Studies children’s learning, retention and all-round development. There have

Studies
have shown that good ECCE programs provide long lasting benefits to the
children and thus the society in return. ECCE has positive impacts on children’s
learning, retention and all-round development. There have been improvements in
the school education over the last decade but there has been limited focus on ECCE
programs.

 

Over 50% children in India don’t have access
to good quality, affordable early childhood care and education (ECCE) during
their first six years of life. ECCE programs are unavailable in many towns and
villages. The number is low even in cities and this many children are being
left out or being forced to commute longer distances. The average cost is INR 2500
a month, which is unaffordable for approximately 75% people in India. The ECCE
programs are mostly mobile Crèche entities and lack of stable ECCE programs in
India is a serious challenge that needs to be remedied. This is significant as more
than 160 Million children are between age of 0-6 years in India. 

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The lack of cohesive system of quality and
affordable ECCE is a missed opportunity that can provide huge benefits for
later learning. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) reports a
catastrophic condition presently where of all the students who are in grade 3, only
23% can read, and 26% can grasp Mathematics.

 

Policy
Context

Article 45 of Indian Constitution states “The
State shall endeavor to provide ECCE for all children until they complete the
age of six years”. The Right to Education (RTE) Act of 2010 ensures free and
high quality elementary education for children aged 6 to 14.

 

The National Policy on ECCE for children up
to the age of 6 years was approved in 2013. It ensures universal access to high
quality and free ECCE. A Standard Framework for National Curriculum and Standards
of Quality have also been developed to support the ECCE policy. ECCE is
presently administered through Integrated Child Development Services(ICDS) Program
and aims at the development of psycho-social capacities and school readiness in
children. Approximately 38 million children are enrolled in ECCE programs via a
network of 1.4 million anganwadi centers (a village courtyard). ICDS is federally
funded and state administered. It’s implemented by Ministry of Women and Child
Development(MWCD), which is also the central agency responsible for
implementing ECCE Policy. ICDS is a holistic program that provides children
with integrated support services such as health benefits, nutrition, immunization
and early education.

 

Despite ECCE being recognized by the Government,
there are challenges in implementation. Firstly, RTE doesn’t recognize ECCE as
a mandatory provision. Furthermore, out of the 160 million eligible children (Census
2011), ICDS covers only around 48% children (MWCD, 2011). The dropout rates in
elementary education are high primarily because of low quality ECCE services. National
ASER surveys show that learning and literacy skills are poor and substandard in
primary grades. Therefore, for children to be adequately ready for school,
there is an immediate need to focus extensively on delivering high quality and
holistic ECCE programs.

 

Program
Context

ECCE programs and services are implemented
through various models and stakeholders such as public sector, private sector
and through public-private partnerships(PPP). In the public sector, ICDS is the
major tool for implementing ECCE programs. ECCE centers, attached to primary
schools have been set up in coordinating with education programs such as Sarva Shiksha
Abhiyan (SSA) and National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary Level
(NPEGEL). The Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche Scheme offers ECCE services for working
mothers. The second largest ECCE services are delivered by private sector, both
in organized and unorganized form. It is slowly proliferating into the rural
areas as well. Due to high costs, these remain unaffordable to many. There are few
small-scale programs that are largely supported by multitude of funding
agencies and largely implemented by volunteers.

 

Incomplete understanding of ECCE and its
benefits is still a common thread among stakeholders. This is further
aggravated by low institutional capacity and poor implementation of the
curriculum framework and quality standards of the ECCE policy. As a result, the
quality of ECCE programs varies a great deal from place to place. This is
largely because of lack of certified teachers. Presently, ECCE programs are
working independent of each other and there is urgent need to harmonize all the
programs, in accordance with ECCE National Curriculum and Quality Standards. Simultaneously,
the needs of differently abled children should be strengthened in the program. Presently,
it only focuses on standardizing the curriculum, play and extra-curricular
program which doesn’t represent the needs purpose for everyone.