Based on research on the human brain, it is globally acknowledged that the first 6-8 years of a child’s life are the most critical years for lifelong development. The research also indicates that if these early years are not supported by a stimulating and enriching physical, mental and social environment, the chances of child’s brain developing to its full potential are considerably reduced, sometimes irreversibly. Hence the importance of early childhood education, or “Pre-school” Education.
Evidence supports the fact the kids gain a lot from pre-school – where they are exposed to letters, numbers, and shapes; and more importantly they learn how to socialize at a young age. Studies also show that pre-school makes a kid well prepared when he/she enters a primary school. Also the chances of a child staying and performing well in primary/secondary school are much higher if he/she attends pre-school.
During my recent field trip to a rural region in the state of Rajasthan, India, i visited a “Balwadi” (pre-school). Speaking to the teachers and school administrators there, i learnt about some additional benefits of those pre-schools. The kids coming to the “Balwadis” there were children of farmers, who work in fields all day. Hence the “Balwadis” not only served the educational purpose for the kids, but they also provided security for the kids while the parents were out working in the fields. The teacher mentioned that due to the emphasis on nutrition, and meals provided, the “Balwadis” also had a positive impact on the nutrition of these kids. And we all know how important early childhood nutrition is for a long-term physical and mental development of a child.
But it is just surprising that importance of “Pre-school” education is not much talked about when it comes to Government policies – not just in India, but elsewhere around the world. I at least know for a fact that in India, that the new Right to Education (RTE) act focuses on free and compulsory education for every child between the age of 6-14. And now there is an added demand/discussion/drive to increase that age range by two years by adding free 9th and 10th grade education. I think instead on focusing on the upper end of that age group, one should start focusing on the adding compulsory “Pre-school” education to the free education for 6-14 year olds.
I’ve mentioned it before, and i’ll say it again, that India needs to shift its focus from “free schooling for all”, to “free education for all”….and its starts with good a “pre-school” education, followed by a good QUALITY primary and secondary education.