Children at a young age are like clay in the hands of a potter, that is, they can be easily molded and instilled with values, concepts, skills that will act as their foundation for a lifetime! Therefore, early age learning plays a vital role in embedding certain key mindsets, norms, and morals in children.
In India, early childhood care and education was first explicitly recognized in the National Education Policy (1986), followed by the 12th Five Year Plan that redefined the role of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), which then formulated the National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy in 2013 and most recently with the New Education Policy of 2020, it yet again amplifies the need to focus on early childhood development of children to ensure their holistic development, primary school retention, and greater learning outcomes.
It is said that the parents/ guardian and the immediate family members of a child are their first agents of socialization or in simpler terms their first teachers because home is where a kid starts his/her journey to the worldly realities; this is where the language is formed, shapes are recognized and certain morals are built based on the respective socio-cultural norms. These early years of education nurture a child’s potential for an all-rounded development.
All that said, one must recognize the fact that not everyone is as fortunate to have enough time with their parents, especially; it is difficult for the working class of our country where parents have to leave their toddlers at an Anganwadi centre/ a crèche or a daycare facility. Here, the families that typically belong to the marginalized section of society are left with the sole option of an Anganwadi centre.
Nonetheless, if given the option, the majority of the underserved communities will opt to keep their children at home under the supervision of an elder family member before they are eligible to go to school because there is a certain level of inhibition and uncertainty when they leave their kids at an Anganwadi centre.
It is, therefore, imperative to reinforce the importance of early childhood development to parents and family members. This can be done through area-specific community level outreach and awareness drives which can target families with toddlers, first-time parents, and both working parents. Though, to fully garner the benefits of the knowledge inculcated, the ideal situation would be where parents/ guardians also practice the same exercises at home with their little ones.
Additionally, the role of the District Education Officers and non-profit organizations working with kids also play a pivotal role in strategizing ways to improvise the current model of education, tools of assessment, activities, and techniques utilized to achieve early childhood development. Therefore, active participation of all the key stakeholders, periodic strategy meetings, and collection of constructive feedbacks will ensure a high-quality early childhood care and development program.
“Each one of us can make a difference. Together we make a change.” – Barbara Mikulski