New Delhi: Are parents and preschools giving children under 8 years old adequate time to play, explore, create, and learn, or are they making them memorize by rote?
Recent research in the neurosciences has established that around 80 percent of brain development takes place by the time a child is 5, with the first three years seeing the maximum growth. Clearly, the environment and experiences during these early childhood years have a great deal to do with a child’s future development and growth. In fact, early childhood experiences determine how much a child will gain from later education.
With countries around the world beginning to recognize the criticality of early childhood experiences, the World Bank and the Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development of the Ambedkar University held a regional conference on early childhood care and education (ECCE) in New Delhi recently. The conference was also supported by other international agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF, and CARE. Participants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka attended the conference, along with researchers, experts, NGOs, and government officials. (Jump to their recommendations.)
While most developed countries endeavor to give children a better start in life by providing near-universal early childhood education – either through the public or private sector - this has remained a neglected area in South Asia. Apart from some efforts by the private sector and NGOs, few other institutions across the region provide early childhood care and education.
Among the South Asian countries, India has the distinction of implementing the Integrated Child Development Services program for holistic early childhood development. The program, which seeks to benefit some 80 million children from birth to 6 years of age, includes early childhood education, but the quality of the education provided is not very satisfactory. Overall, in South Asia, financing is mostly ad hoc and negligible, there is little coordination between institutions that provide other early childhood services such as health and nutrition, and the legal framework for developing early childhood education is non-existent across the region.