The significance of ‘Early Childhood Care & Education’

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BY: Khursheed Nabi

A child is an uncut diamond, which can put into any design by a teacher. The design is highly affected by the techniques and skills that a teacher possesses. Therefore the teacher should handle the Child with utmost care so as to enable him/her for greater meaning and purpose of life. Among the stages of human life, early childhood stage is a crucial from the point of view of rapid hormonal developments that shape up the mind. At this stage a child needs utmost love and care from parents as well as the people surrounding him.

Early childhood is referred to as that stage of human life where one is purely dependant on others and is lacking proper social development. This period starts from birth and lasts upto 8 years of age and is the time of remarkable growth with brain development at its peak. Children in this stage are highly influenced by environment or the society and the people surrounding them. These early years of development are critical for providing a firm foundation in cognitive, language, motor development as well as social, emotional, regulatory and moral development.

Maria Montaserri has rightly said, “Early childhood care is the key to the betterment of society.”

Early Childhood Care and education involves such social settings where the care and education of children at their early childhood takes place. That may include homes, the home of a relative or child-minder; or centre-based services like crèches, playgroups; or it may include the classroom of a primary school meant for infants.

Early childhood education encompasses all forms of education provided to young children up to eight years of age to prepare them for primary schools. But ECCE is more than preparing children for primary schooling. It is the overall development of a child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs in order to build a strong foundation for the lifelong welfare and wellbeing of the child. In this way ECCE promotes human resource development and social integration. ECCE helps to reduce drop-out rate as well as repetition. It has been observed that the children who get the benefit from quality early childhood education are better prepared for the next level of education and achieve better education outcomes than those who lack ECCE. Although ECCE is referred to as preschool, pre-kindergarten, daycare, nursery school or early education; but each serves the same purpose of preparing young children for their transition into elementary school.

Kirsten Gillibrand an American Attorney and Politician serving as a Junior United States senator from New York, while announcing a $146,799 early childhood education investment at Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum In Poughkeepsie said “If we expect our children to thrive at our colleges and universities and succeed in our economy once they graduate, first we must make quality, affordable early childhood education accessible to all. This is a smart investment that can help give more children the chance they deserve to start out strong, and go as far as their own hard work will take them.” Gillibrand said.

It is a well documented fact that success in school begins long before a child ever enters the kindergarten classroom and that a child’s earliest experiences directly influence brain development and the establishment of language, reasoning, problem solving, social skills, behavior and emotional health. ECCE will thus provide young children with the opportunity to develop fully across the five domains of school readiness will encourage early childhood teachers to employ new teaching methodologies and will show parents how to encourage early skill development among children. Early childhood education options such as pre-schools and kindergartens can help children to gain skills necessary for educational success in the later levels of education.

According to a study, most of the critical brain development happens at the age of three,  so giving them proper stimuli at the time is of utmost importance. Also if the capabilities of children are not recognized their development will get hampered. Under ECCE such a supportive and congenial atmosphere is created where a child feels free to express his/her capabilities. Proper emotional nourishment is provided which leads to their emotional stability and they develop the ability to adopt themselves in different situations and circumstance hence the element of maladjustment is reduced to least possible level. ECCE also helps to address social issues like discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, colour, race, economic condition etc.

Education is imparted through child friendly methods mostly through plays and singing. Values like truthfulness, honesty etc are imparted through singing or story narration. On one hand their language development takes place and on the other hand values got imparted among children. Therefore early childhood education is a way to create enthusiasm for concepts of lifelong learning because of the fact that lessons in kindergarten are given in a fun filled and exciting manner.

As the rate of working mothers increases, the rate of using child care centers also increases. A substantial majority of young children now regularly experience child care prior to their entry in schools. According to a survey conducted by Department of Commerce, Current Population survey(CPS) 2016, some 42% of 3 years old, 66% of 4years old and 86% of 5 years old were enrolled in preprimary programs, which reflects the increasing rate of children in preprimary programs. But the scenario is totally different in India. In rural India, quality, affordable ECE is not widely available. In villages government-run Aganwadi centers provide some ECE, but these centers largely serve as daycare centers, staffed by persons minimally trained in teaching. Private kindergartens are another ECCE option, but these do not serve the purpose because of high fees that they charge and thus leave many out of its ambit.

In India according to census 2011 there are 164.48 million children of 0-6 years of age. Recognizing the need to provide quality pre-primary education, a number of constitutional and policy provisions have been made such as Article 45 to urge states to provide ECCE for all children until they complete the age of six years. The Government of India also approved The National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) policy in 2013. The policy caters to all children under 6years of age and commits to universal access to quality early childhood education .The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) Government of India is a nodal department of ECCE, which is responsible for Integrated child development services (ICDS) programe covering around 38 million children through a widely spread network of 1.4 million Aganwadi centers. Despite all these steps taken by GOI, the challenge of implementing ECCE programs still remain a distant dream. There is still a remarkable number of children who are not enrolled in pre-primary centers.

Thus in order to yield qualitatively better turnover, in the form of responsible and fruitful citizens in future, quality Early childhood education should be our prime concern, otherwise we will have to witness  low quality turnover.

The writer is a student of M. ED at IASE Srinagar and can be mailed at [email protected]

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