Early Childhood Education (ECE) is one of the most effective investments in development. Research shows that when children get quality ECE, they have better life outcomes in terms of health and income levels, apart from social returns such as lower crime rates and better citizenship.
However, in India, the gross enrolment in formal ECE is estimated to be only around 55%. The major channels of provision of ECE are the government-run Integrated Childhood Development Services (ICDS), and the private sector (standalone playschools as well as kindergarten sections of private schools). Across these delivery channels, there is limited understanding of child development and substantial lacunae exist in quality of service delivery.
The Central government issued a National ECCE (Early Childhood Care and Education) Policy in 2013, comprising a curriculum framework and quality standards, among other elements. Most states have been slow in implementing the policy and as a result, there has only been sporadic progress in improving access and quality in ECCE.
We believe in the importance of improving the quality of both the public and private systems of early childhood education.
A quality ECE programme must focus holistically on domains of child development, and must design its curriculum and pedagogy accordingly. We aim to find and support innovations enabling adoption of such developmentally appropriate elements in programs across delivery channels.
We are also looking to identify and develop tools to assess the development of age-appropriate skills and knowledge in children and measure the effectiveness of early childhood programmes. In addition, we will look at supporting effective models of ECE teacher training.
Finally, we intend to push for greater policy focus on ECE, including tighter integration of ECE with the primary school system, an outcomes-oriented regulatory framework for ECE providers, and more funding for research, innovation and programmes in ECE.