What is Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) in India? What is ECCE? Why it is important? How do we know it is important?
Although such above-mentioned questions look like separate questions of inquiries, in fact, the questions are highly interrelated to each other. And, the answer of one must not be studied as separate from other, rather as part of the same whole.
WHAT IS Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)?
The problem with defining ‘Early Childhood Care and Education’ (ECCE) is that all words in this phrase seem to be a common word, thus most people using this phrase has an abstract notion about it. Pertaining to ECCE several terms are used interchangeably, like Early Childhood Education, Early Childhood Development, Early Childhood Education and Care and Early Childhood Care and Education itself.
The Dakar Framework for Action (Education for All, 2000) has used the term ‘Early Childhood Care and Education’ but also notes that “Some participants mentioned that Early Childhood Care and Development was a more appropriate term.”.
The organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has used the term ‘Early Childhood Education and Care(ECEC).
Moscow Framework for Action and Cooperation, 2010, has used the term ‘Early Childhood Care and Education’.
Some might understand ECCE in a much-limited context and consider it as pre-primary (pre to primary) level or preschool education only. It may seem that ECCE has several definitions and it would depend upon the person using this phrase, it is worthwhile to note that each word of this phrase has a much broader context.
EARLY CHILDHOOD (PERIOD) –
The period ‘Early Childhood’ has been undergoing a considerable change. In the beginning, it was understood to be ‘birth to five’, then it was changed to ‘birth to six’ and presently ‘birth to eight’ is considered as Early Childhood period.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), on its website, states – ‘Early childhood is defined as the period from birth to eight years old.’
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) considers the Early Childhood period as birth through age eight (several documents of NAEYC).
Article 45 shall stand substituted by the Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002, s. 3 as – “45. Provision for early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years.- The State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.”.
Nation Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy, 2013 defines Early Childhood as ‘the formative stage of the first six years of life’.
Law Commission of India in its Report No. 259 has considered the early Childhood period as birth to Six Years.
National Council of Educational Research and Training in its Position Paper on Early Childhood Education by National Focus Group states – ‘Early childhood is the period from conception to age 8’. In its ‘Preamble’ it also states the reason for extending it beyond age 6 as “The other reason for extending the span of early childhood from 6 to 8 years is to ensure a gradual and smooth transition from pre-primary to primary education …”.
World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education Building the Wealth of Nations (Moscow Framework for Action and Cooperation, 2010) adopted the Early Childhood period from zero to eight years of age.
UNICEF India views the Early Childhood period on its website as – “Early childhood is defined as the period from conception through eight years of age.”
It is also noteworthy to mention here that, Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS) India’s flagship program of Early Childhood Development “takes care of all-round developmental needs of children who are below six years of age”.
It seems, presently it is universally accepted that the Early Childhood period is a period of ‘birth (or conception) to eight years of age’.
CARE AND EDUCATION – AN INTERTWINED RELATIONSHIP
UNESCO on its website related to ECCE notes – “Care” and “Education” are inseparable: both are needed and reinforce each other.
Early Education Services (EES) of the University of California, Santa Cruz observes on its website – “We believe that caring and education are inseparable.”
The term “nevelés” has a central role in early childhood work in Hungary. “Nevelés” expresses that care and education are inseparable concepts (Korintus).
Australian Council for Educational Research in its document titled ‘, Early Childhood Education Pathways to quality and equity for all children’ notes – “care and education are inseparable and bringing them together will afford long-term social and economic benefits for Australia and its children”.
National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) in its Research paper titled ‘Perspectives on the relationship between education and care in early childhood’ remarks – “There is emerging consensus and understanding in Ireland of the inseparable nature of education and care in early years provision across all settings”.
UNESCO on its website related to ECCE explains care and Education – “Care” includes health, nutrition, and hygiene in a secure and nurturing environment. “Education” includes stimulation, socialization, guidance, participation, and learning and developmental activities.
Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to which India is a signatory, defines “Care” in a much broader and proper context –
(2). States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.
(3). States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services, and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities,
particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.
National Council of Educational Research and Training in its Position Paper on Early Childhood Education by National Focus Group defines ‘Care’ and ‘Education’ – “The term ‘Care’ has been added in recognition of the fact that young children need care and nurturing. In addition to their health and nutritional needs, their psychosocial and emotional needs also have to be met adequately for their holistic development.”
“The term Education covers learning, a process of acquiring knowledge, skills, habits, attitudes, etc. It also indicates an important focus, viz., to prepare the young child to enter the formal educational stream/system.”
