In their primary years, children are greatly influenced by their environment and the people around them. Early childhood care and education (ECCE) can help in moulding their thoughts, perceptions, and learning outcomes. We have adopted the philosophy of pre-school education from the ancient gurukul system, which focuses on fullness and vastness. The Gandhian philosophy of providing basic education hinges on a holistic approach of developing body, mind, and soul (hand, head, and heart). The modern-day ECCE should also focus on creating a nurturing environment for the social, emotional, brain, and physical development of children.
It is observed that the rate of drop-outs is unfortunately extremely high especially for marginalised and disadvantaged groups. Children from these sections of the society are enforced to leave the schools due to their unfavourable economic condition. Hence, it is imperative to ensure that they receive basic education through ECCE. At the individual level, ECCE can support better early learning outcomes, improved health outcomes, and even better social and economic development reaching adulthood.
Pre-school education should be designed with an aim to make the children independent individuals. A completely informal pre-schooling with limited adult guidance can make a huge difference in creating the perspective of the children. Engaging a child in self-control and self-directed activities will add value to their personality development. The role of adults should be to guide children and make use of local resources for their learning so that the children can connect with the environment and the community.
ECCE is intended to develop the skills needed for academic readiness in children and prepare them for entry into primary education.
Reading readiness is important for functional literacy hence, children should be exposed to books from a very early age. A literature and language-rich environment can help immensely to address reading and writing development issues. Pictures of alphabets, names of the students, and classroom rules written on the wall or hung on posters in big letters help them understand their environment better. It helps children to develop graphic and short-term memories of certain words, which eventually helps them to read as they develop their long-term memory.
Every child should also be helped to develop functional writing skills through scribbling, eye-hand coordination, drawing, painting, creative activities, tearing, and craft exercise. Children should be encouraged to make stories, and write down their thoughts. It also ensures the right muscle development of children through practising the correct grip and helps in better pencil control.
Currently, any child’s base for Mathematics and number is only through rote learning. Starting children out on various pre-number activities will help in changing this trend. Since the concept of weaving is similar to coding, which is the repetition of patterns; the weaving activities help them develop their logical thinking and coding base.
However, infrastructure, materials, equipment, and trained teachers, etc., are the areas that need immediate attention. Teachers engaged in ECCE, including the Balwadi and Anganwadi teachers, must be given specialised, age-appropriate training at least once a year. This will help them effectively implement the ECCE framework provided by UNESCO.
Parents’ involvement in the learning processes of their children is equally important. Hence, parents’ education programmes should be introduced in every school.
(The author is with an educational solution provider)