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The NEP Has Taken Steps Towards Early Childhood Education, But It May Fall Short

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Research shows that 90% of the brain develops in the first five years of age. Education provided at that period is known as Early Childhood Education. India is home to the largest population of children under 5 years of age. It is the first time after 72 years of independence that the Government has given prime importance to Early Childhood Education in the Indian Education Policy.

Why Is It Important?

Developed countries with high rankings in Education Index focus upon early childhood development. In Scandinavian countries, children are given Primary intensive support at their homes until they are “school ready”. It has shown a significant impact on their learning capabilities. As stated earlier, 90% of the brain develops in the first five years of age. Those children who are provided with quality early childhood care show:

  • Improved learning outcomes: Such children show better learning outcomes in Mathematics and language in the primary years.
  • Better record for retention in schools: Research shows that children provided with quality early education and care are 15 to 20% less likely to drop out of the schools.
  • Better life outcomes: Since these children get a better experience in their primary classes at school, they develop a better personality; they are less likely to drop out. It leads to better opportunities and having a higher living standard.

As of now, most children are provided with two types of early childhood care opportunities in India:

  • Anganwadis: These are a part of an ambitious plan of the Government of India and are a type of rural child care centre. Started in 1975, its primary purpose was to combat child hunger and malnutrition. But the sad reality is that only 30% of children are enrolled in such centres. Later some primary education also began, but the principal focus remained to provide services from a nutritional point of view.
  • Low-cost community schools: With lower capacity teachers and lack of proper age-appropriate pedagogy children are exposed to rote learning at an early age without a conceptual understanding of the subject. It adversely affects the learning capability of the children.

In light of the above contexts, we can say that the available resources don’t provide an adequate learning environment. To improve this condition, an all-round collective action is required which would involve every stakeholder of the system.

Steps Taken In NEP For ECCE

With National Education Policy 2020, the Government has taken a significant step for improving the situation:

  • NEP recommends play-based and age-appropriate pedagogy for the children.
  • It introduces the mother tongue as the medium of learning.
  • It also provides for learning at multiple levels to make a child “school ready” by the age of 6.
  • ECCE shall focus on physical and motor development, cognitive development, socio-emotional-ethical development, cultural/artistic development, and the development of communication and early language literacy and numeracy.
  • The 5 years of the foundational stage include 3 years of pre-school/Anganwadi/Bal Vatika education followed by 2 years of primary classes (class 1 and 2). It focuses on the age group of 3 to 8 years. At this stage, we focus on teaching using play-based and activity-based methods and on the development of language skills.
  • The Government is also holding discussions on the creation of a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8 and tasking NCERT for its creation is plausible.
  • Firstly, it has included the age group of 0–3 years and talks about a sub-framework for this age group too. Secondly, while discussing the framework, the policy does mention about parents along with the ECCE institutions.

Major Concerns

However, the main concern is that this is the only place where parents find a mention in this policy. NEP is silent upon the involvement of parents in the system, who are key stakeholders in the education system. Even now, parents consider their job done after paying their child’s school fees. They even consider parent-teacher meetings as a burden. Hence, states and individual schools must focus on encouraging and empowering parents to take some responsibility for their child’s education. Parents need to understand that they are also a significant part of the education process that the child is going through.

However, the devil is in the details. India aims to provide quality universal Early Childhood Education by 2030. Such a statement for a vast developing country like India, where several schools don’t even have a single teacher, such big thoughts can make anyone doubt the future of NEP.

The NEP 2020 is like a dream with a plethora of vision, but the question is, how are we going to make it happen? But we had to start somewhere. Yes, there are problems, but complaining will not solve it.

Requirements

We need seamless functioning, utilising every stakeholder involved in the system. Here the NGOs and Local Organisations will play a significant role. They need to collaborate with Government agencies to devise plans for the execution of seamless functioning and integrated engagement.

Such projects are already undergoing at various locations by many Non-profits. At first, some pilot projects can be run and based on their success. We can introduce similar interventions with modifications as per the local requirement of the area.

Teachers capacity building shall also be a challenge. Teachers in most of the primary schools are habitual in teaching using the method of rote learning. Transforming that into an inclusive-conceptual understanding-based practice would be a challenging but interesting journey.

Roles of the NGOs would be very significant in achieving this goal. Preparing impactful 21st Century Teaching Training modules for the Teachers, introducing the importance of socio-emotional intelligence as a part of the education shall be some main tasks to be done. “Making teachers aware of the 21st-century practices” is the most important task to be done. They should realise that the “carrot and stick policy” is not the go-to 21st-century teaching method.

Final Thoughts

Yes, the journey shall be full of challenges and that’s what makes it worth travelling. It is indeed a point of rejoicing that the policy has laid focus on universalisation of ECCE and has addressed some of the developmental needs of this age group, but lack of a clear plan or roadmap for implementation, silence about the budget allotments and also not mentioning about including the same as part of Right to Education, are a few areas that mainly make one concerned while thinking about the implementation of this policy.

Suppose we are successful in bridging the gaps, ensuring the integrated functioning and involvement of every stakeholder. In that case, the saga of early childhood care is going to bring a significant change in the teaching and learning system of India.

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  1. Renu singh

    Very well written sourav…👏

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