The Draft National Education Policy was released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in May-June, 2019. The draft talks at length about the future of early childhood care and education in India, in that, it recognises its unparalleled importance and suggests the way to approach quality early childhood care and preschool education.
Key Recommendations From The Draft Policy
Let’s have a look at some of the key recommendations and what it could mean for preschools. Find Nearby Preschools.
- The draft policy recognizes the critical importance of age-appropriate care and stimulation in the first 6 years of a child’s life as 85 % of brain development occurs during this stage.
- It stresses the idea that there exists a foundational stage from the age of 3 years of preschool up to 8 years (Grade 2), and it should be treated as one pedagogical unit.
- The draft policy also proposes that children between 3-8 years should be taught through a flexible, multifaceted, multilevel, play-based, activity based and discovery-learning based system of education in the foundational stage. In other words, it considers Grade 1 and 2 as an extension of the pre-primary curriculum. It further rejects the idea of teaching children using a pre-scripted formal curriculum up to Grade 2, which is the case with most schools at present. This is why the development of a new curricular framework for the foundational stage is required.
- The draft policy proposes to extend the mandate of NCERT to develop a curricular and pedagogical framework for children in the age range of 3 – 8 years. All preschools and primary schools, run by the government, NGOs and private sector shall refer to this framework which will broadly cover what children should learn and how.
- It also strongly proposes the idea of creating a system of accreditation for all kinds of preschools in order to regulate and monitor the quality of early childhood education at these schools. This recommendation was earlier made by the NCF ECCE, 2013 as well.
- The draft policy also proposes that the government will co-locate new Anganwadi centres with existing primary schools, as well as expand existing primary schools to attach three years of preschool education. Additionally, the government will also construct standalone preschools in areas where Anganwadi centres and extended primary schools are not enough for the population of 3-6 year old children.
- According to the draft policy, preschool education will be brought under the purview of MHRD to ensure continuity of curriculum and pedagogy and to ensure adherence to non-formal education for the foundational stage.
- Most importantly, the draft policy proposes access to free and compulsory quality pre-school education for 3 – 6 year old children. Therefore, it strongly suggests expansion of the Right To Education (RTE) to include children of the age 3 – 6 years, giving due importance to the first 6 years as the most critical years for overall development.
The Need Of The Hour – Monitoring Preschools
Guidelines for early childhood care and education have been published in the past for preschools to refer to. While some preschools are headed in that direction, there is still a long way to go, especially with a newer set of guidelines being proposed.
The India Early Childhood Education Impact Study 2017 undertaken by Ambedkar University, ASER and UNICEF highlighted the need for preschools to stop functioning as a downward extension of primary school curriculum. The study noted that opportunities for age-appropriate activities were mostly absent in many preschools’ curriculum.
Preschools require a credible system of accreditation that monitors and evaluates them. A system that works with them hand-in-hand enabling them to be equipped enough and to be able to teach what’s required as per the current guidelines. A system that would be able to help preschools build the required infrastructure and materials for children to learn, and help follow the right methods of teaching. A recognized system that helps preschools prepare themselves to contribute to children’s development without having subtractive effects. The need of the hour is to ensure the right foundation for the children, beginning preschools.
Roadmap – Propositions for Preschools
The draft National Education Policy 2019 has put forward some important propositions for Preschools.
- While the draft NEP 2019 outlines important developmental practices, it is high time preschools sincerely review and revise their overall teaching methods and curriculum.
- Additionally, composite schools (with preschools and primary schools together) would have to build a bridge between the pre-primary classes and early primary grades in such a manner that Grade 1 and 2 are extensions of the pre-primary curriculum and not the other way around.
- According to the draft policy, schools may have to revise the entire curriculum for Grade 1 and 2 to align it to the curricular and pedagogical framework that will be developed by NCERT.
- Further, by bringing early childhood care & education under the RTE and purview of MHRD, it will finally receive the long due importance, funds and efforts by the government. Although, the transition from one ministry to another will take time and faced by challenges.
In the larger perspective, it is a great achievement for all of us in the field of ECE and the pioneers who have been advocating and fighting for children’s right to free and compulsory ECCE. (Early Childhood Care and Education) The policy, like I said before, has brought forward some great propositions. What we really need is for all to come together and change it into action.
The draft policy is open for the public to review. You may send in your suggestions to the MHRD before 31st July 2019. Give it a read and contribute!