UNICEF with CECED, Ambedkar University ,ASER Centre launches India Early Childhood Education

Guwahati: UNICEF, in partnership with Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development (CECED), Ambedkar University Delhi and ASER Centre today launched a report on the Indian Early Childhood Education Impact study, a five-year longitudinal research study that followed a cohort of 14,000 four year olds from age 4 to age 8 in rural areas of three states of India: Assam, Rajasthan and Telangana.

Findingsfrom the report reveal that a majority of 4-year-olds are attending preschool,either through government-run Anganwadi Centres or private preschools. However,they do not necessarily participate in preschool and primary school at the agesand in the order that policies prescribe, and therefore there are childrenbelow the age of 6 in primary school and children above age 6 in preschool insome states. 

The reporthighlights that even one year of participation in a quality early childhooddevelopment programme leads to higher school readiness levels, which in turnlead to better learning outcomes in the early primary grades.

However, akey concern emerging is that most children in the study entered primary schoolat age 5 with school readiness levels which were far below expectations. Theywere thus unequipped to meet the demands of the curriculum and had low learninglevels. The study concludes that these low school readiness levels in childrenare clearly related to the quality of preschool education. The large scaleservice providers do not use age and developmentally appropriate curriculum,methods and materials to engage children. It identifies formal teaching of the3 R’s – reading, writing, and arithmetic, as detrimental to children’sdevelopment.

Given theimpact of preschool education on children’s outcomes in primary education, thestudy recommends the inclusion of pre-primary education as an integral part ofthe Right to Education Act. Since the age is a significant factor influencingchildren's school readiness and learning levels, the study further recommendsensuring that children begin primary education only when they aredevelopmentally ready, adhering to the norms of school entry as per the RTEAct, which requires that children begin grade 1 at age 6. It emphasizes theimportance of a flexible, play-based foundational curriculum for 3 to 8 yearolds along a continuum, for a seamless transition from pre-primary to primaryeducation. To ensure quality, the study recommends that activities conducted inpreschool programmes be age and developmentally appropriate, with well-trainedfrontline workers and teachers practicing child-centeredpedagogy.  There must also be adequate and appropriate learningmaterials available, and outreach to parents and families to support theirchildren’s learning. The study further recommends that a regulatory system beinstituted for early childhood education, to ensure quality standards are adheredto across all providers, including in the private sector.

A regionalworkshop was organized in Guwahati, Assam to spread awareness on the criticalfindings and recommendations from the study. The study report launchedregionally in Guwahati, supports efforts to realize young children’sdevelopmental potential and set the right pathways for lifelong learning.

This Easternregion workshop was conducted in Guwahati where invited participants fromArunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland,Sikkim and West Bengal were present. The workshop was organized by CECED,Ambedkar University Delhi in collaboration with ASER and UNICEFIndia.  

Some of theinvited participants present in the workshop includes Mr. Alak Saharia, IAS,Secretary, Department of Social Welfare, Govt. of Assam, Ms Lata Menon,Consultant, UNICEF Delhi,  Ms. Mita Gupta, Education Specialist,UNICEF Delhi, Ms. Aparajita Bhargarh, Assistant Professor, Ambedkar UniversityDelhi, Dr. Bandana Bhuyan, Former Regional Director, NIPCCD, Guwahati,Dr.Tushar Rane, Chief Field Office UNICEF, Assam.

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