NEW DELHI, India, July 28: UNICEF, in partnership with the 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.
The launch was presided over by Mr. Rakesh Srivastava, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Henriette Ahrens, Deputy Representative, UNICEF India and Professor Shyam Menon, Vice Chancellor, Ambedkar University Delhi and Suman Bhattacharjea, Director of Research, ASER Centre.
Findings from 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 ages and in the order that policies prescribe, and therefore there are children below the age of 6 in primary school and children above age 6 in preschool in some states.
The report highlights that even one year of participation in a quality early childhood development programme leads to higher school readiness levels, which in turn lead to better learning outcomes in the early primary grades.
However, a key concern emerging is that most children in the study entered primary school at age 5 with school readiness levels which were far below expectations. They were thus unequipped to meet the demands of the curriculum and had low learning levels. The study concludes that these low school readiness levels in children are clearly related to the quality of preschool education. Existing Models commonly available across the country, do not use age and developmentally appropriate curriculum, methods and materials to engage children. It identifies formal teaching of the 3 R’s – reading, writing, and arithmetic, as detrimental to children’s development.
Given the impact of preschool education on children’s outcomes in primary education, the study recommends the inclusion of pre-primary education as an integral part of the Right to Education Act. Since the age is a significant factor influencing children's school readiness and learning levels, the study further recommends ensuring that children begin primary education only when they are developmentally ready, adhering to the norms of school entry as per the RTE Act, which requires that children begin grade 1 at age 6. It emphasizes the importance of a flexible, play-based foundational curriculum for 3 to 8 year olds along a continuum, for a seamless transition from pre-primary to primary education. To ensure quality, the study recommends that activities conducted in preschool programmes be age and developmentally appropriate, with well-trained frontline workers and teachers practicing child-centered pedagogy. There must also be adequate and appropriate learning materials available, and outreach to parents and families to support their children’s learning. The study further recommends that a regulatory system be instituted for early childhood education, to ensure quality standards are adhered to across all providers, including in the private sector.
Speaking at the occasion, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development Mr. Rakesh Srivastava, highlighted that India has a policy framework in place in support of early childhood education and the Ministry is taking steps to improve early childhood education as per the vision of the National ECCE policy.
UNICEF Deputy Representative, Henriette Ahrens said “Early childhood education is critical in laying a strong foundation for lifelong learning and holistic development. This research provides robust evidence that investments in promoting quality early childhood education are essential to achieving better learning outcomes in the early primary grades.”
She also recognized the efforts of the research team and authors –Venita Kaul and Aparajita Bhargarh Chaudhary from CECED, Ambedkar University Delhi, and Suman Bhattacharjea, Purnima Ramanujan, Manjistha Banerji and Mansi Nanda from ASER Centre and called upon all present to join forces to take action on the recommendations of the study to ensure that all children have access to good quality early childhood education.
The study report launched today, supports efforts to realize young children’s developmental potential and set the right pathways for lifelong learning.
Download policy brief and reprot at wwww.unicef.in/earlymomentsmatter
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
About CECED, Ambedkar University Delhi
CECED was established as a constituent of Ambedkar University, Delhi in 2009 to promote research, advocacy and quality in the field of early childhood education and development. Its mission is to contribute towards the national goals of social justice and equity by promoting developmentally and contextually appropriate early childhood care and education (ECCE) as every child’s right to a sound foundation and raising ECCE in the forefront of policy formulation and effective universal program implementation.
About ASER Centre
ASER Centre is the research and assessment unit of Pratham Education Foundation. Best known for facilitating the national survey of children’s foundational learning known as the Annual Status of Education Report, ASER Centre also conducts research on different aspects of the education system as well as other social sectors, focusing on generating actionable evidence related to children’s learning. For more information about ASER Centre please visit: www.asercentre.org
For further information please contact (UNICEF):
Ms. Stephanie Raison, Officer In charge for Communications, UNICEF India, Mobile: +91 9810183732
Ms. Geetanjali Master, Communication Specialist, UNICEF India, Mobile: + 91 981 810 5861
Ms. Sonia Sarkar, Communication Officer, UNICEF India: Mobile: +91 981 017 0289