Indian children might soon be a part of a formal education system at the age of three, with the National Education Policy draft proposing an extension of the Right To Education Act to cover the three years of preschool before grade one.
The policy makers approached The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to oversee and regulate early education as a part of the school system, rather than the anganwadis and private pre-schools that currently serve to the 3-to-6 years, age group. This might upset the anganwadi system which has been overseen by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) for more than forty years.
According to the draft policy, an inter-ministerial task force will be working on a plan for the transition by the end of 2019. It also praises the Anganwadi for their contribution to improving health and nutrition but also mentions the weak point which is education.
The policy draft states “While providing some essential cognitive stimulation, play, and daycare, most anganwadis have remained relatively light on the educational aspects of ECCE [or Early Childhood Care and Education]. Anganwadis are currently quite deficient in supplies and infrastructure for education; as a result, they tend to contain more children in the 2-4 year age range and fewer in the educationally critical 4-6 year age range; they also have few teachers trained in or specially dedicated to early childhood education.”
Since private preschools consist of formal way of education and memorizing rather than play-based learning, the draft policy continued by saying that most of the children in India who completed pre-primary education from a public or private school, did not have the required school readiness qualities when they joined primary school.
The suggestions made by the draft policy include a new integrated curricular framework for children from the age of 3 to 8-years. It is a flexible system based on play, discovery and activity, and exposing children to three languages from age 3 onwards. The framework would be applied by training and reinforcing the capabilities of anganwadis and connecting them to a local primary school, collaboration of anganwadis, pre-schools with primary schools, or establishing an independent pre-school which is also linked to a local primary school.
The draft finally mentioned that a plan determining the operations and financial aspect of combining early childhood education with the school education system will be drafted by a joint task force consisting of WCD, MHRD and health department.