Swati Popat Vats
President, Early Childhood Association
President of the Podar Jumbo Kids (PJK) chain of 498 preschools with an enrolment of 45,000 children and 6,500 teachers across the country, and founder-president of the Early Childhood Association (ECA, estb.2011), Dr. Swati Popat Vats is India’s most fervent proponent of universal early childhood care and education (ECCE) for India’s 165 million children below age six.
ECA’s Covid-19 disruption response. Much before the national lockdown was announced on March 24, in association with Google, ECA organised a webinar to introduce ECCE teachers to digital teaching-learning options. After the lockdown, ECA has been conducting free-of-charge webinars daily for members and online refresher courses for educators. In addition, ECA has published a detailed 54-page guideline on reopening preschools and daycare centres post-Covid. Moreover, all our PJK preschools are following a specially designed home-based learning programme that combines yoga, home chores and live sessions with teachers on Facebook.
Covid-19 challenges for ECCE. The Covid-19 crisis which has forced closure of all education institutions including preprimaries, will negate many years of hard work done by ECA to impact the importance of ECCE upon parents and government. Currently, parents are apprehensive about sending youngest children to school and are increasingly accepting the argument that ECCE is dispensable. This is sad because it has been proven beyond doubt that formal ECCE is the foundation of all education. In particular, standalone preschools promoted and managed by edupreneurs are confronted with the prospect of financial ruin and closure as fees dry up.
Post Covid-19 ECCE reform recommendations.
• Central government should sharply upgrade the country’s 1.34 million anganwadis and implement recommendations of the draft National Education Policy of the K. Kasturirangan Committee
• National Council for Teacher Education should introduce structured teacher training degree programmes for pre-primary teachers in consultation with ECA
• Central and state governments should involve ECA to upgrade and reform anganwadis, and supervise private preschools.