Table of Contents
RURAL V. URBAN 4
THE RURAL SCENARIO 5
INTEGRATED CHILD DEVELOPMENT SERVICES 5
INDIAN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION IMPACT (IECEI) 6
FACTORS UNDERLYING THE IECEI OUTCOME 7
SAMAGRA SHIKSHA SCHEME 7
RIGHT TO EDUCATION ACT (2009) 8
STUDY BY SAVE THE CHILDREN ORGANIZATION 9
A SNIPPET OF THE URBAN SCENARIO 9
IMPROVEMENTS – RURAL AND URBAN 11
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN URBAN AND RURAL EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
ABSTRACTIndia is a country that is known for its diversity, and this distinctiveness of the country also covers how different our development statistics are in different states. Usually (there are exceptions), the lesser developed area will be known as the rural area, whereas the more developed area will be known as the urban one. India is a country that is known for its villages and cottage industries. The education that is imparted will quite obviously be very distinct between these two types of areas of development, and that depends on a lot of factors which will be touched up on in this paper. The paper mainly discusses as to the ways in which education that is imparted during the early stages of a person’s childhood differs in both these areas, and the various improvements that both stages could definitely try to seek.
INTRODUCTION The definition of early childhood education can best be defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which is recognized as one of the most important international organization that focuses on education. According to UNESCO, Early Childhood is the age between 0 years to 8 years of a child and is a stage for exceptional growth and development due to high brain development. It is also the stage in which children get the most influenced by people and the environment around them.
Therefore, as an educator, it is important to realize that, for the child, the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is way more than just mere preparation for the next stage, that is, the primary level of education. The main aim of ECCE is to ensure an all-round development of a child’s emotional, cognitive, social, and physical needs so that the child is able to grow with a well-developed foundation of learning and well-being. Therefore, the main aim of social projects such as ECCE is to nurture capable, kind, and caring citizens of a country.
RURAL V. URBAN Even though differences are extremely easy to pinpoint between these two terms, one has to analyze both of them with the educational and thereby economic development of India in the long term.
According to a survey conducted in 2019, only about 34 million people are engaged in labour in the organized sector in India, which is a very small percentage of the total population, thereby showcasing the overall literacy rate and education development of the country. India is supposed to be the embodiment of ‘unity’ in diversity; however, our nation still continues to show a rural-urban divide in almost all of our matters, and education, unfortunately, is not an exception. Therefore, when the urban population comparatively lives quite a luxurious life when it comes to educating their children, the rural population would always have to sacrifice either quality, finance, or other basic necessities in order for their children to go to school.
Even today, a huge part of the Indian population resides in the rural areas of the country; and hence, once cannot solve any national problem without paying attention to these people. However, the surprising finding is that there is still not much attention being paid to the type of system of learning that is existing in these abovementioned areas that constitute at least 75% of our country. If the Indian government focuses on upgrading the current rural education systems, then the impact that it would have on our economy will be magnanimous.
Due to all these concerns and outcomes, the Indian government has embarked on executing numerous policies, programs, and surveys in order to understand and develop rural education systems, the results of which are mentioned below.
THE RURAL SCENARIOINTEGRATED CHILD DEVELOPMENT SERVICES The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), the world’s biggest community-based program, was initiated by the Indian government in the latter part of 1975. It is a scheme that is aimed at children who are less than 6 years, because till now, there are not any definite policies for preschoolers of these ages. In addition to the children, the scheme is also targeted at pregnant and nursing mothers. The main purpose of this is to provide adequate supplementary nutrition, health-checkups, immunization, and pre-primary education.
The whole framework of ICDS was to ensure a holistic development of the child (and the mother), by delivery of the abovementioned services in an integrated manner, that is., by trying to see to it that every child is offered services with reference to his or her background circumstances. There were several surveys that had indicated that this scheme was a good decision of the government, and results were there to prove its good effects – studies conducted by private organizations, educational institutions as well as governmental agencies have arrived at the conclusion that the effects of the scheme have proved to be that much beneficial for the targeted group that they were in support of the continuous implementation of ICDS.
In fact, a governmental agency, who, in the late 90s, evaluated the results of the ICDS scheme, stated that the children under the ICDS areas had much better nutritional levels in their body than children who were not under the ICDS scheme. Preschool education is also another important aim of the scheme. The scheme also promotes early stimulation of what education will feel like to children below the age of 3 years through their mothers. As the best teachers of children below the age of 3 are their mothers, these mothers, with their children, are trained through an informal education system in Anganwadi Centres. Anganwadi Centres are places wherein children can learn, play, gain nutrition and develop other necessary skills that will assist them a long way in their lives. Such type of learning has also been seen to develop the health, nutrition, and education (KAP) of the mothers. With regards to the children, it is argued that there must be some sort of direct education that should be imparted to the children between the ages of 2 and 3, as intellectual development gets established by 3 and a half to 4 years.
