Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE): Anganwadis should provide early childhood care and education

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News: National Education Policy highlighted the importance of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) for young child’s early cognitive, social, and emotional development. But still, National Family Health Survey-5 found that only 13.6% of children enrolled in pre-primary schools.

What are the problems with the existing system? 

Overwork on anganwadis: They have more focus on health and nutrition. Multiple administrative duties also leave little time to anganwadis to focus on ECCE.

Inadequate care: Present system best serves the age group of 3-6 years, but ignores infants and toddlers.

The economic condition of parents: A child’s early learning begins at birth, initially through stimulation, play, interactions, non-verbal and verbal communication, and through observation etc. But, due to a lack of parental awareness complemented with the daily stresses of poverty, disadvantaged households, Anganwadis are unable to provide an early learning environment to their children.

Inappropriate teaching: It is seen that mostly low-cost pre-schools have a developmentally inappropriate teaching approach.

Read here: Need of Early Child Development
What steps can be initiated for a successful implementation of ECCE?

First, there is a need to design and implement a meaningful activity-based ECCE framework that recognises the ground realities of that area.

Second, Routine tasks of Anganwadi workers should be reduced and non-ICDS work, such as surveys, to be removed altogether. Also, proper training should be provided to anganwadis so that they can be redesignated as childcare workers and handle routine work.

Third, Anganwadi hours can be extended by at least three hours, with an increase in their present remuneration, with the additional time devoted to ECCE. A similar model has already been adopted in Karnataka state.

Fourth, All ICDS functionaries need to be fully trained in ECCE. Also, there is a need to bring the policy reforms both at the centre and state level to prioritise and monitor ECCE.

Fifth, Anganwadi workers should be asked to closely engage with the parents, as they play a crucial role in the cognitive development of young children. Low-cost affordable teaching materials should be designed and made accessible to parents.

Sixth,  ICDS should supply age-appropriate activity-based play material in adequate quantities regularly. Anganwadi workers should also encourage utilising them in a liberal manner.

Last, states should invest in research and training to support early childhood education.

Source: This post is based on the article ”Anganwadis should provide early childhood care and education” published in the Indian Express on 28th January 2022.

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