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Approach:

  1. Define ECCE.
  2. Mention the provisions for ECCE in India.
  3. Associated challenges.
  4. Conclusion.

According to UNESCO, Early childhood is defined as the period from birth to 8 years of age. It is a time of remarkable physiological growth with the brain development at its peak. Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is more than preparation for primary school. It aims at the holistic development of a child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs in order to build a broad foundation for lifelong learning & wellbeing.

For overall development, a child needs –  (a) Care, in the form of good health & nutrition and a safe environment; (b) Stimulation that fosters curiosity particularly ‘planned play, adult-child interactions, child-child interactions, and opportunities for holistic development.

Provisions made for Early Childhood care & education in India:

  • The NEP 2020 has taken a firm step in making ECCE a core Policy imperative: “Universal provisioning of quality early childhood development, care, and education must … be achieved as soon as possible, and no later than 2030, to ensure that all students entering Grade I are school ready.”
  • National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy (NIPUN Bharat): The initiative aims to ensure every child in the country attains Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) at Grade 3 by 2026-27.
  • The Ministry of Education’s ‘Guidelines for Parent Participation in Home Learning’ mention a key strategy for early learning by turning everyday routines into fun playful moments for learning and brain development.
  • Anganwadi centres have been set up under the Ministry of Women & Child Development’s ICDS Scheme,1975, which provides a range of services, from health and nutrition to pre-school non-formal education.
  • Additionally, private preschool, and day-care services have been accessible at various price points due to increased demand.
  • Civil Society Organisations have played a significant role in conducting pioneering research, working extensively with States in building capacity for anganwadis and schools, spreading awareness, implementing programmes, and interventions.

Challenges in improving ECCE:

  • Of the nearly 25 million children, about 99% enrol in school at the age of 5-6. However, as the report ASER 2019: ‘Early Years‘ reveals, many children enter school without being school-ready. Only 7% of children aged 5 could match pictures beginning with the same sound, and only 17.5% could complete a simple pictorial pattern.
  • According to the NEP 2020, presently, quality ECCE is not available to crores of young children, particularly children from socio-economically disadvantaged
  • NIPUN Bharat observes that one barrier is that the parents/caregivers do not have any role to play in education if they themselves are illiterate & so, their role ends by sending their child to school.

Despite the setback due to pandemic, with the trend of children now returning to schools, India needs to expand the opportunities to the youngest. Policy intent exists; what is now required is an ecosystem to create, contribute, and leverage building blocks required to create diverse solutions and resources for the sake of ECCE.

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