The first few years of a child’s existence are crucial. These years are the foundation of human development, determining a child’s future and laying the groundwork for his or her life. Numerous studies have shown that maximum brain development occurs by age 5 and that effective early childhood education (ECE) is crucial in deciding a child’s life.
It reflects the strength of the abilities a youngster will acquire as they mature. While the benefits of quality ECE are well-documented, it is often difficult for parents to find trustworthy, affordable and accessible programs that provide these services.
Building the Foundation for Success
ECE helps build a foundation for success that lasts a lifetime. With the help of teachers and other educators, it shapes the developing minds of children. By learning about the world around them, children gain independence and knowledge, which helps them grow up to become productive members of society.
Research have shown that a systematic and well-structured ECE has considerable influence and offers a wide range of advantages, including improved social skills, better self-esteem, better coordination, and higher levels of creativity.
Historically, ECE has been imparted through preschools and childcare centers managed by governments, individuals, religious organisations and private companies. Today, there are even more possibilities, including home-schooling and independent study courses that enables parents to have better control on their child’s development.
Individuals who have been educated in early childhood start off with more opportunities to succeed than those who have not been educated. UNICEF report suggests that children who fall behind at a young age often fail to catch up with their peers, perpetuating cycles of underachievement and high dropout rates that continue to harm vulnerable children into their youth.
Holistic Approach to Child Education
A holistic approach to child education focuses on all elements of a child’s development, such as physical development, social skills and emotional regulation.
By working on these complex areas of development, children are able to thrive once they enter school and interact in larger social settings. It has been shown that a child’s early years also play a pivotal role in developing his or her personality, social skills and physical health.
Children who receive quality ECE have higher self-esteem and better social skills than those who do not. Studies have shown that children who receive quality early childhood education are more likely to be successful in school and later on in life than those who do not.
Education aimed at holistic development helps children develop a sense of community and belonging, which can increase their ability to function socially as they get older. ECE has also been shown to reduce the chance of behavioural problems and psychological disorders.
Indian Early Childhood Educational Needs
Indian ECE system continues to remain one of the largest unregulated spaces in Indian education. The public sector delivers ECE through its network of Anganwadi centres and pre-primary schools across the country but is able to cater to only 31.4 million children. According to the National Sample Survey 75th Round report, approximately 37 million children do not avail of any early education service, be it in the public or private sectors. Further, there are wide variations in access to quality ECE.
Despite research and efforts to improve quality and access, the gap between different economic sections of society is widening each year in terms of the parent’s ability to provide quality ECE for their children.
In affluent pockets of India, the scenario is quite future forward. Parents’ awareness of the value of early childhood care and education has increased demand for pre-schools and childcare facilities. A growth in disposable wealth has led to the creation of high-quality educational programmes and cutting-edge, creative pre-school infrastructure. Preschools and childcare facilities embraced cutting-edge technology in the wake of the pandemic to maintain the quality of the kids’ education.
The Need for Right Advocacy
Thus, there is a clear need for creating inclusive education systems that encourages learning and ensures that children are prepared to face new challenges as they enter adolescence and adulthood.
The CII Foundation is working in this direction through a partnership with the state governments and seeking industry support in creating model Anganwadi Centres across the country. The foundation is primarily focusing on strengthening early childhood education at Anganwadi Centres through policy advocacy and project implementation.