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Anganwadis should provide Early Childhood Care and Education

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January 29, 2022

What is the issue?

The National Education Policy, 2020 has highlighted the importance of early childhood care and education (ECCE) but the NFHS-5 finds only 13.6% of children enrolled in pre-primary schools.

What is the significance of early childhood care and education?

According to UNESCO, early childhood is defined as the period from birth to 8 years old, a time of remarkable growth with brain development at its peak.

  • During early childhood, children are highly influenced by the environment and the people that surround them.
  • 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 solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing.
  • ECCE has the possibility to nurture caring, capable and responsible future citizens.
  • For disadvantaged children, ECCE plays an important role in compensating for the disadvantages in the family and combating educational inequalities.
  • The Sustainable Development Goal 4 aims to ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education by 2030.

Does every child have the access to ECCE?

  • The existing system of Anganwadis at best serves the age group of 3-6 years, ignoring infants and toddlers.
  • Due to lack of parental awareness compounded by the daily stresses of poverty, disadvantaged households are unable to provide an early learning environment.
  • Many low-income families have begun to send their children to low-cost pre-schools which have a developmentally inappropriate teaching approach.
  • Due to the high workload of anganwadi workers, ECCE in anganwadis remain a non-starter.

How to promote a meaningful ECCE programme in Anganwadis?

  • Activity-based framework- A meaningful activity-based ECCE framework has to be designed that recognises the ground realities with autonomy to reflect the local context and setting.
  • ICDS must supply age-appropriate activity-based play material in adequate quantities regularly.
  • Work allocation- Routine tasks of anganwadi workers can be reduced and non-ICDS work, such as surveys can be removed altogether.
  • Capacity building- With adequate training and additional incentives, helpers can be redesignated as childcare workers and handle routine work.
  • Working hours- Anganwadi hours can be extended by at least three hours by providing staff with an increase in their present remuneration, with the additional time devoted for ECCE.
  • This will have the added benefit of serving as partial daycare, enabling poor mothers to earn a livelihood.
    • Karnataka has already taken the lead by working from 9.30 am to 4 pm.
  • Policy- ICDS needs a change in policy mindset, both at central and state levels, by prioritising and monitoring ECCE.
  • This will additionally require all ICDS functionaries to be fully trained in ECCE, including assessment through group activities and child observation.
  • Engagement of parents- Anganwadi workers must be re-oriented to closely engage with parents, as they play a crucial role in the cognitive development of young children.
  • Appropriate messaging and low-cost affordable teaching materials can be designed and made accessible to parents.
  • State investment- States should invest in research and training to support early childhood education, and ensure that the ECCE programme is not a downward extension of school education.

 

References

  1. https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/anganwadis-early-childhood-care-education-7746519/
  2. https://en.unesco.org/themes/early-childhood-care-and-education
  3. https://icds-wcd.nic.in/icds.aspx

 

Quick facts

Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme

  • Launched on 2nd October, 1975
  • ICDS Scheme is one of the flagship programmes of the Government of India for early childhood care and development.
  • Significance- Providing pre-school non-formal education and breaking the vicious cycle of malnutrition, morbidity, reduced learning capacity and mortality on the other.
  • Beneficiaries- Children in the age group of 0-6 years, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  • Objectives of the Scheme
    • to improve the nutritional and health status of children in the age-group 0-6 years
    • to lay the foundation for proper psychological, physical and social development of the child
    • to reduce the incidence of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school dropout
    • to achieve effective co-ordination of policy and implementation amongst the various departments to promote child development
    • to enhance the capability of the mother to look after the normal health and nutritional needs of the child through proper nutrition and health education
  • Services under ICDS
    1. Supplementary Nutrition
    2. Pre-school non-formal education
    3. Nutrition & health education
    4. Immunization
    5. Health check-up and
    6. Referral services

 

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