[Answered] Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is necessary for the well-being of the millions of young children in low-income households. In the light of the statement, explain the significance of Early Childhood Care and Education and how Anganwadis can be instrumental in delivering it? 

Introduction: Write a brief note on Early Childhood Care and Education.
Body: Write few points on importance of Early Childhood Care and Education. Write down few points of the significance of anganwadis in ensuring ECCE.
Conclusion: Write few suggestions to make anganwadis more effective.

UNICEF defines early childhood as the period from birth to eight years of age. Article 45 of the Indian constitution provides for Early Childhood Care and Education of children below the age of 6 years. Early childhood Care and education is more than preparation for pre school. 

Significance of Early Childhood Care and Education(ECCE): 

  • Early Childhood Care and Education is vital for the young childs early cognitive, social, and emotional development as recognized by the National Education Policy,2020. 
  • It builds a solid foundation for lifelong learning and development. During this stage children are highly influenced by the environment and people around them. ECCE has the potential to nurture capable and responsible future citizens. 
  • ECCE is the one of the best investment a country can make to promote human resource development, gender equality, healthcare and to reduce the cost of future remedial programs. 
  • Children will be better prepared for primary/pre primary school and will achieve better educational outcomes. 
  • Proper care and nutrition at this stage will significantly reduce incidents of malnutrition and Infant mortality. 
  • Positive outcomes are even more pronounced for children from Low-income households.   

The current system of ECCE at best serves the age group of 3-6 years, ignoring infants and toddlers. Given the significance of ECCE, the role of 1.4 million Anganwadis of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) becomes important. A meaningful ECCE program in Anganwadis can be a robust and cost-effective strategy, through some concerted actions: 

  • Anganwadi workers are ground level functionaries that are well versed with local population and needs, so a meaningful activity-based ECCE framework based on ground realities can be created. 
  • Anganwadis are already experienced in providing nutrition support and non-formal education. With additional training and incentives their experience could be utilised in providing ECCE. 
  • Anganwadi workers have greater access inside homes, where the training/awareness program of young mothers could be undertaken. 
  • Anganwadi workers could be utilised in engaging with parents to raise awareness about ECCE as parents play the most significant role in cognitive development of children.  
  • By providing greater autonomy and requisite material in sufficient quantity to the anganwadi workers customized age-appropriate program could be created. 

Anganwadis with its vast network and ground level presence are best suited for providing ECCE, its capacity shall be enhanced by better training, incentives and convergence of different schemes and funds.   

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