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Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor

Don’t take my word for it. According to Dr. James Heckman, professor of economics at the University of Chicago and winner of the Nobel Prize for economics in 2007, every dollar spent per child in early childhood care and education (ECCE) is worth several spent on her school or university education. That’s because several authoritative neuroscience studies conducted in the 1990s and the new millennium have established that children’s brains are almost fully developed by age eight and their personalities are almost fully shaped. Therefore, what children learn in the early years is of utmost significance.  

Against this, there’s little awareness of the vital importance of early years’ education in India. Indeed until recently, it was synonymous with unstructured play and babysitting. My own awareness of the critical importance of ECCE came about in 2005 after a chance meeting in the US with Los Angeles-based businessman-philanthropist Lowell Milken who owns Kinder Care, the world’s largest chain of private pre-primaries. Particularly after Lowell agreed to invest in this then floundering publication your editors took special interest in ECCE. Since then EW has convened seven annual international and national early childhood education conferences to generate greater awareness of best practices in pre-primary education and provide a forum for experts and professionals to disseminate knowledge and exchange notes on this vitally important subject. 

Simultaneously, we also introduced our annual EducationWorld India Preschool Rankings which rate the country’s best pre-primaries on several parameters of early childhood education excellence (teacher competence, teacher development, infrastructure, safety & hygiene, etc). 

The EW annual preschool rankings, which currently rate and rank the country’s best pre-primaries in 16 cities (ECCE is a virtually unknown phenomenon in rural India), have generated great enthusiasm and prompted the best pre-primaries to improve their ratings under all parameters to raise their overall rankings. The beneficiaries of this friendly competition are children in the hitherto neglected 0-5 age group who are receiving increasingly professional ECCE.  

Yet our interest is not only in improving the ECCE that the small minority of 10 million urban middle class children receive in private preschools. Ab initio, we have been pressing for the universalisation of good quality pre-primary education. Regrettably, except for the Congress-led UPA-II government approving a draft National Early Childhood Care and Education policy at the fag end of its ten-year term in office at the Centre, there’s been no traction on this important issue. 

Therefore, we once again call upon the BJP/NDA government to at least double the outlay for the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) programme (Rs.20,755 crore in 2017-18) in the next Union budget. Given the vital importance of ECCE for the future well-being of the nation, this is an appeal that all right-thinking citizens should support.   

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