The fundamental ability of being able to read and perform basic operations with numbers is an essential requirement that serves as the cornerstone of all future learning. This acquisition happens when the young learner is between 3-7 years of age, a period known to be critical to brain development. The skills developed in early childhood will create a base for the enhancement of greater cognitive development, socio-emotional skills, reasoning, and more.
Around 260 million children are studying in more than 1.5 million schools across India at present. From these, over 70% of children in Class 3 do not have basic reading and arithmetic skills. Data shows that each year, an estimated 6 million children complete 8 years of compulsory schooling in India with alarmingly low learning levels. Such worrying trends in the formative years of schooling, when the cognitive skill development is the highest, can greatly destabilise a nation.
Without the basic skills of foundational literacy and numeracy, the benefits of all future learning and future success are lost. To truly become a self-reliant nation, India needs to turn the spotlight towards strengthening the existing ECCE programs to highlight foundational learning from the teacher training as well as the curriculum perspective.
Foundational skill development includes young learners being able to:
An investment in quality ECCE to boost foundational learning improves the attainment of the above ‘gateway’ skills, which pave the way for bigger long-term benefits like stronger future learning prospects and employability. Providing foundational skill development across the grassroots levels is an effective equaliser, allowing for inclusivity in early education, leading to better economic gains for the country as a whole aside from improving the learning outcomes of individual children.
The second-most populous country in the world, India has a high rate of unemployment, a decline which began even before the pandemic hit. A clear long-term growth plan with strong benefits across sectors needs active empowerment of the upcoming Indian youth of tomorrow, right from the foundational stages. The new and improved workforce will find it easier to use new technologies and software, think creatively, adjust to the changing employment landscape, and generally be more accomplished as workers. This well-equipped generation, will, in turn, perform better. Ultimately, the GDP of our nation will reap the benefits of a good early education system. The guiding hands of our country’s economic development, our youth, need to be empowered so they can explore all available opportunities. We can take advantage of the shortage in manpower faced by countries around the world, and use our advantaged and educated youth to fill that gap.
The NEP 2020 is taking steps in this direction, guiding ECCE programs and development towards the goal of a more literate India.
Foundational literacy and numeracy have been accorded a high priority by the NEP 2020, with the policy stating ‘Strong investment in ECCE has the potential to give all young children such access, enabling them to participate and flourish in the educational system throughout their lives. Universal provisioning of quality early childhood development, care, and education must thus be achieved as soon as possible, and no later than 2030, to ensure that all students entering Grade 1 are school ready’.
Watch India Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi speak about the Indian government’s push towards empowering our nation by increasing initiatives towards early childhood education, below:
Effective implementation of the policy demands wide-scale initiatives, especially training and support for teachers, to help them impart high-quality foundational literacy and numeracy to their charges. These programs also need support from innovative and holistic academic programs for children, right from the foundational stages itself, in order to see long-term benefits. The role of each stakeholder-including institutions, educators, Anganwadis, and even households-needs to be leveraged to develop an integrated and holistic approach to primary education.
Square Panda is focused on impacting learning and raising a generation of independent confident learners, with our innovative and impactful foundational learning and teacher training programs.
Come back next week for an in-depth discussion about teacher training, and how it affects the implementation of the above mentioned initiatives.