The Early Childhood Education is of crucial significance for the optimum development of the child is admitted On all hands in this country and abroad, Studies have proved conclusively that foundation for later development is laid in the early years and impoverishment suffered at this stage damage severely the subsequent development of the child.
The importance of Early Childhood Education in the Indian context where 48% of the population live below the poverty line 63.83% are illiterate and one-fifth of the population is the age- group 0-6 years hardly needs any emphasis. Early Childhood Education has assumed added importance in the context of the programme of Universalisation of Elementary Education.
One of the main objectives of educational development according to sixth Five Year Plan 1980-85, is -“to ensure essential minimum education to all children up to the age of 14 years within the next 10 years.
This is by way of realising the Constitutional goal in the Directive Principle enshrined in Article 45 of the Constitution. The main tasks during the Sixth Plan for Elementary Education are two- fold.
(i) to achieve additional enrolment of 180 lakhs of children in classes I-VIII, and
(ii) to ensure a drastic reduction in the drop-out rates.
To realise the above two minimum objectives, extensive and intensive programmes by way of removing the infrastructural deficiencies and adopting various measures for quality improvements of elementary education have been undertaken.
Objectives of Early Childhood Education
The Sixth Plan has for the first time during the planned development and of the country, accorded due emphasis on Early Childhood(Pre-school)Education, particularly for the first generation learning families as a distinct strategy for the programme of Universalisation of Elementary Education. Early childhood Education (ECE) hits assumed dual importance.
First, its direct influence on child development.
Second, its potential contribution to Universalisation of Elementary Education.
The latter has two functional aspects. One is that the Pre- School Child receives care in the ECE Centre and his Young caretaker, usually a girl, is free to) Join and attend school, thus removing one basic cause of drop-outs particularly in the first 2-3 years of the primary stage. The former enables the child to become familiar with the ideas of constructive play and develop desirable behavioural patterns, so badly needed in the case of children of poor and illiterate parents constituting the first generation learning families.
Objectives of the scheme
It envisages that under the Sixth Plan a significant start will be made for the development of early childhood education for the first generation learning families in back-ward areas. First programmes of training of ECE teachers and early childhood education centres as adjuncts of primary/middle schools will be started under the State Sector of Plan. Secondly, UNICEF has agreed to extent assistance for the development of ECE programmes in 11 states during the 1981-83 period of Master Plan of Operation. Significant inputs have been offered by UNICEF on workshop/seminars for developing & producing training materials, orienting administrative & supervisory personnel, providing short -term training of early childhood educators and supplying play materials and equipment of a selected number of ECE centres in each of the 11 States.
In the field of ECE in the country the role of the voluntary agencies has been dominant so far. In extending early childhood education as indicated earlier, it has therefore been considered necessary to Support the voluntary agencies in this task. Hence the present schemes under the Central Sector of the Sixth Plan. Financial assistance Would be provided to the voluntary agencies to run early childhood (pre-schools) education centres as adjuncts of primary/middle school run either by Government, local body or private management, particularly for the disadvantaged sections in rural/tribal/backward areas, in nine educationally backward States namely, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajashthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. To avoid any duplication of efforts in an area the ECE centres run with central assistance under this schemes should be in blocks and villages that do not have similar centres run by ICDS/Social Welfare Sector or any other schemes of Government or non-Government body.
5.(a)Registered Voluntary societies, public trusts & non -profit -making companies would be eligible for assistance under this scheme. Ordinarily, agencies which are no legal entities would not be eligible. However, even agencies which are no legal entities may be considered for assistance provided the Collector/ Deputy Commissioner certifies the practical difficulties Owing to which they Could not be registered and the bonafides of such organisations.
(b) In order to be eligible for financial assistance under the scheme an agency should:-
(i)Have a proper constitution or articles of association;
(ii)Have a properly constituted managing body with its powers and duties clearly defined in the constitution;
(iii)Be in a position to secure the involvement of Voluntary basis, of knowledgeable person for furthering its programmes;
(iv) Not to run to the profit of any individual or body of individuals;
(v) Not discriminate against any person or group of persons on the ground of sex, religion, caste or creed,
(vi) Not directly function for the furthering of the interests of any political party;
(vii) Not in any manner incite communal disharmony;
(viii) Not proselytise; and
(ix) Eschew violence.
Nature of Assistance
Eligible organisations will be given grants for early child hood education centres both as adjuncts of primary and middle schools and independent units. Grants will cover the following items for running ECE centres.