The term ‘Early Childhood Care and Education’ (ECCE) refer to a range of processes and mechanisms that sustain, support and aid in the holistic development of children, from birth to age 8 years. (UNESCO and UNICEF 2012)
In a quality ECCE programme, ‘care’ encapsulates health, nutrition, hygiene, affection, protection, safety and psychosocial support and ‘education’ goes beyond being just “downward extensions of a formal school system” (UNESCO, 2000).
Venita Kaul and Deepa Sankar in a report on ‘Early Childhood Care and education in India’ published by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) summarises ECCE – ‘Early Childhood Development (ECD) and/or ECCE as understood by Indian professionals working with young children, refers to a holistic and integrated program of nutrition, health, and early childhood education which caters to children from prenatal to 6/8 years and which addresses the all-round development of the child from a lifecycle perspective (Kaul, V. Sankar, D. 2009).
It must also be noted that the ICDS flagship ECCE program of the Government of India provides six services, these are – supplementary nutrition, immunization, health check-up, referral services, non-formal pre-school education, and nutrition and health education. And, this resembles the definition mentioned above (ICDS Website).
WHY is Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) IMPORTANT?
Learning begins at birth –
The Jomtien Declaration of the World Conference on Education for All stated that: “Learning begins at birth.” (Myers).
Firm foundation –
These early years of development are critical for providing a firm foundation in cognitive, language, and motor development, as well as social, emotional, regulatory, and moral development (NRC and IOM, 2000).
Continuum till Primary level –
ECCE has linkage with enrolment, retention, and learning outcomes at the primary level and this was recognized by Education Commission (1964-66) itself.
Eleventh Five Year Plan recognizes ECCE’s contributing role to the universalisation of primary education.
Critical window of opportunity –
Due to the rapid neural connections, brain development, and growth that take place at this age, this period is considered a critical window of opportunity for optimizing children’s development through the combined impact of education, care, health, nutrition, protection, and stimulation. (UNESCO and UNICEF 2012)
90% Brain Development –
Brain development is most rapid during this phase – 90% of brain growth takes place before the age of 5 years (Giedd).
Addressing poverty –
Research indicates that ECCE can be a powerful instrument for helping to break the cycle of poverty in many countries. (Arnold, 2004). (UNESCO and UNICEF 2012).
Social equity –
ECCE also is widely recognized as a significant pathway to inclusiveness and social equity in education, provided that the programmes are accessible to all sections of society (Miyahara and Meyers, 2008; Becher and Li, 2010). (UNESCO and UNICEF 2012).
Comparative gains –
Children who have participated in high-quality ECCE demonstrate considerable gains in social, educational, health, and intellectual spheres, distinctively different from those who have not participated in ECCE programmes. (Hayashikawa, 2008). (UNESCO and UNICEF 2012).
Lawful obligations and commitment to UNCRC –
ECCE can assist governments in fulfilling their commitments (such as through the Convention on the Rights of the Child) to help young children exercise their rights and develop to their full potential. (UNESCO and UNICEF 2012).
HOW DO WE KNOW THAT Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) IS IMPORTANT?
Established standards, scientific researches, Longitudinal research, Policy papers, Statutory Provisions, Policy Statements and Position Papers from Agencies, Philosopher’s experiences, Economic evaluations, and others, help us to understands the importance of ECCE.
The field of early childhood care and education is replete with evidence that attests to the considerable benefits of good-quality ECCE programmes. Children who have participated in quality ECCE exhibit tremendous gains in their overall social, cognitive and intellectual development. ECCE has contributed to breaking the cycle of poverty; it also offers an entry point and platform for improving social equity and inclusion. (UNESCO and UNICEF 2012)
American Academy of Pediatrics –
High-quality early education and child care for young children improve their health and promotes their development and learning. (Policy Statement, American Academy of Pediatrics)
The Economic Impacts of Child Care and Early Education held at the Massachusetts Institute of
Investments in quality child care and early childhood education do more than pay significant returns to children—our future citizens. They also benefit taxpayers and enhance economic vitality.
Economic research by Nobel Prize-winners and Federal Reserve economists, in economic studies in dozens of states and counties, and in longitudinal studies spanning 40 years—demonstrate that the return on public investment in high-quality childhood education is substantial.
Common sense and Basic Research (Myers) –
Common sense suggests that the early years – when the brain matures, when we first learn to walk and talk, when self-control begins and when the first social relationships are formed – must be regarded as important. Common sense suggests that children whose basic health, nutritional and psycho-social needs are being met will develop and perform better than those who are not so fortunate. Common sense also suggests that a child who develops well physically, mentally, socially and emotionally during the early years will be more likely to be a good and productive member of society than one who does not. (Myers)
Research on early childhood development confirms common sense. The literature is vast and varied, encompassing research carried out by psychologists, medical doctors, anthropologists, neuro-biologists, educators, sociologists, nutritionists, and others. (Myers)
National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy, 2013 –
National Ecce Policy, 2013 confirms in unequivocal terms that the Early Childhood period is the period of most rapid growth and development and is critical for survival.
