Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela
A good education is the key to progress, both at the individual and social level. India adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, wherein Goal 4 is to ensure “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Moreover, there have been rapid changes and developments in the global landscape with technological advancements, climate change, rising pollution and depleting resources, all of which emphasise the need to change the way we look at education as a way to prepare a generation for the emerging world.
The Government of India released the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 last year, which proposes sweeping and significant changes for the development of education in India. The policy aims to revise and revamp the entire education system to not only strengthen the cognitive capacity of literacy, numeracy, critical thinking, and problem-solving, but also social, emotional, and ethical capacity.
In a notable departure from the previous policy, which advocated a 10+2 structure in school education, the NEP 2020 proposes a ‘5+3+3+4’ structure wherein 3-8 years would be the foundational stage; 8-11 years preparatory; 11-14 years middle, and 14-18 years secondary. Significantly, this made early childhood education (ECE) a part of formal schooling.
In higher education, the policy proposed a system of large, multi-disciplinary universities and colleges and opening up Indian higher education to foreign players, amongst other recommendations.
There is enough research to prove that the maximum brain development occurs between birth up to age five. Therefore, ECE or foundational learning is critically important and is seen as a key determiner for a person’s success in adult life. However, a large number of children in elementary school have failed to attain the level of foundational literacy and numeracy they should have. The challenges are many: there is a lack of schools, trained teachers, and a high drop-out rate due to reasons ranging from the financial status of the family, to social and cultural beliefs about educating children, especially the girl child.
The need for strengthening ECE is immense, and the CII Foundation has been working in this direction in partnership with central and state governments. It focuses on strengthening ECE at Anganwadi Centres through policy advocacy and project implementation and is working with more than 65 Anganwadi Centres in Jammu and Kolkata focussing on health, hygiene, and education.
The CII Foundation undertakes initiatives in 4 areas:
Infrastructure Support, where it uses Building as A Learning Aid (BALA) to transform the walls, doors, and floors as learning aids. Such child-friendly spaces are very effective in engaging children and facilitating learning.
Capacity Building of Anganwadi Workers through group discussions, demonstrations, lectures, and videos to help them emerge as better educators for the children.
Community Engagement to strengthen ECE. The CII Foundation works closely with the communities, especially the parents, to enhance their contribution to children’s development. Community engagement is enhanced through door-to-door visits and community-awareness sessions.
Curriculum Enhancement to make it more age-appropriate and gender-neutral using innovative multi-media tools, books, films, and engaging games.
Developing Parameters and Trackers to help assess and evaluate Anganwadi Centres and children’s learning.
The outbreak of Coronavirus last year disrupted education across the country with schools closing to prevent the spread of the virus. As classes got disrupted, learning suffered. Gradually, classes moved online, and educational institutions, students and parents began to grasp the nuances of online education. The CII Foundation stepped in once again and has developed home-based learning packages to ensure the continuity of learning for children from underprivileged backgrounds. The Foundation also led a process of developing guidelines to ensure learning for children enrolled in Anganwadi Centres and shared the same with the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
The International Day of Education on January 24 turns the spotlight once again on the need for quality education to build a technologically advanced and humane, inclusive India. The CII Foundation is working towards expanding its footprint to further strengthen ECE to bring about a holistic improvement in education in India.
To know more about the initiatives of the CII Foundation, please click here.