• Why is early childhood curriculum and care important?

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    Early childhood, defined as the period from birth to eight years old, is a time of remarkable growth with brain development at its peak. During this stage, children are highly influenced by the environment and the people that surround them.

    Early childhood curriculum and care (ECCE) is more than preparation for primary school. It aims at the holistic development of a child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs in order to build a solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing. ECCE has the possibility to nurture caring, capable and responsible future citizens.

    In this way, ECCE is one of the best investments a country can make to promote human resource development, gender equality and social cohesion, and to reduce the costs for later remedial programs. For disadvantaged children, ECCE plays an important role in compensating for the disadvantages in the family and combating curriculum inequalities. A child's participation in an organized early childhood curriculum program assists in the development of their skills and abilities. A child's participation in an organized early childhood curriculum program assists in the development of their cognitive abilities and also helps with enhancing social and emotional skills while interacting with their peers.

    Research strongly supports the benefits of enrolling children for 600 hours in the year before school so they arrive at school ready to participate in ongoing learning.

    Early childhood curriculum helps children by:

    creating a life-long passion for learning
    helping them develop social skills
    encouraging the development of fine motor and sensory skills
    fostering language development and vocabulary
    priming children to be creative
    equipping them to cope with problem-solving.
    Parents are encouraged to strengthen their child's curriculum journey by learning more about why enrolling them in an early childhood curriculum program is important for future learning.
    Early childhood is defined as the period from conception through eight years of age.

    The earliest years of a child’s life are critical. These years determine the child’s survival and thriving in life, and lay the foundations for her/ his learning and holistic development. It is during the early years that children develop the cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills that they need to succeed in life.

    These early experiences are largely determined by supportive family and community care practices, proper nutrition and health care, learning opportunities, which in turn are dependent on enabling policies and investments for young children and families. ECE positively impacts attendance, retention, and learning of children in the elementary and higher curriculum.

    Need and challenges in India

    In India, according to Census 2011 data, there are 164.48 million children of 0-6 years of age. Recognizing the need to provide quality pre-primary programs, a number of constitutional and policy provisions have been made such as the 86th Constitutional Amendment which introduced Article 21A on the right to free and compulsory curriculum for 6-14 years old children and Article 45 to urge states to provide ECCE for all children until they complete the age of six years.

    The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory curriculum (RTE) Act 2010 guarantees children their right to quality elementary curriculum. ECE is not recognized as a compulsory provision by RTE, but RTE urges states to provide free pre-school curriculum for children above three years. The 12th Five Year Plan acknowledges the importance of ECE and improving school preparedness.
    The Government of India approved the National Early Childhood Care and curriculum (ECCE) Policy in 2013. The Policy framework also includes the National Curriculum Framework and Quality Standards for ECCE.

    The Policy caters to all children under 6 years of age and commits to universal access to quality early childhood curriculum. The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) is the nodal department for ECCE. MWCD is responsible for the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) program, which is a centrally sponsored and state-administered ECCE program, covering around 38 million children through a network of almost 1.4 million Anganwadi centers (a village courtyard). ICDS includes delivery of an integrated package of services such as supplementary nutrition, immunization, health check-up, preschool curriculum, referral services, and nutrition & health curriculum. ECCE is one of the components and aims at the psycho-social development of children and developing school readiness.

    Despite the recognition of the importance of ECE by the Government of India, the challenges in implementation still remain. There are still substantial numbers of children not enrolled in preschools. Even in the elementary curriculum, while there is a significant rise in enrolments, the dropout rate continues to be a matter of concern, with dropouts being highest in the first two grades of elementary schooling. Learning assessments also show that literacy skills are poor in early primary grades. This points to the urgency of helping children, particularly from first-generation families, develop adequate school readiness through a good quality ECE program, to enable them to make a smooth transition.

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