However, that is not to say that there have not been any criticisms for the scheme. In fact, it was widely criticized that the achievements and utilizations of the scheme were overstated, along with the differences in the development of ICDS areas as compared to the non – ICDS areas. A significant criticism that existed after the introduction and first round evaluation of the scheme was that the scheme unknowingly had focused more on the means rather than results. However, it also needs to be said that the popular opinion is that the ICDS was a successful venture, as the government still approves projects done under it. Anganwadi schemes, Child Protection services, etc., which are sub-schemes under the ICDS scheme have been given the approval by the Indian government as late as 2017.
INDIAN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION IMPACT (IECEI) In order to have some data regarding the current levels of early childhood education in India, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development (CECED) situated in the Ambedkar University in Delhi along with ASER created the Indian Early Childhood Education Impact (IECEI). IECEI was a five – year study conducted from 2011 to 2016 to assess the impact of participation in early child education programs in children living in the rural areas of three states – Assam, Rajasthan, and Telangana.
Out of the 676 children that were sampled for this survey, it was realized that at least 70% have attended pre-school at the age of 4 years. It was found out that, children who attended pre-school regularly had a much higher ‘school-readiness’ levels than their counterparts who attended less regularly. Overall, there was a positive correlation between preschool participation and school readiness, which again draws out the importance of early education. However, the report also drew up areas where the education was lacking. It was highly disconcerting to find out that most children entered primary levels of education with school readiness levels that were far below than what was expected of them. The children were unable to meet the learning demands that the curricula in primary school demanded from them and hence it was concluded that the quality of pre-school education was not up to the mark at all.
FACTORS UNDERLYING THE IECEI OUTCOMEFollowing are a few of the factors that might have caused the results of the report:
This scheme tries to extend what should otherwise be basic necessity, education, to the rural parts of India by envisaging ‘school’ as an institution from pre-school to Grade 12. This way, it underlines the importance of pre-school for a child’s educational development, and sets up pre-school centers, also known as anganwadis, nursery schools, etc. in these rural pockets of the country.
This is in accordance with the National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) policy of 2013 whose vision is to promote the holistic development and an active learning capability of children below the age of 6 years by establishing free, universal, joyful and equitable opportunities for laying some sort of foundation in order to achieve full potential in the future. The scheme is also in line with the Right to Education Act of 2009.
ECCEECCE realizes the importance of learning during the formative years ( 0 to 6 years usually) of a child, and therefore prescribes programs, methods, etc. to conduct such learning practices, especially in rural households. ECCE therefore consists of an elaborative plan that tries to cater to the needs of the children that will assist them in achieving holistic development. The program states that emphasis needs to be given on the kind of indoor ( which includes classroom space, interactions between children to children and between children to teachers, materials provided for creating arts and crafts) and outdoor ( playground space, social interactions, physical movements and balance, developing environment – conscious activities) environment.
RIGHT TO EDUCATION ACT (2009)The RTE Act, which came into effect in the year 2010, also tried dispelling away the criticism of the absence of any specific regulation on the rights of education of children in their formative years. At the time of coming into effect, Section 11 of the Act stated that the Indian government ‘may’ take required steps for ensuring preschool education. However, advocates of early childhood learning widely criticized this provision, due to which the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill of 2017 put forward the suggestion of replacing the word ‘may’ with ‘shall’. This suggestion was allowed. Therefore, the RTE Act is also in favor of formative years of learning by stating the following –
“ With a view to prepare children above the age of three years for elementary education and to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years, the appropriate Government may make necessary arrangement for providing free pre-school education for such children.”
STUDY BY SAVE THE CHILDREN ORGANIZATION One of the rationale because of which the authorities are stressing on the importance of early childhood education is due to the study conducted by the well-known Indian NGO ‘Save the Children’ that works for children’s rights. The organization had partnered with the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS) in order to understand the results of the implementation of the ECCE program in Indian rural population.
The study states that ECCE has been gaining attention all across the country and abroad, due to the realization that costs borne during the implementation of the ECCE structures are far outweighed by the benefits it grants to children in the long run. However, one important issue that was realized by the study was that there was an absolute lack of importance given to preschool or early childhood education by the ICDS scheme, and that the achievements of the ICDS with regards to ECCE were frankly overstated. This disregard was evident by the absence of budget heads for the education component of the ICDS budgets across most of the states. There were numerous provisions made for supplementary nutrition and growth monitoring which also tells us that ICDS and related Anganwadis became associated as mere feeding centers for the poor, by completely disregarding the learning and skill-developing component of these schemes.
