Hon. Union Minister Madam Maneka Gandhi,
It is a difficult time for our country, and the many dialogues you lead as Union Minister for Women and Child Development. There are raging incidences of malnutrition in Maharashtra and MP, gender abuse, female infanticide, all needing your attention.
Our dialogue, at the Early Childhood Association Conference held at Habitat Delhi on 3rd September 2016, may not overtly seem to present such a grave issue.However, we can assure you, that you are poised to re-write history- your time and decision will help us decide whether in the future, the Government spends money on building prisons or building pre-schools.Early childhood education, care, and nurturing determines what tomorrows future citizens will become, with 90% of brain development taking place before the age of 3.
Our conference was attended by over 200 school leaders, teachers, educationists, and thought leaders. The Early Childhood Association is a pan India body with a social outreach of 1 million stakeholders in the parenting space.Tabling our major concerns:-
1. We appreciate the Early childhood Education policy (and curriculum), drafted by the Ministry of Women and Child development but we do lament that most of the schools are not following the same. Implementation of the ECE policy is a state subject- and the state leaves the preschool curriculum to the schools in turn. Hence, it is normal to find that pre-school curriculum is largely governed by the requirements of Std. 1 of the school that the children attend.
2. Why does every state reinvent the wheel with different policies when the goal is the same? Why are some children forced to write at the age of two and made to read at age 3 and some denied the nurturing, security and nutrition they require in the early years?
3. Children who grow up in a stressed environment, will need emotional and social remedial care or may grow up to be a burden and stress on society as fractured youth.
4. India’s 70 million disabled do not find inclusion- the toddlers who have disabilities face discrimination from the word go.
In cognizance of the above- please find a 10 point recommendation to the Ministry of Women and Child Development for bringing about a much needed focus and change in Early Childhood Education in our country.
We request a meeting to elaborate and discuss the same.
1. For early childhood there should be separate body from the parliamentary act. Like we have RCI for special children and National Institutes in each state for early childhood education.
2. Or Early Childhood Education should not be a concurrent subject as children in the first 5 years have same developmental pattern, make safety, curriculum, teacher child ratio, class size, salaries, educational qualifications of teachers as some basic non-negotiable throughout the country.
3. ICDS funds should be equally divided in mid day meal and preschool education.
4. Regulation to curb preschool and daycare centers coming up like mushrooms in private homes and elsewhere; with no quality standards.
5. Every preschool, whether government run or private should go through quality certification by an independent body appointed by Government.
6. No heavy academics at the preschool stage (upto 5 years). Homework and bags are already banned by CBSE for standard one and two but then what about preschools?
7. Draft a common curriculum for ECE to be used by all states. Standard one expectations should be set by NCERT, in line with the preschool curriculum as per the ECE policy of the Government.
a. This common curriculum should be notified to any one starting a ECE school/ Anganwadi / Pre- Primary School.
8. Staff- Child ratio to be defined as per age group and also limit class size. This should be across all sections whether anganwadis or private preschools.
9. Develop a ECE qualification framework( new Education Policy says DIET to train the ‘teachers’). This should be common, pan India.
10. Continuous in-service training on inclusion, which includes subjects like child development, curriculum, special children, safety and first aid and observation and assessment.
The Early Childhood Association is an initiative that addresses the need to safeguard the educational rights of all children while making resources available to the educators. There is no distinction as to whether a child comes from a balwadi, anganwadi, or a private preschool. Efforts are taken through workshops, videos, publication of books, parent enrichment programmes, teacher training programmes and other mediums to better the quality of early childhood education received by children from all walks of life. ECA has in its member base, 3500 preschools, 35 NGO’s, and 45 corporate members. (www.eca-india.org)