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India is a vast country extending over an area of 3,287,263 sq. km comprising 35 states and union territories with diverse socio-cultural histories, spread over widely varying geographical conditions. Progress in education has been uneven, from a mere 18 per cent literacy rate in 1951, three out of four children in the age group 6-14 were unenrolled. The country progressed to around 65 per cent literacy rate by 2001, only 6-7 per cent of 210 million remain unenrolled today. With a population of more than one billion, which is still growing, it has been an uphill task to keep pace with the expanding demand for education Commitment to provide free and compulsory education to all children up to fourteen years is the constitutional commitment in Indian constitution. Successive policies and plans have pursued this goal for the last six decades. The policy environment has recognised that Early Child Care and education is the first and essential step toward achieving primary school completion and achieve universal elementary education (UEE). This constitutional stance in favour of ECCE has empowered the state to make special policies and programmes for ECCE. The world declaration for Education for All is the important milestone in march towards universal primary education and ECCE. The making of public policy for a country as large, populous and diverse as India is intrinsically a more complex task than in a smaller political unit. "Public policies are an indispensable part of all government education systems. Policies provide the regulatory framework on which education systems depend. They are master narratives that provide visions and principles, rules and regulations, frameworks for funding, governance, curriculum and assessment, qualifications, and conditions of work for teachers" (Christie, 2008, p.149).
The policy making process is not straightforward, easily understandable process. The present framework clarifies the complex reality of policy making, policy analysis and policy implementation. It helps to better understand the overlapping nature of how educational decisions are made. As there is no simple way to define policy, however, it is "one way in which the governments of modern states envisage what they would like and how they intend to make things happen" (Christie, 2008, p. 117). Haddad refer policy as an "explicit single decision initiate or retard action or guide implementation of previous decisions" (1995, p. 18)
The Australian theorists, Janice Dudley and Lesley Vidovich (1995), defined policy "as collective social decision-making. It is collective and social because the decision made concern the whole of society rather than individuals alone, and second because participants in the decision making process are considered to be the legitimate decision makers for society" (as cited in Christie, 2008, p. 117).
Furthermore, Christie (2008, p. 118) points out that public policy are the combination of authority, allocation and values. This means that the authority or government makes policy, which has a legitimate power. While the allocation means that when the implementation of the policy takes place, it has already, decided that how much budget and resources will be put into a certain sector, for instance, in education policy, how much budget should be allocated to improve teacher performance in primary, secondary or tertiary education. In addition, the values mean that what ideologies behind the policymaking and its implementation.
Policies differ in terms of their scope, complexity, decision environment, range of choices, and decision criteria. Issue-specific policies are short-term decisions involving day-to-day management or, as the term implies, a particular issue. A programme policy is concerned with the design of a programme in a particular area, while a multi-programme policy decision deals with competing programme areas. Finally, strategic decisions deal with large-scale policies and broad resource allocations (Haddad, 1995, p. 18). According to Christie (2008, p. 122) Policies serve number of purposes and therefore take different forms. Some policies guide actions through laws and regulations, they are termed as regulatory policies. Policies are about distribution or redistribution of resources example include government policies that impact spending for welfare, public education, public safety are known as distributive and redistributive policies. Some policies set out ideals that cannot necessarily be achieved in practice these are symbolic policies. Policies may be classified in many different ways
Policy making is the first step in any planning cycle and planners must appreciate the dynamics of policy formulation before they can design implementation and evaluation procedures effectively (Haddad, 1995, p. 18).
The policy making process is effected by many factors such as external influences, political context, evidence and links. The external influences are the factors outside a particular country which affect policy processes within the country. Even in big countries such as India, international economic, trade and even cultural issues matter a great deal. The ECCE policy is given attention after the universal declaration of EFA. In some countries, World Bank and Donor policies and practices can be very influential. At national level the factors that affect policy making are the political context includes the people, institutions and processes involved in policy making. Example of political context is that a government may design a policy to raise taxes in hope of increasing overall tax revenue. The evidence is about the type and quality of research on the policy issue. The links is about the mechanisms affecting how evidence gets into the policy process.
