The primary role of the NTC programme is the use of new discoveries in the field of neuroscience in classrooms and in everyday life. The NTC Learning Programme is comprised of various children’s activities and games, based on findings on brain development and how the brain works, and can, as many studies show, have positive impact on brain development during the crucial period – the period of most intensive growth and development – from birth to around age ten. Play as child’s intrinsic motivation is a key factor to the NTC programme.
The NTC programme is being implemented in a number of European countries for the ninth year in a row, and has started to expand beyond Europe. The NTC programme is implemented in 17 European countries, and it has been accredited by the ministry of education in 7 states (Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina). In other countries, it is undertaken in collaboration with educational institutions (Italy, Greece, Sweden, Iceland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Slovakia, Poland and Sierra Leone).
The NTC programme is characterised by three implementation phases. An integral part of the first phase are evolutionarily supportive activities that involve complex motor activities including fine motor skills, dynamic eye accommodation, rotation, balance and movement. The second phase of the NTC programme is characterised by thought classifications, thought series and associations, while the third phase constitutes the work on developing divergent and convergent thinking, as well as functional knowledge. All of the three phases are conducted through play, which, as a child’s intrinsic need, represents a key factor in implementing the NTC programme. The three phases combine the child’s sensorimotor and cognitive development.
Phase I – Brain Development
Inside our brain, there is a battle for domination between the neurons, where new connections between the active neurons and new command pathways are created. The development of important brain centres is boosted and an entire network of new pathways is created. Inactive neurons and pathways get lost. This neural stimulation holds the answer to the question of whether a child will reach their biological potential or not. We have to find the interaction between the kindergarten, school, learning through play, by using new technologies, but also something that parents tend to completely disregard – simple children’s play, the kind that was common until 10–20 years ago: running, jumping, skipping, crawling, climbing... This is of great importance because the upright walk, that has evolved us, is the basic human trait. Thus, all parts of human brain are in coordination, connected, working synchronised. If a child spends a lot of time lying down or in a sitting position, certain regions of the cerebral cortex get less stimulation. In such a way, conditions are created for occurrence of certain cognitive impairments at a later age.
Phase II – Development of Learning Skills
Due to constantly increasing volume of data to be learned, reproductive learning – the lowest level of learning – represents a growing challenge for children. Such learning method requires a child to read a lesson several times, then repeat if for a couple of days and, as a result, they forget most of the “learned” content and it also happens that they can not make connections between what they learned. The process is tiring because a student may be reading a lecture or an assigned reading and then, at some point, not even know what they have read so they have to go back and reread. Or, a pupil/student may need to take an oral exam to demonstrate a lesson “learned” and it might happen that they claim to know the answer to a question but can’t remember, and even say on which page the text is, in which paragraph... But, unfortunately, the text is missing. The NTC Programme involves teaching a number of techniques for mastering the subject content in a way that is different, more interesting and feels more like a game. We must help children to perceive school as a form of entertainment, because learning is a game.
Phase III – Development of Functional Knowledge
As many as six out of ten most in-demand occupations today didn't even exist eight years ago, which means that we are now preparing children for as yet non-existent occupations of the future. Obviously, the goal of education has to be the development of functional knowledge and connective thinking. This part of the NTC Programme develops the ability to think and make connections through solving (convergent thinking) and composing (divergent thinking) mysterious stories and questions.