A SNIPPET OF THE URBAN SCENARIO The urban population always had it much better than their rural counterparts when it comes to anything regarding development, and education is no different.
According to the Economic Survey of 2019 to 2020 conducted by the Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, the financial cost borne by the rural students as opposed to their urban counterparts are on an average, over 10 percent points higher. Rural people already have many factors that tilt them onto the side of stopping their education and it was studied that such high costs only serve as further encouraging factors for rural students to drop out of school. High financial costs coupled with the absence of an adequate financial support system forces the underprivileged and poor to drop education altogether. In fact, according to the 'Key Indicators of Household Social Consumption on Education in India 2017 – ‘18’, conducted by the National Sample Survey (NSS), the percentage of people from age 3 to age 35 who never enrolled in any education system was about 13.6 percent. Most of their reasons for non-enrollment was because of ‘financial constraints’.
However, a phenomenon that is unfortunately unique to the urban areas is the presence of slums. Needless to say, children living in slums do not get any kind of education – neither in their formative years and nor in their later ones. The fairly recent industrialization and globalization have resulted in a rapid increase in the urban population growth. This growth, along with a lack of attention to the growing urban poverty only serves to further increase multi-dimensional deprivations, including deprivation of education (earlier and later) in the urban areas, especially urban slums.
In a research study conducted on the Delhi slums in 2009 regarding schooling of children aged 5 years to 14 years. Based on this survey, it can be seen that early childhood education is not even an option that is considered by the slum people. Nevertheless, the report indicates that only just over half of the children in slums attend schools. The report also states that there is a high dropout rate in these areas due to exhaustion of financial services, lack of school capacities for all children, requirement of documents that is almost always not present with these children, etc. The recent issue surrounding these children is the issue of ‘identity proof’. Identity proofs and access to school education are related when the absence of identity proofs such as birth certificate poses a problem in estimating the correct number of children who are homeless, living in slums, etc.
Prior to the passing of the RTE Act in 2009, if preschool facilities were not present in the urban slums, then primary schools were used for educating children between the ages of 4 years and 5 years. However, after 2010, school authorities began to interpret that a child below the age of 6 years shall not be admitted to class 1 which limited the access to education of the younger children. A 2007 Global Monitoring report stated that urban areas are still neglected in terms of government ECCE facilities as only 13% of all ICDS projects are located in urban areas.
IMPROVEMENTS – RURAL AND URBAN URBAN
The strangeness of the problems that are faced by the urban children needs to be looked upon by a new set of policies, rules and regulations that will specifically cater to the legal rights of these children as the existing policies are very much to the preferences and capabilities of the rural folks. As ECCE was not exactly covered in the urban areas, there should be the establishment of preschools that are public funded with an extremely carefully designed curriculum and trained teachers. There can also be national – level institutional tracking of the enormous number of migrating children to get better data on children that are always on the go. Special focus should also be given on children that are at risk of dropping out, by ensuring that some sort of bridging or provision for providing support classes is present in the laws.
With regards to the rural community, it should first be ensured that there are enough number of schools that are available for the rural children to access without any difficulties as most of the parents do not even entertain ideas of schools because of its unavailability of distance. A huge financial sum should be kept away with regards to rural education as that can be used up in building institutions with better infrastructure, hiring more teachers, providing children with better materials and bringing innovative forms of teaching into the rural educational sphere. Digital literacy should be a strict learning component for the teachers – it will help them both personally, professionally, and socially to become digital literate. Free education must be a thing for preschoolers, and their attendance should be carefully monitored by government agencies and non-government agencies alike.
CONCLUSION It should be kept on everyone’s minds that without building a strong learning foundation in our preschooler’s minds, there is no hope for any kind of holistic development for these children’s futures. Our country, therefore, needs to be much stricter when it comes to ensuring that by the age of 5 years, children can at least read basic texts and express their views and opinions into the outside world with no restrictions. Such a phenomenon will happen only if these children are taught the roots of education from a young age.
India has been doing a whole lot of programs, both with national and international connections, and it has been giving us results, but India has to step up on their games and implementation strategies if it wants to see a much better figure of holistic education in individuals from a young age. It will be difficult due to our county’s preoccupation with diversity in a negative manner that leads to discriminations based on socio – economic status, caste, gender, etc. However, all of this needs to be surpassed in order to achieve the dream education goal of our country.