In the Early Years, when the child’s personality and moral framework are still developing, we must teach children to love, ensuring that their hearts are educated, and not just their heads. We must commit to a holistic approach to education which will result in a new generation of equal-thinkers and global citizens who can rise to the challenges of the 21st century.
Think Equal is a non-profit charity registered in the UK and USA (as a 501(c)3). We offer evidence-based, holistic quality education, focused on social and emotional learning, inclusion and equality in early childhood development. We collaborate with governments and global actors to bring this concrete, replicable programme successfully to scale. We believe that there is a missing third dimension to the education system, and that every child has an inalienable right to be nurtured with values, life skills and competencies which enable healthy and positive life outcomes. We ask: “How can it be deemed compulsory for a child to learn numeracy and literacy, but be optional for our children to learn how to value another human being or to lead healthy relationships?”
Together with world experts, Think Equal has designed a programme to experientially mediate social and emotional skills and competencies to the early years (3-6 year olds). Neuroscientists are clear that the window for optimal behavioural and attitudinal modifiability in young people - the time at which education is most formative and the brain most sensitive - is in early childhood. After 6, the brain circuitry is hard wired in a number of critical respects such as emotional control, and habitual ways of responding. Early learning experiences have a profound impact on our capacity to learn, our attitudes, behaviours, and mental health and physical health.
Think Equal provides young people with a thorough grounding in 25 competencies and skills including: equality, empathy, peaceful conflict resolution, critical thinking, problem-solving, gender sensitisation and gender (and all other forms of) equality, emotional literacy, self-regulation, environmental protection, self-confidence, collaboration, inclusion, celebration of differences, etc. Think Equal contributes to building a strong foundation for individual and societal progress, making communities safer, healthier, stronger, more prosperous, more equal and more just.
The programme comprises 3 age-appropriate levels of replicable, easy to implement, step-by-step teacher guides, each to be taught over 30 weeks of the school year. Every level of the programme includes 23 original books, associated resources, and 90 lesson plans (a total of 3 x half hour lessons per week). The prescriptive nature of the programme and minimal training and expense required means it is well suited to rapid scaling and adaptation to new contexts.
Think Equal regards all children as much more alike rather than unlike, and focuses on our common and inclusive humanity and the fact that we are one human family with differences to be celebrated. In fact, one of the 25 competencies and skills which we teach is global citizenship and so 'other contexts', religions, cultures, ethnicities, races, form an intrinsic part of the learning, as opposed to an approach which would seek to culturally individualise and separate one ethnic group, or geography, from another. We are building responsible global citizens who can rise to the challenges of the 21st century.
Plans for scaling
- Sri Lanka - within two years we scaled from 20 preschools to 630 and are now scaling to a further 1,100, saturating an entire province of Sri Lanka with Think Equal in 1,730 preschools.
- South Africa - we have agreement from the ECDoE to roll out to all Grade-R reception classes in the Eastern Cape (2,356 classrooms)
- Mexico - we are expanding to two additional states, Guerrero (400 settings) and Chihuahua (160 settings) with our local partners UNICEF, World Vision and Teach for Mexico.
- North Macedonia - by November we will have 75% of the country's Early Years teachers trained in Think Equal, and 100% by May 2021 with our partners UNICEF and the World Bank.
- Belize - with the support of the government, we will be training every Early Years teacher in the country in September 2020 to begin teaching in January 2021 for an implementation of the Think Equal programme compulsorily for every 3 to 6 year old child.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Think Equal is currently offering 6 weeks worth of free online resources through their website, comprising 6 original narrative picture books and classroom lesson plans and accompanying resources for teachers (Classroom Pack) or the same books with simple activities and resources for caregivers and children to enjoy together at home (Home Kit).
These include a brand new book specifically created to address the multiple effects the COVID-19 pandemic might have on children across the world, including basic facts about the virus, various ways to keep safe and healthy and methods of calming themselves down if they’re feeling overwhelmed. The World Health Organization was consulted in preparation of this book, entitled 'Rainbows in Windows'.
We are also advancing all of our plans to create an online digital training platform (currently being built) and to digitise all of our resources. COVID-19 makes many of the 25 competencies and skills we teach more critical and more urgent. Anxiety, depression, anger, and generally trauma-informed tools were already a primary and extensive component within the Think Equal programmatic tools, its objectives and methodologies.