GUWAHATI, Sept 23 - UNICEF, in partnership with the Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development (CECED), Ambedkar University, Delhi and ASER Centre, recently launched a report on the Indian Early Childhood Education Impact, a five-year longitudinal research study that followed a cohort of 14,000 children from age 4 to age 8 in rural areas of three States of Assam, Rajasthan and Telangana.
Findings from the report reveal that a majority of four-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 six in primary school and children above age six in preschool in some States.�
The report which was released on Tuesday � including a regional release at Guwahati � 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 five 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. The large-scale service providers 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,� the report noted.
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 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 six. It emphasises 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 practising child-entered 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.
A regional workshop was also organised in Guwahati to spread awareness on the critical findings and recommendations from the study. The study report supports efforts to realise young children�s developmental potential and set the right pathways for lifelong learning.
This eastern region workshop in the city was attended by participants from Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and West Bengal. The workshop was organised by CECED, Ambedkar University Delhi in collaboration with ASER and UNICEF India.
Some of the participants present in the workshop were Alak Saharia, Secretary, Department of Social Welfare, Govt of Assam; Lata Menon, Consultant, UNICEF Delhi; Mita Gupta, Education Specialist, UNICEF Delhi; Aparajita Bhargarh, Assistant Professor, Ambedkar University Delhi; Dr Bandana Bhuyan, Former Regional Director, NIPCCD, Guwahati; and Dr Tushar Rane, Chief Field Office UNICEF, Assam.