“Children of today are the leaders of tomorrow”- Nelson Mandela
What Nelson Mandela said holds special significance in India’s context as one- third of our country’s population is constituted of children aged between 0 to 14 years, the age gap which is said to build a kid’s childhood.
Therefore, the leaders we get will depend on the children we raise; this statement alone explains the importance of Early Childhood Education in a child’s life. It lays down the foundation for their future and as they say a strong foundation breeds a bright future.
Early childhood education can be defined as the formal teaching and care of young children by people other than their family or in settings outside of the home. According to UNESCO, it is described as the period from birth to eight years old.
Importance of Early Childhood Education:
In India, the major scheme which is responsible for Early Childhood Education is the Integrated Child and Development Scheme (ICDS). The ICDS — under the Ministry of Women and Child Development, and looked after by the WCD department in each state — has been in place since 1975.
Under this scheme, the government has setup Anganwadi Centres all across the country, which is responsible for providing children between 3 to 6 years with non-formal education to achieve the objective of making them school ready and reducing anaemia and child mortality by giving supplementary nutrition.
Hence, a healthy meal and a stepping stone for school, Anganwadis in the city have these two key responsibilities. However, the actual implementation of these two responsibilities in these Aganwadis is questionable. The expectation from a child going to these centres is that by the time he leaves an Anganwadi centre, he should at least know the name of colours, seasons and learn how to write letters and numbers. However, the AWC’s have not been successful in achieving these objectives, the major hurdles in the process are:
As an overall scheme, ICDS might be successful in a lot of areas however talking about early childhood education the purpose has somewhere been defeated. The reason children go to these centres is for food and not for education, because of which when they enter the school gates they find it hard to cope with the sudden change in their environment. More emphasis needs to be put on the making the kids school ready and for that proper training should be given to the Aganwadi workers, vacant positions should be filled and regular checks should be conducted in order to keep the quality in check.