in November 2016 in Bangalore, introducing the traditional Norwegian concept to Indian parents and households. We recently visited the kindergarten to understand how this Nordic concept has worked out so far in an Indian environment.

Indian parents are increasingly inquisitive about the Nordic education model, a pedagogic development model which is generally considered to hold high levels of quality. The conventional pressure on children to ‘perform’ and achieve ‘good grades’ is well-known, and children as young as 2-3 years old mostly receive education in traditional classroom spaces. Barnehage, in contrast, is more of a play-based, largely outdoor curriculum model. This contrast to the conventional system has generated interest also in India.

Several elements have contributed to the positive reception. Co-founders Darshana Rajaram and Helen Issar highlight factors such as increasing numbers of highly educated working women – often in families where both parents pursue professional careers. The barnehage concept enables a combination of work-life for both parents while securing the children a social and fun day-to-day development model. In addition, the traditional performance pressure which is often prevalent in the conventional education system, is significantly lower in the Nordic kindergarten model. The goal is to allow the children to be children rather than turning them into small students already in the early childhood. This may also have contributed to the relevance of the barnehage in India.

Adopting the curriculum has been an interesting journey for the institution. “For example in Norway, children sleep in their strollers outdoors. In India, this is almost unheard of – so we have defined a simple community way of all the children coming into a sleep room, and learning to fall asleep together. More challenging adaptions have been related to how we’ve had to introduce some basic writing requirements to prepare children for the Indian primary school. Another area has been our hours of operation – barnehage in Norway runs for the full day. In India, we run a short transition program that allows parents to send their children for half a day, and then we slowly transition them into a longer day”, note Rajaram and Issar.

Papagoya also receives Norwegian educators on short-term assignments which gives them the experience of seeing a Norwegian concept work in a completely different culture. The kindergarten will soon receive their first Scandinavian student enrollments as well. For the children, it’s a good exposure to an international concept at a very early stage in their lives.

“Our big dream is to really give children their childhood and we plan to do this in a variety of ways through Papagoya. We are also incredibly passionate about equal parenting (getting fathers to play as vital a role as mothers do) and supporting mothers to go back into the workforce. Through Papagoya, we also want to inspire parents to pursue their dreams and passions”, conclude the founders.

To learn more, visit Papagoya's homepage and Facebook-page.

Norwegian advisor Hanne Kristin Faye, teaching the children to make Norwegian pepperkake (gingerbread).