From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : ICDS
Mains level : Paper 2- Early childhood care and education
- The economic fallout of COVID-19 makes the necessity of quality public welfare services more pressing than ever.
- The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme is one such scheme.
What is ICDS?
- ICDS caters to the nutrition, health and pre-education needs of children till six years of age as well as the health and nutrition of women and adolescent girls.
What is anganwadi scheme?
- The scheme was started in 1975 and aims at the holistic development of children and empowerment of mother.
- It is a Centrally-Sponsored scheme. The scheme primarily runs through the Anganwadi centre. The scheme is under the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
Need for focus on early childhood care and education (ECCE)
- Low enrolment: The National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) finds only 13.6 per cent of children enrolled in pre-primary schools.
- Weakest link: With its overriding focus on health and nutrition, ECCE has hitherto been the weakest link of the anganwadi system.
- Low awareness: Unfortunately, due to a lack of parental awareness compounded by the daily stresses of poverty, disadvantaged households are unable to provide an early learning environment.
Data to remember
According to government data, the country has 13.77 lakh Anganwadi centres (AWCs).
A meaningful ECCE programme in anganwadis
- Activity-based framework which reflect local context: To design and put in place a meaningful activity-based ECCE framework that recognises the ground realities with autonomy to reflect the local context and setting.
- Remove non-ICDS work: Routine tasks of anganwadi workers can be reduced and non-ICDS work, such as surveys, removed altogether.
- Extend Anganwadi time: Anganwadi hours can be extended by at least three hours by providing staff with an increase in their present remuneration, with the additional time devoted for ECCE.
- Change in policy mindset: ICDS needs a change in policy mindset, both at central and state levels, by prioritising and monitoring ECCE.
- Engagement with parents: Anganwadi workers must be re-oriented to closely engage with parents, as they play a crucial role in the cognitive development of young children.
Case study / value addition
In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, anganwadi centres have been geotagged to improve service delivery.
Gujarat has digitised the supply chain of take-home rations and real-time data is being used to minimise stockouts at the anganwadi centres.
- Government must act on the three imperatives. First, while infrastructure development and capacity building of the anganwadi remains the key to improving the programme, the standards of all its services need to be upscaled.
- Second, states have much to learn from each other’s experiences.
- Third, anganwadi centres must cater to the needs of the community and the programme’s workers.
- Nearly 1.4 million anganwadis of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) across India must provide ECCE for the millions of young children in low-income households.
Q. Some educationists have suggested that owing to the high workload of anganwadi workers, ECCE in anganwadis would remain a non-starter. Critically examine this statement and give dynamic suggestions to improve EECE in anganwadis.