From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much.
Mains level : Paper 2-National Education Policy and ASER 2019 report , emphasis on the preschool education and issues associated with it.
The draft NEP (National Education Policy) document points out that close to five crore children currently in elementary school do not have foundational literacy and numeracy skills.
Severe learning crisis: The document cites several possible reasons for this crisis.
- First reason: Many children enter school before age six.
- Lack of options: This is partly due to the lack of affordable and accessible options for pre-schooling.
- Therefore, too many children go to Std. I with limited exposure to early childhood education.
- Consequences for the poor: Children from poor families have a double disadvantage -lack of healthcare and nutrition and the absence of a supportive learning environment on the other.
- Second reason: Lack of developmentally appropriate activities by age and phase.
- The misplaced focus of ICDS: School readiness or early childhood development and education activities have not had a high priority in the ICDS system.
- Acting as an extension of pre-school education: Private preschools that have increased access to preschool but are often designed to be a downward extension of schooling.
- Thus, they bring in school-like features into the pre-school classroom, rather than developmentally appropriate activities by age and phase.
Three clear trends in ASER-2019 data
- First trend: Scope for expansion of Anganwadi network.
- Expansion network: There is considerable scope for expanding Anganwadi outreach for three and four-year-old children.
- All-India data from 2018 shows that slightly less than 30 per cent children at age three and 15.6 per cent of children at age four are not enrolled anywhere.
- Second trend: Under 6 students in class I.
- ASER 2018 data show that 27.6 per cent of all children in Std I are under six.
- It is commonly assumed that children enter Standard I at age six and that they proceed year by year from Std I to Std VIII.
- The Right to Education Act also refers to free and compulsory education for the age group six to 14.
- However, the practice on the ground is quite different.
- Third trend: There are important age implications for children’s learning.
- Association with learning output: ASER-2019 indicate the higher learning output associated with age in the same class.
- In Std. I, the ability to do cognitive activities among seven-eight-year olds can be 20 percentage points higher than their friends who are five years old but in the same class.
- In terms of reading levels in Std. I, 37.1 per cent children who are under six can recognise letters whereas 76 per cent of those who are seven or eight can do the same.
- Age distribution in Std. I vary considerably between government and private schools.
- Private schools in many states have a relatively older age distribution.
- Understanding the children: Understanding the challenges that children face when they are young is critical if we want to solve these problems early in children’s life.
- Providing for developmentally appropriate skill: Instead of focusing on the pre-school years as the downward extension of school years there is a need for providing developmentally appropriate skill in these years.
- Pedagogy: On the pedagogy side reworking of curriculum and activity is urgently needed for entire age band of four to eight.