FOUNDATIONAL LEARNING

Early Childhood Education (ECE) is one of the most effective investments in development as it lays the foundation for a child’s lifelong learning. Multi-disciplinary research from economics, neuroscience and education has effectively demonstrated that maximum brain development occurs between the ages of 0 to 5 years.

Quality ECE is also critical in determining a child’s life outcomes far beyond the school, in terms of health and income levels. Further evidence has linked ECE to social returns such as lower crime rates and better citizenship. The famous Perry Preschool Project provided high-quality pre-schooling to a small number of disadvantaged 3- to 4-year-old African-American children in Ypsilanti, Michigan from 1962 to 1967, and the following longitudinal study found that this led to a positive impact on the children and their families in many ways. The return per dollar invested by the time the participants turned 40 was $12.90.

More specifically in the Indian context, the India Early Childhood Education Impact (IECEI) study, conducted by the ASER Centre and the Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development (CECED), indicates that children who were exposed to high-quality ECE were more ‘school ready’ than those who were not. The five-year longitudinal study tracked close to 13,000 children across 3 states in India, and shows that building children’s cognitive, pre-literacy and pre-numeracy skills during the ECE stage improves their learning outcomes in early primary classes.

In India, ECE is provided by both the government and the private sector through multiple models. The largest coverage of 3- to 6-year-olds is by the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme of the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD). Meanwhile, there is increasing enrolment in stand-alone playschools as well as kindergarten sections of private schools in the private sector.

The Indian Landscape

Government Sector
Private Sector

In the early childhood phase, children across different age groups are in different stages of development and hence need to be taught different skill sets.

Less structured and informal programe with focus on broader set of skills

More structured programe with focus on school readines

A mixed-age classroom operating without a clear instructional framework can lead to ambiguity in teaching and adversely impact the learning of students. Hence, given the various policy and budgetary constraints, we have narrowed our focus to providing quality ECE for students transitioning to class 1 in the subsequent year.

We believe that the following elements are integral for a school readiness program to provide quality ECE:

  • Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum:
    The curriculum should cater to the cognitive development, emergent literacy skills and pre-numeracy skills of a child, and should be compliant with the National Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE) framework as well asthe guidelines being developed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
  • Separate Cadre of Teachers:
    A dedicated cadre of teachers would give due attention and importance to the child’s development, reducing the burden on primary teachers. It would also ensure that the qualification and mindset of the teachers is relevant to ECE.
  • Sufficient Instructional Time:
    Allowing for 3-4 hours of instructional time would ensure that the entire spectrum of activities integral to school readiness of a child are undertaken.
  • Effective Monitoring Mechanism:
    A strong monitoring mechanism would put in place accountability measures for teachers and ensure adherence to the curriculum, in turn improving time on task and quality of delivery.
  • Dedicated Infrastructure:
    Having dedicated infrastructure for pre-primary sections can help prevent the grouping of 5-year-olds with older and more developed kids in multi-grade classrooms.

Our objective is to test and demonstrate multiple models of providing quality ECE, to ensure school readiness for students transitioning to class 1 in the next year.

To achieve this with adequate quality at scale, we are pushing for state governments to provide a pre-primary section (PPS), i.e., a dedicated one-year program of preschool in all government primary schools, with a focus on all early learning competencies. We are engaging with states as well as reputed nonprofits across the country to develop and initiate a demonstration of the efficacy of the PPS model.

The PPS

Program Structure

100-200 schools Dedicated cadre of teachers Structured TLM and teacher training
Child friendly Peda-gogy 10 months prior to Grade I Impact evaluation (end-line & baseline)
Role of Partners
  • Partner: Framework design, creation of teacher guidelines,classroom material creation,teacher training
  • Education Department : Implementation, monitoring and budgetary support
  • M&E partner: Design instruments to measure impact, measure improvement in SLOs through baseline and end-line assessment,create impact report
End Goals
  • Ensure school readiness for the cusp cohort
  • Right mindset, skills and knowledge among teachers to create Impact
  • Increase in the entire set of early learning competencies

We are also testing an accelerated school readiness program (SRP), to be implemented in the first few weeks of class 1. We recently conducted a 40-day school readiness program in Gujarat and Karnataka for students in class 1 to bolster their pre-literacy and pre-numeracy skills. Given the large percentage of 5-year-olds in class 1 in government schools across the country, this low-cost model could have considerable benefits.

SRP Pilot in Gujarat and Karnataka

Program Structure

100 schools Grade 1 teachers Structured TLM and teacher training
Child friendly Peda-gogy 2 months/ 8 weeks at the start of Grade 1 Impact evaluation (end-line & baseline)
Role of Partners
  • Partner: Framework design, creation of teacher guidelines,classroom material creation,teacher training
  • Education Department : Implementation, monitoring and budgetary support
  • M&E partner: Design instruments to measure impact, measure improvement in SLOs through baseline and end-line assessment,create impact report
End Goals
  • Smooth transition to Grade 1
  • Right mindset, skills and knowledge among teachers to create Impact
  • Increase pre-litracy and pre-numeracy skills

At the same time, we are working to promote greater policy focus on ECE at both the central and state level, including tighter integration of ECE with the primary school system, and increased funding of tools, programs and research around quality pre-primary education.