Of the best decisions taken by your editor in the early years of EducationWorld which completed 20 years of uninterrupted publication last month, was to aggressively advocate universalisation of early childhood care and education (ECCE) for India’s most vulnerable children under age six. It’s strange but true that until very recently, ECCE was an area of darkness for government policy formulators and indeed, academia.
The story of your editor’s Pauline conversion to the cause of professionally provided ECCE goes back to 2005 when out of the blue, I was invited to address the annual conference of National Governors Association (NGA), USA. At NGA 2005, by lucky happenstance I met with Lowell Milken, chairman of Knowledge Universe, a company which owned and managed over 2,000 pre-primaries, aka preschools, in several states of the US. Lowell magnanimously invested in this then struggling publication and also introduced me to the work of economics Nobel laureate (2000) Dr. James Heckman whose research studies prove that a dollar invested per child in ECCE saves $16 in school and higher education, because of the child’s early cognitive development.
Dr. Heckman’s research also establishes that the more nations invest in ECCE, the less they need to invest in prisons. Since then, this publication has become a champion of professionally provided ECCE for all children in the 0-6 age group.
In 2010, we published the first EW India Preschool Rankings (EWIPR) to highlight the country’s best preschools.
The objective of the annual EWIPR survey is not just to felicitate the hitherto unsung heroes of ECCE, but to also spread awareness of the unique parameters of ECCE excellence under which the country’s best pre-primaries are rated and ranked. This is important because experts are unanimous that ECCE should be a joyful introduction to education for youngest children, rather than downward extension of formal primary education. Therefore, the annual EWIPR Awards function, a sequel to the rankings survey is also a seminar event addressed by ECCE experts to disseminate contemporary best practices in critically important early childhood education.
In this Christmas issue of EducationWorld, we present the ninth consecutive EWIPR 2019-20. To rate the country’s best preschools in 16 cities — alas professionally administered ECCE is overwhelmingly an urban phenomenon — we commissioned our trusted partner the Delhi-based Centre for Forecasting & Research Pvt. Ltd (C fore, estb.2000) to interview 8,497 parents with children in preschools, and teachers and principals in major cities and persuaded them to rate reputed preschools in their cities on ten parameters of ECCE excellence. Scores awarded by sample respondents under each parameter were totalled to rank preschools in 16 cities countrywide.
Against the backdrop of the imminent National Education Policy 2019 likely to give a great boost to ECCE, I strongly recommend that all young parents and ECCE practitioners carefully read this month’s unprecedented cover story.