26, April 2023
The term "early childhood" refers to the time frame from birth to the age of eight. Between the ages of 0 and 8, early childhood development includes a child's physical, socioemotional, cognitive, and motor growth. The early years are crucial because the brain develops most quickly and has a high capacity for change throughout this time, laying the groundwork for long-term health and happiness.
The foundation of a child's potential to develop is nurturing care that is provided in a stable environment, sensitive to children's health and nutritional needs, with protection from threats, opportunities for early learning, and interactions that are emotionally supportive, responsive, and developmentally stimulating.
Why Is It Important to Focus More on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)?
Over 85% of a child's cumulative brain growth takes place in the first six years, according to the National Education Policy 2020, which emphasizes the necessity of providing the brain with the right care and stimulation in the early years to promote a child's holistic development. The updated policy states that it is urgently necessary to provide all young children with nationwide access to high-quality Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), with a particular focus on kids from socioeconomically disadvantaged households.
Numerous young children in India still lack access to high-quality early childhood care and education. There are two extremes in the state of schooling for kids between the ages of three and six. Urban preschools cover specific subjects like the alphabet and numbers up to 100 from the first and second grade curricula.
On the other hand, Anganwadis in rural areas only teach young learners a few specific alphabets or rhymes and engage them in storytelling. The truth is that as a society, we are clueless about what and how to teach this age group. Our preschools are a blatant example of the early childhood care and education system's carelessness.
Early Childhood Care and Education Challenges:In order to implement ECCE, school owners may encounter the following difficulties and challenges:
- Lack of well-trained teachers in Anganwadis, private nurseries, and pre-primary schools; inadequate educational resources and infrastructure in Anganwadis.
- A tendency for Anganwadis to have more children in the age range of 2-4 than in the educationally crucial range of 4-6 years.
- A dearth of early childhood educators with specialized training and dedication.
- The majority of private preschools emphasize rote learning over play-based learning.
- There are opportunities to effectively respond now that these gaps and difficulties have been discovered.
The National Education Policy is the first policy that requires schools to adopt ECCE by 2030 in order to guarantee that every child entering Grade 1 is prepared for school.
Early Childhood Care and Education – Establishing a Solid Foundation for Lifelong Learning
Early childhood is referred to by UNICEF as the time between conception and the age of eight. The holistic social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development of a kid occurs at this crucial stage, laying the groundwork for lifelong learning and wellbeing.
ECCE, consists of the following types of learning:
These learning methods consists of:
- Numbers, alphabets,& counting
- Colors and shapes
- Indoor and outdoor play
- Craft, drama, and puppetry
- Puzzles and logical thinking
- Music and movement
- Drawing, painting and other art stuff
Moreover, it also focuses on developing:
- Social capacities
- Good behavior
- Teamwork and cooperation
- Personal and public cleanliness
The National Education Policy 2020 Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE) program focuses on four main areas:
Foundational Learning Curriculum: The curriculum is split into two sections for ages 3 to 8: foundation learning curriculum for ECCE students from ages 3-6 and classes I and II for primary school students from ages 6 to 8.
Universal Access: All kids between the ages of 3 and 6 have access to free, secure, and high-quality ECCE at pre-schools, anganwadis, and Balvatikas.
Preparatory Class: Every child will be relocated to a "Preparatory Class" or "Balvatika" (before Class 1) before the age of five, where ECCE-qualified teachers would impart play-based learning.
Multi-faceted Learning: A flexible learning method with a heavy emphasis on play, activity, and inquiry-based learning to build Foundational Literacy & Numeracy (FLN).
According to the National Education Policy 2020, the Ministry of HRD, Women and Child Development (WCD), Health and Family Welfare (HFW), and Tribal Affairs will collaborate to design and implement ECCE in stages. A very strong and significantly expanded system of institutions will be used to deliver ECCE, including:
- Standalone Pre-schools and Anganwadis with top-notch infrastructure, toys, and a rich learning environment
- Anganwadis co-located with primary schools
- Pre-primary schools/sections with children aged at least 5-6 years co-located with current primary schools.
The National Education Policy 2020 also emphasizes the need to offer socioeconomically disadvantaged districts and areas significant consideration and priority. Additionally, it strongly suggests implementing ECCE in Ashramshalas in tribally predominant areas gradually.
ECCE is a critical stage in a child's development, laying the foundation for their future learning and success. NEP 2020 recognizes the importance of ECCE and sets out ambitious goals for providing universal access to high-quality ECCE programs for all children. Achieving these goals will require a concerted effort from all sectors and stakeholders, including governments, communities, parents, and caregivers.
By working together, we can ensure that all children have access to the high-quality ECCE programs they need to thrive, setting them on a path to success in school and beyond. With NEP 2020 as a guiding policy, we can create a brighter future for India's children, one where every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential. By investing in ECCE, we are investing in the future of our country, creating a more equitable, inclusive, and prosperous society for all.