The factors affecting the policy framework
"Policies always engage with what already exists, either to change it or to preserve it. Policy seldom operate in isolation" (Christie, 2008, p.122). The interests groups and stakeholders directly influence the policy. The ECCE policy firstly was set up in 1966 the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) known as Sargent Committee Report recognised the importance of early childhood education as an important adjunct to primary education. Despite of early initiatives, ECCE programs remained scattered, concentrated in urban areas, restricted to certain geographic areas of the country. In1974 the National Children Policy was passed by parliament and National Children's Board but none of these had any serious impact on early childhood care and education. A majority of early childhood programs continued to operate in the urban or semi-urban areas. The concept of providing health and nutrition along with preschool education was not understood.
In 1986 The National Policy on Education (NPE) , a Regulatory Policy launched by Rajiv Gandhi who was the prime Minister during 1984- 89, due to the renewed priority to education given in constitution. The constitution of India specifies that the state shall endeavour to provide Early Childhood Care and Education for all children until they complete the age of six years. The NPE (1986) was approved by the Parliament and a Plan of Action (POA). This may be considered a highly significant document because it recognised the importance of early childhood care and education and emphasized the importance of investment in the development of a valuable human resource. NPE (1986) viewed ECCE as "an integral input in the human resource strategy, a feeder and support programme for primary education and a support service for working women". It recommended a holistic approach of providing programs aiming to foster nutrition, health, physical, socio-emotional and mental development of children.
Before the implementation of the policy, in making policy process one phase should be taken into account i.e. policy analysis. Policy analysis is the important for the policy making process as it describes why a certain policy is formed. Smith ( 2003, p. 5) explains that the "policy analysis is the process of assessing situations, defining problems, clarifying values and goals, developing and recommending options, and implementing and/or evaluating outcomes". Policy analysis within education must be capable of recognising the many different levels at which policy development takes place, the myriad range of educational institutions involved and the importance of specific cultural contexts (Ben and Stevenson, 2006, p. 11). In addition, Bell & Stevenson (2006, p. 54) assert that policy analysis is a critical part of policy-making since it will determine what is the most effective and efficient methods to achieve the goals.
There are three types of policy models Rational, Critical and Hybrid (Christie, 2008).Rational approaches follows an easily identified approach, a linear progression or in a cycle. The policy is defined through certain steps. Firstly discovering an issue to be addressed, then identifying possible policies to deal with issue, applying the policies, finally observing and then evaluating, to make sure that policies are implemented properly. Through observing different steps the tasks weakness are recognised and processing can be done. Critical model is a triangle of context, text and consequences. In context the stakeholders and decision makers are involved in development of policy. They are not only concerned with the policy issues, but they investigate the social, economic, political factors that give rise to a problem emerging on policy agenda. And look at the historic account of the issue as well as the situational analysis before constructing a policy. Failed to consider one of these factors can be burden for the policy. Text constitutes the content of the policy (Bell & Stevenson, 2006). What issue to address, aims of policy. In text benefaricies are appointed and way of policy usage is determined. Consequences are the outcome of the policy. The difference between what is stated and what's implemented. In addition, the last form of policy analysis is hybrid, it states that policy is a mix of two dimensions vertical and horizontal. The vertical dimension is top-down and the horizontal dimension covers the people from governmental and non- governmental organisations it is a bottom-up process.
The policy is "complex and messy issues don't simply present themselves as problems to be solved. Rather in power decide what issues they will address in terms of their values and interests" (Christie, 2008, p. 124). Using the critical approach, the policy on ECCE is analysed by putting it into a triangle of context, text and consequences. In context it involves the goverment persons and other stake holders like Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWED), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MH&FW), ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJ&E). Policy makers see ECCE as an important adjunct to primary education. The policy makers viewed early education as a measure to prevent the high rates failure and stagnation in early primary classes. To develop the ECCE government took the initiatives.
