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Azim Premji University, UNICEF & AECED host conference on ECCE profession

November 10, 2016

Bangalore based Azim Premji University in association with UNICEF and Association of Early Childhood Education and Development organised a national conference on Re-defining the Early Childhood Development Profession in India: Challenges and Potential on November 7 & 8 in Bangalore. The two days conference focused on the much needed training of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) professionals to provide effective quality programmes. ECCE professionals range from day care providers, caregivers within homes, anganwadi workers, helpers, teachers of preschools, administrators, supervisors and educators of teachers and caregivers.
The main objective of the conference was to bring to fore the need for re-imagination of the field, and deliberate on alternatives to current issues in all aspects of the early childhood profession, debating and endorsing some non-negotiable such as quality teacher education and finding strategies to meet the policy requirements regarding in-service capacity building and so on. The conference also emphasised on the need to focus on all contexts including migrant children and children from urban slums who were generally not included in these discourses.

Witnessing participation from over 260 delegates, the conference brought together policy makers, teachers, teacher training institutes, academicians, researchers and representatives from all sectors – private, NGO and government from ECCE domains.

Uma Mahadevan, principal secretary, Women and Child Department, Karnataka and the chief guest for the conference said, “We should pay greater attention to the critical work that the early educators are doing to ensure better future for children and acknowledge their commitment to the new generation”.

“The ideas of action should be rooted in the reality of today. We are quite elated that the conference has participation from 17 states across India and experts from Bhutan and Bangladesh. Azim Premji University contributes to the matters of human development in India like teaching and research rather than other disciplinary forces generally followed by other universities,” said Anurag Behar, vice chancellor, Azim Premji University.

Sukanya Subramanian, education specialist, UNICEF presented on early childhood development and sustainable development goals. “Sustainable development goals (SDG) are a framework within which we work till 2030 to ensure equitable and inclusive quality education at primary level. Access to quality early childhood education is the most important investment in the domain of human development and capital formation as it creates ripple effects for the entire lifespan of beneficiary,” she said.

Plenary speakers Venita Kaul (Ambedkar University, Delhi), Prerna Mohite (Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara), emphasised the policy considerations that need to be made in the profession, and higher education efforts required. Issues related to curriculum, teacher attributes and continuous professional development were discussed by Kinnari Pandya (Azim Premji University), K.B. Jinan (Sadhana Village School, Pune),and  Maya Menon (The Teacher Foundation) on Day 1.

Day 2 sessions deliberated on various interventions in the public and private sectors – Nilesh Nimkar (QUEST, Pune) and Mary Punnosse (Prajayatna, Bengaluru) presented their in-service professional development programmes for Anganwadi workers. Mridula Bajaj (Mobile Creches, Delhi) spoke about integrated workers for Anganwadi and construction site creches. Kavita Gupta (Neev Preschools and Academy, Bengaluru) focused on challenges in training preschool teachers in-service and emphasised the need for quality preservice programmes.

Existing pre-service models were also discussed – Neela Dabir shared about Bachelors of Science in Vocational Education (ECD) offered by TISS, Mumbai. Rekha Sharma Sen presented the extensive impact that IGNOU’s Diploma in ECCE offered in distance mode has made over the past two decades, and yet is not recognised as a professional degree. Ankur Madan from Azim Premji University emphasised the need for inclusion in preschools, and knowledge and skills that teachers should possess to work with young children.

Eight workshops on topics ranging from early literacy, Eurhythmy, theatre, early intervention and teachers as leaders invited enthusiastic participation from preschool teachers, practitioners and academics alike. Thematic paper presentations on themes related to Early Childhood Teacher Education were made by some young scholars as well as practitioners from the field.

The deliberations clearly suggested the need for Early Childhood profession to be re-imagined and worked upon with systematic steps towards teacher/educator professional development for children below six years of age.

The conference also felicitated senior stalwarts such as Professor Anandalakshmy S, Mina Swaminathan, and Veena Mistry.

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