Early Childhood Care and Education: Meaning and Significance

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  • Early childhood refers to the early years of life starting from birth to six years. Researches in the field of neuroscience have established the importance of these years as growth and development of the brain takes place at a very fast pace.

  • Early care, stimulating environment and optimum learning opportunities have a lasting impact on the lives of young children. This can be done by ensuring quality Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) for all children during their formative years.

Meaning of ECCE

  • The term ECCE comprises of three key terms: - ‘Early Childhood’, ‘Care’, and ‘Education’.

  • Early childhood is the period from birth to six years. According to the National Policy on ECCE, 2013, there are three sub-stages of early years, each with its own age-specific developmental priorities.

These Sub-Stages are:

ECCE Sub Stages

ECCE Sub Stages

  • Conception to birth

  • Birth to three years and

  • Three to six years.

  • This is the most important period of life characterized by rapid growth and development. By ‘Care’ we mean providing love and affection and ensuring a healthy, hygienic, protective and stimulating environment for all children. ‘Education’ is a process of acquiring knowledge, skills, attitudes and values through exploration, experimentation, observation, participation and interaction.

  • All such experiences help children learn more about themselves and the world around them. Thus, ECCE refers to providing care including health and nutrition as well as early learning opportunities to all young children.

Significance of ECCE

  • By the time, a child is six years old, 90% of brain development has taken place. As a result, this stage is considered crucial for the holistic development of children especially for the development of the brain. Any disruption in the developmental processes due to heredity or environment may affect adversely. Lack of a healthy home and school environment, paucity of stimulation, inadequate nutrition and poor health care are some of the common factors that lead to developmental delays among children.

  • During these years, children acquire various physical-motor, cognitive, socio-emotional and language competencies. Hence, they should be provided opportunities to grow in a stimulating and engaging environment with positive experiences. Quality early care and education provided to young children through ECCE programmes enables them to acquire age appropriate knowledge and skills which further help them adjust better in a formal school environment.

  • Thus, it is necessary to accord prime importance to ECCE for children to develop in an integrated, holistic and healthy manner. Different ECCE service providers must ensure access to equitable and quality ECCE for all children, especially for children who are disadvantaged.

Objectives of Ecce

The aim of ECCE is to provide quality care and learning opportunities to all children during their formative years for their overall development.

ECCE aims to:

  • ensure that children feel safe, secure, accepted and respected

  • ensure children have good and balanced nutrition

  • inculcate healthy habits, hygiene practices and self-help skills among children

  • enable sound language development, skills of communication and expression

  • ensure optimum physical and motor development of children as per their potential

  • foster sensory and cognitive abilities of children by providing engaging, participative and stimulating activities

  • promote development of pro-social skills and social competence along with children’s emotional wellbeing

  • prepare children for formal learning in schools.

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