McLaughlin contents that the policy implementation is "quite idiosyncratic, frustratingly unpredictable, if not downright resistant ways" (1987, p. 172). "Implementation analysis showed how local factors such as size, intra-organizational relations, commitment, capacity, and institutional complexity, and institutional complexity molded responses to policy" (McLaughlin, 1986, p. 172). As ECCE was implemented through three distinct channels public, private and non-governmental. Each project covers a Block, which is the smallest administrative unit. Support for various forms of mobile services/ crèches (creches in flexitime, flexi space, transitory/ temporary).Schemes will be made flexible enough to allow new and different institutions (labour unions, self-help groups, Community based organisations, etc.) to run creches, with funding on a per child norm and freedom to develop their own programmes, along with a support system including monitoring and guidance. Emphasis was on designing proper teacher education to implement innovative strategies with the support of resources from District Institute of Education and Training (DIETs), Block resource Centre (CRCs). Government is the larger provider of ECCE in the country. While several NGO's conduct small scale innovative programmes reaching the disadvantaged. There are 130 programmes, under the various departments and Ministries, the programs like ICDS includes delivery of an integrated package of minimum basic services- Health Care (Immunisation, Referrals, Nutrition and Health Education), Supplementary Nutritional Nourishment and Early Childhood Nurturance together contributing to improvement in nutrition and health status of children below 6 years. Rajiv Gandhi Creche scheme was launched for the children of working mothers. Government also provides ECCE through formal schools, pre-primary schools centres have been set up in uncovered areas. ECCE services are provided by voluntary and non-governmental organisations. They run crèches and ECCE centres for special communities in difficult circumstances like tribal people, migrant labourers, slum dwellers and rural poor's. Private initiatives are largely targeted towards children of higher socio-economic status. The schools impart pre-school education through nurseries, kindergarten and pre-primary classes in private schools.
According to McLaughlin "it is incredibly hard to make something happen, most especially across layers of government and institutions" (1987, p.172). McLaughlin say that policy implementation is quite frustrating as "it is hard to make something happen primarily because policymakers can't mandate what matters" ( McLaughlin, 1987, p.172).
As in ECCE, it led the younger children to crowding in primary educations. Yet early childhood policy continues to suffer from a combination of insufficient resources and fragmented planning. The government has shifted the ECCE education from department of education to the Ministry of women and Child Development, due to the fact that Ministry is implementing the largest programme of ECCE, the ICDS. By transferring the ECCE component to this Ministry it is believed that its expansion will expand and more children will receive care and education envisaged under the ICDS programme. But it is too early to trust on it. This administrative shift shows the low priority given to ECCE within the education sector. There is need to greater clarity and understanding which can come by formulation of separate policy for ECCE and clearly lay the specification for all perspectives and for each sub stage within 3to 6 age group which till now has been treated as one homogenous group, with little regard to differential development needs and demands for every year of that age group.
The impact of ECCE is directly related to quality of provision. It is important to least ensure basic learning conditions for children, including the professionally trained teachers. In addition to ensuring basic infrastructure and provisions, two important aspects that have direct implications are ECCE curriculum and training. ECCE is implied addressing different aspects such as cognitive development, language development, social and emotional development, physical and motor development, development of creativity and aesthetic appreciation, development of values related to personal, social and cultural life. The activities, experiences and environment necessary for promoting the development in all the above areas constitute the core of an ECCE curriculum. While a favourable policy framework and appropriate curricular guidance is available in the country for ECCE, the reality is that there is a large gap between what is prescribed or suggested and what is practiced. Like in some ECCE centres the workers and children are observed and involved in only routine activities like taking attendance, feeding the children and getting children to sing rhymes and songs. Whereas in some reading and writing was taught.
On the other hand, preschool education in private nursery school is largely a downward extension of primary education curriculum with teachers often having no ECCE training. Little thought is given in pre-schools to the principles underlying ECCE as a specific sub-stage of education with its own characteristics and curriculum. This gap between policy and planning has attributed to the absence of any system of control and accreditation, which could regulate the quality of ECCE.
But there has been another challenge about adopting the primary curriculum at a stage when children are not developmentally ready, and implementing it in a rigid and regimented way, thus imposing academic pressures on young children. Particularly in private schools admission tests for children and parents, homework, demand for English medium of interaction and a large number of books prescribed by schools for young kids are other areas of concern which relate to curriculum of ECCE. These practices are acknowledged to be detrimental to the health of children and of the system as a whole.
