The draft National Education Policy begins by stating the facts regarding cognitive development that it starts much before the child sets foot inside a school. It reads “the learning process for a child commences immediately at birth.” The statement is true as it is known that the groundwork for schooling in child’s brain is laid unbeknownst to the witnesses. What are termed higher cognitive functions peak between the ages of one and three.
The following few sentences deviate from the truth to a great extent. For instance, one of the early appearing sentences reads “evidence from neuroscience shows that over 85% of a child’s cumulative brain development occurs prior to the age of 6”. Global focus for optimal brain development remains on the first 1,000 days of an individual’s life (The Lancet, 2007) which shows the inaccuracy of the statement made in the NEP. This is also dangerous as it extends the window from 1000 days to 6 years and encourages procrastination in introducing education.
This statement is also a precursor to the neglect that is shown to the early childhood education or preschooling in the NEP.
The NEP draft states that in the second part of the childhood i.e. 3-6 years, the Aanganwadi centers take care of the educational needs, however, the policy statement is very ambiguous and inadequate in assigning the responsibility of the first part of the childhood i.e.0-3 years to any agency. The chapter on early childhood education is very sketchy in details. The only subjects that find mention are health and nutrition services for both mothers and children like the rations distributed under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). Important though physical development is, it cannot make up for the psycho-social development and exposure that the policy seems to have left solely to the parents.
The absence of clear layout for early childhood education becomes starker when we acknowledge that there are glaring deficiencies in the ICDS itself.
It is being acknowledged across the globe that the early childhood education is extremely critical and indispensable for healthy cognitive development of the children. In India, the attitude towards preschooling is not progressive by any stretch of imagination and the absence of strategy for early childhood education in the NEP 2019 seems to defeat the purpose of education in a very crucial respect.
The 86th Amendment of the Constitution 2002 and Section 11 of the Right to Education Act also mandate public provision of early childhood care and education. Interestingly the policy states: “Universal access to quality Early Childhood Education is perhaps the best investment that India can make for our children’s and our nation’s future”.
Founder & Consultant - School Serv
Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.