Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) includes a wide array of programmes that aim at the holistic development of a child
A child growing up in the 21st century faces numerous challenges due to a wide range of factors. Children often find themselves isolated and barely get to interact with their peers owing to factors such as nuclear families, lack of outdoor space, etc. This often drives them towards multimedia entertainment such as video games. Additionally, for most children, learning at this stage involves a preparation to get into the rat-race of formal school education, without laying the foundation of self-development skills that are a necessary foundation stone for the rest of their lives.
To address these challenges, Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) includes a wide array of programmes that aim at the holistic development of a child in order to lay a broad and solid foundation for lifelong learning and well-being.
Being the first step towards the world of learning, pre-primary education has its own significance. It makes the transition from home to school, and gradually to formal education, easier for children. Preschool learning mainly focuses on building skills needed throughout the years of formal education, such as social-emotional skills (ability to empathise with others, self-awareness etc.), personal development (organisation, time management etc.), inquisitiveness and so on.
Pre-primary Sector in India
With the awareness that the age from 2 to 6 years is crucial for a child’s development, the pre-primary sector in the country has witnessed a surge. According to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) scheme, pre-primary education in India is provided through government-aided Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) schools. A lot of private institutions have also been established across the country with the aim to provide quality preschool education. On this front, Next Education— India’s leading end-to-end education solutions provider— has come up with CreoVille Playschool to cater to all the needs of a preschooler with a child-centric curriculum, coupled with personalised attention and a secure, world-class infrastructure.
Challenges Faced by the Sector
While the pre-primary sector is growing at a rapid pace, the importance of early childhood education continues to be a topic of debate. The lack of a nationwide-approved curriculum is the most crucial challenge that the sector is facing, making it vastly unorganised, as the preschools have become merely an academic portal that does not focus on the overall growth of children. The National Curriculum Framework for ECCE states that pre-primary education should be more about observation and experience than structured learning, but it often backfires and becomes oversimplified to mere playtime, thereby reducing preschools to extended day-care centres.
Furthermore, the dearth of well-trained teachers and the absence of proper infrastructure are also some challenges that affect the growth of the sector. The lack of awareness among parents is a problem as well. Although parents in urban areas are gradually becoming conscious of the need for preschools, large sections of the country, especially rural areas, remain unaware of the importance of early childhood education. While initiatives like SSA include ECCE as a major component, preschool education is not mandated as a fundamental right of every child in the country.
What needs to be done
Government policy-making with regard to the creation of a robust play-based curriculum is definitely the need of the hour. Countries that invest heavily in pre-primary education and follow a learner-centric early childhood educational care curriculum should be considered role models; one of the examples is Finland. Today’s children are growing up as digital natives, technology integration in education is also important to make them life-ready. However, technology-based learning devices for this age group should be appropriate to the level of children's skill set and the intended use of such devices in the learning and development process. Digital tools such as Augmented Reality products that provide a real-world connection can further help promote the holistic development of children.
Moreover, governmental intervention is also required in training teachers adequately for facilitating ECCE successfully. Preschool educators can also upskill themselves via online certified courses available on government or private platforms, such as SWAYAM and EdX. Next Education provides Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on preschool education that helps teachers learn the best instructional practices of early learning.
The future of education lies in building the 21st-century skills of critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity, and pre-primary education hold the potential to lay the perfect foundation for it while making learners thoroughly enjoy the journey.
This Article is written byMr. Beas DevRalhan, Co-founder and CEO, Next Education India Pvt. Ltd