The National Education Policy is very promising and forward-looking and takes into account that the first 1000 days are very crucial for the child. Therefore, the right kind of environment for early childhood is very important for every child. The gap between existing learning outcomes and the outcomes that are actually required must be bridged through major reforms that bring the highest quality, equity and integrity to the system, from early childhood care and education to higher education .
Currently, children in the age group 3-6 years are not covered in the 10 + 2 structure as Class 1 begins at 6 years. However, the new National Education Policy is based on a 5 + 3 + 3 + 4 structure in which a solid foundation is also included in early childhood care and education (ECCE) from the age of 3, which that will surely help promote better learning, development and general well-being of children.
ECCE ideally consists of flexible, multi-faceted, multi-level, game-based, activity-based and inquiry-based learning concepts, comprising alphabets, languages, numbers, counting, colors, shapes, indoor games and outdoors. Puzzles, logical thinking, problem solving, drawing, painting and other visual arts, crafts, theater and puppetry, music and movement are also an integral part of the concepts. It also includes a focus on developing social skills, sensitivity, good behavior, courtesy, ethics, personal and public cleanliness, teamwork, and cooperation.
The main objective of ECCE is to achieve optimal results in the domains of: physical and motor development, cognitive development, socio-emotional-ethical development,
cultural / artistic development, and the development of communication and early language, literacy and numeracy. Attempting to perfect a child from the founding age of 3 years instead of 6 years puts our new educational policy on par with the developed nations of the world, but it is the focus on educational technology that advances them by leaps and bounds. The best part is that the Policy aims to include every child, regardless of location, who is at a particular socioeconomic disadvantage.
The emphasis on ECCE teacher training either for Anganwadis or for preschool according to the curricular / pedagogical framework developed by NCERT, provides a great boost to teachers, mentioning different media such as digital / DTH to train them. The policy is reflected in the shortage of professionally trained teachers at different levels, which is one of the main causes of the low quality of ECCE and the large student-teacher ratio or high illiteracy rates. Therefore, try to fill the gap by filling teacher vacancies as soon as possible.
On the curriculum side, there will be a greater focus on basic literacy and numeracy – and in general, reading, writing, speaking, counting, numeracy, and mathematical thinking – during the preparatory phase.
Today, with the lack of universal access to ECCE, a large proportion of children already fall behind in the first weeks of first grade. The policy also aims to ensure that all students are ready for school, a 3-month interim set. ‘school readiness module’ for all first grade students, consisting of activities and workbooks around learning alphabets, sounds, words, colors, shapes and numbers, including collaborations with peers and parents, to be developed by NCERT and SCERT.
The greatest emphasis is on experiential learning, a key element in international education and curricular options. This means more projects, better training in real life, more interactions and better skills. With these developments, one is left with options that are at similar levels of quality, flexibility, and exposure. The National Education Policy has really tried to address the needs of the 21st century and tries to create a friendly environment for students in schools and universities, for their integral development. In short, it is a progressive and visionary policy and its success will be directly proportional to its implementation and execution, practically.
(Author Preeti Kwatra is the founder and director of the Petals India Preschool Club. Opinions expressed here are personal).