World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education: Building the Wealth of Nations, organized by UNESCO (Moscow Conference) –
Moscow conference concluded that ECCE is about much more than preparing children for literacy or for school, ECCE is an unshakable foundation for the development of the human capital required for higher value-added productivity, sustainable growth, competitiveness, and, ultimately, more equitable and politically stable societies.
Article 45 of the Constitution of India –
“45. Provision for early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years.- The State shall endeavor to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.”.
Law Commission of India Report No. 259 –
The development of young children is now increasingly recognized as a development and human rights issue of critical national importance.
The First 1000 Days: World Bank –
Research and experience have shown that early “hardwiring” determined by nutrition, stimulation, and environmental factors influence the long-term prosperity of families, nations, and the world. (Thurow, World Bank)
Sustainable Development Goals, Goal 4 –
Goal 4 of Sustainable Development Goals – “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning”.
Goal 4 Target of Sustainable Development Goals is “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care, and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education”.
The Dakar Framework Education For All –
7th Commitment of ‘The Dakar Framework Education For All’ states – “We hereby collectively commit ourselves to the attainment of the following goals: (i) expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education…”.
- Arnold, C. Positioning ECCD in the 21st Century: The coordinators’ notebook: An International resource for early childhood development. Istanbul: Consultative Group’s Annual Consultation, 2004.
- Asia-Pacific End of Decade Notes on Education for All, UNESCO and UNICEF 2012
Becher, Y. and Z. Li. Asia-Pacific Regional Perspectives on Inclusion and ECCE/ECD. Singapore: ARNEC, 2010. Website: http://www.arnec.net/cos/o.x?ptid=1036083andc=/swt_arnec/ articlesandfunc=viewandrid=197
- Early Childhood Education in the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-2012), Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India
- Early Education Services (EES) of University of California, Santa Cruz – http://childcare.ucsc.edu/about/index.html
- Elliott, Alison. (2006). Early Childhood Education: Pathways to quality and equity for all children. Victoria: Australian Council for Educational Research
- Giedd, Jay, N (2004), Structural Magnetic Resource Imaging of the Adolescent Brain, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1021 (1)77-85
- Hayashikawa, M. “Global and regional perspective: making a compelling case for early childhood care and education”. P. Puamau and F. Pene (eds.). Early Childhood Care and Education in the Pacific Institute of Education. Suva: Institute of Education. University of South Pacific. 2008. pp. 57-83.
- Integrated Child Development Services Scheme’s Website’s FAQ’s Section
- Kaul, V. Sankar, D. (2009) Early Childhood Care and education in India, National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA)
- Korintus, M. The Holistic Meaning of “Nevelés” in Hungarian Language – ECEC Terminology in Hungarian
- Miyahara. J. “Six reasons to support early childhood care and education”. P. Puamau and F. Pene (eds.). Early Childhood Care and Education in the Pacific Institute of Education. Suva: Institute of Education, University of South Pacific, 2008. pp. 84-98.
- Myers, Robert G. In Search of Quality in Programmes of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) : A paper prepared for the 2005 EFA Global Monitoring Report
- National Asssociation for the Education of Young Children, http://www.naeyc.org
- National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) in its Research paper titled ‘Perspectives on the relationship between education and care in early childhood’ by Nóirín Hayes
- NRC and IOM (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine). 2000. From neurons to neighborhoods: The science of early childhood development. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, http://www.oecd.org/edu/school/earlychildhoodeducationandcare.htm
- Sustainable Development Goals, http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/education/
- The Constitution of India, http://www.indiacode.nic.in/coiweb/welcome.html
- The Dakar Framework of Action 2000: Meeting our collective commitments. Adopted by the World Education Forum. Dakar, Senegal, 26-28 April 2000. Paris: UNESCO, 2000.
- “The Economic Impacts of Child Care and Early Education” held on December 9 and 10, 2004 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Thurow, R. The First 1,000 Days: A Crucial Time for Mothers and Children – And the World, World Bank
- UNICEF, http://unicef.in/Whatwedo/40/Early-Childhood-Education
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)
- UNESCO Website – http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/education-for-all/advocacy/global-action-week/gaw-2012/what-is-ecce/
- UNESCO Website – http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/strengthening-education-systems/early-childhood/
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