ECCE focus on play-based, child centred methodology which requires very specialized skills and knowledge to equip the teacher to address specific contextual needs of classroom. But eligibility criteria for ECCE teachers, the minimum educational eligibility criteria range from almost no bar and ECCE course are not available in many states which do not have a single recognised pre-school teacher education institution. The ECCE do not adequately cover the quality dimensions.
A significant issue is the absence of a well-planned human resource management policy. For ECCE to take into account and address the entry level of the ECCE functionaries. In absence of any institutional data base on ECCE, the absence of any system of registration also, there is no official record of these institutions. This indicates the imperative need for a more reliable and better quality data system for ECCE provision and utilization.
Despite the regular expansion of the ICDS, the coverage of the children for ECCE is still as low as 40 per cent. This is an issue of both inadequate quality of service delivery. There is a mis match of services, beneficiaries and geographical areas (the world bank, 2005). The mis-match refers to issue of too much focus on providing food security through supplementary nutrition rather than improving child care behaviour and educating parents. And there is the need for better targeting of geographical areas, castes and communities that need the interventions the most.
There need to have a decentralized and participatory approach to planning and implementation. The education and health sectors have already moved in this direction. But there is no very centralized program till now.
McLaughlin mentions that "policy success depends on two issues local capacity and will" (1987, p. 172). Capacity refers to the availabiality of sources such as training, budget and experts. Furthermore, he contents that capacity is much more easier to dealt with. However, will which is the combination of commitment and motivation is something that hardly to be changed, this merely depends on the values and beliefs to the invidual to which the policy addresses.
In spite of the target (1986) of 2.5 lakh centres have been met in 1990, only 15% of the target population of three to six years has been reached. While, the acceptance that ECCE centres must be located in primary schools to enable older children to go to school has not been considered. Alternatively teaching should be provided home based so that children feel connected and use of audio-visuals should be implemented.
The lack of physical infrastructure, poor and inadequate training of workers, their low salaries and low status in society all these led to the problem of providing poor quality services. There is difference in the services of ECCE in urban and rural areas. There is need to have a minimum standards for pre-schools in terms of space, facilities, teacher training, activities undertaken, teaching learning materials. The state should set up some licensing and supervisory procedures. Some sort of training programs also needs to be seriously considered.
Considering the fact that first three years of life are most critical for development, programs for stimulation of infants through mother training are designed. A total of 22,038 creches in 2006 close to work sites of women are provided. Unfortunately the care was provided by inadequately trained workers. Trained and qualified workers should be employed, focusing on education and all-round development
EARLY CHILDHOOD CARE AND EDUCATION IN INDIA
The malpractices are carried lot in preschool and day care centres which are primarily preparing children for admissions tests and interviews for entry into prestigious schools. This should be considered as children should not be burdened with study load at this age. As McLaughlin mentions that pressure is required "to focus attention on a reform objective, support is needed to enable implementation" (1988, p.173). The dismal and inadequate data is available on young children. Certain very crucial areas of inquiry have escaped the attention of researches in India. The areas of research on young children need to be strengthened. New method of investigation are needed, such as observational methods.
Another issue which is linked with building a sound data base is that there is no organised system sound of dissemination of research findings, thus the initiation for research is not possible. No journal of ECCE exists in the country. Studies pertaining to child Development and ECCE are scattered in journals of Developmental Psychology, Education, Social Work and Home Science. Indian Association for Pre-school Education (IAPE) with assistance of NCERT can take the responsibility of systematic dissemination through a series of occasional papers, monographs and booklets.
Hence, if the issues related to ECCE are solved than ECCE will result in higher incomes, higher chances of ownership of the people of rural areas, lower rates of health issues and lower rate of incarceration and arrest.
Finally, the need for creating awareness among rural and urban slum people and encouraging them for collective action can be used for organising welfare and development programs. The Government should organise the people and should get financial support as well as social and political support. This would encourage the community participation in planning, managing, supervising and monitoring of programs related to women and children.