Every child is precious and an important asset to any society and is the most valued resource of any nation. The first 1,000 days of life and the subsequent early childhood years (0-8 years) are considered an important “Window of Opportunity” for the development of any child and that is why 11 out of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been clearly linked with early childhood globally. Early Childhood Education in these golden years brings innumerable gains for an individual, including health, less high-risk behavior, and increased productivity which leads to higher future incomes.
MAKING THE ‘RIGHT START’
Early childhood education plays an important role in the neurological development of young children. Researchers believe 90 percent of a child’s brain develops by age 5 and the neurological development during the first five years of life greatly depends on learning and stimulation that occurs during these years of life.
Such stimulation makes certain types of learning possible when the child begins school. It also augments the child’s neural pathways that are responsible for social, emotional, and intellectual development. Early childhood education, therefore, capitalises on a vast array of kinaesthetic, tactile, auditory, and olfactory activities that stimulate a child’s brain to develop to its full potential.
Early childhood education provides an opportunity to ensure that all children who are getting into school are “Ready to Learn” in the right way.
It equips young children with physical well-being, psychomotor skills, social competence, language ability, and other skills needed for successful school adjustment and ensures that the young children enter school healthy and ready to succeed.
They will experience less stress and anxiety because early childhood education prepares them for the upcoming school year, ensuring a smooth transition to school education.
NEP UNLOCKS THE POTENTIAL OF ECCE
Surprisingly, The Right to Education Act (2009), does not include children below 6 years under its umbrella, but states that “with a view to prepare children above the age of three years for elementary education and to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years, the appropriate Government may make necessary arrangement for providing free pre-school education for such children”.
The 12th Five-Year Plan also acknowledged the importance of Early Childhood Education and in the year 2013, the government of India approved the National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy which also includes the National Curriculum Framework and Quality Standards for ECCE.
However, the policy never came to practice. Recently the New Education Policy (2020), unlocks the potential and acknowledges the importance of Early childhood Education for children from 0-8 years of age.
As per the 2011 census, children in the age group of 0-6 years constitute around 158 million population of India. Both equitable access and quality provisioning of early childhood education have been the focus of our recent New Education Policy (2020).
The conclusions drawn from most research indicate about early childhood education are that there are greater benefits and returns and provide a strong base for lifelong learning and learning abilities, including cognitive and social development.
Nobel laureate James Heckman’s STUDY suggests “PRESCHOOL EDUCATION CAN BENEFIT GENERATIONS OF FAMILIES”, and ‘investing in quality early childhood development from birth to five will be The Right Start for lifelong development of children and their families.
The actual economic return on investment could range from anything between 10 percent to 13percent per child per annum, however, do we know how much financing is required to secure this return on investment for children?