In the context of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), quality reflects components of the environment that are related to positive child outcomes in the academic and social domains. The two broad dimensions that are often used for ECCE quality are features of programme infrastructure and children’s direct experiences in classrooms.
Quality in Early Childhood Education has been recommended widely and 'Quality start' is the entitlement of every child, and responsibility of every parent and educator. While defining ‘quality’ in the context of ECE, it may be suggested that it would encompass all those issues which would contribute to quality experiences for young children.
While assuring quality, it is important to take note of those who are involved in a variety of services and across different sectors in the area of ECE. In an ECE setting both teachers and children come from a range of backgrounds, disciplines and experiences. Teachers are entrusted with the challenging responsibility of care and education of all these young children. Although a high quality ECE programme is flexible, teachers need to do lot of prior planning to make it balanced, suitable and appropriate to children’s needs, interests and abilities.
Reasons for providing a good ECE programme
- Findings of brain researches advocate for quality experiences at early stage.
- ECE is a cost effective way to reduce poverty and foster economic growth.
- ECE helps in the smooth transition to primary school.
- ECE is a pathway to inclusion and social equity.
Components of quality Early Childhood Education Programme
A quality Early Childhood Education Programme is expected to have the following components:
- Age and developmentally appropriate curriculum
- Adequate opportunities for play
- Enabling and stimulating learning environment
- Well trained and qualified staff
- Equal opportunity policy
- Appropriate methods of Observing and Assessing children
- Systematic involvement of parents and other care-givers
- Nutritious meals and Health Care
- Favourable teacher-child ratio
- School readiness and smooth transition to primary school.
Essentials to ensure Quality ECE
The right kind of intervention at the right time with active stimulation in an emotionally supportive stress free environment fosters the pace of learning by young children. That is why it is important to ensure the quality of ECE programme.
Source : Every Child matters - NCERT publication
- Setting up norms and standards : Standards need to be defined in relation to the overall objectives laid down for ECE programme and also in relation to each objective. The norms and standards are particularly required for the essential elements of quality viz. Curriculum, Teachers, Teacher-pupil ratio and group size, Infrastructure, and Supervision and Monitoring.
- Regulations : When we are dealing with the development of young children it is important to ensure that quality of the programme being offered is appropriate. Legislations to control mushrooming of poor quality ECE programmes is required. Different strategies and approaches should be evolved for stronger and more partnership between government, private and voluntary sectors. The involvement of early childhood professionals in the regulation process will ensure the introduction and implementation of fair and appropriate sectors.
- Advocacy : Quality Care and Education are inseparable. Therefore, the child and family must be considered together and partnership between parents, professionals and teachers must be developed. There is a need for massive campaigning using all types of media. The message should be the same – the significance of this period of life for human development and brain growth; the dangers of early malnutrition and neglect; the purpose, content, scope and meaning of ECCE; the dangers of introducing too early formal methods unsuitable for the age group; the importance of transacting the curriculum in a language familiar to the child; the integration of health and nutrition with care, development and education at this stage; the dispelling of false myths and replacing them with accurate information in the child’s interest.
- Training of the Work force and Professionals : The staff working at ECE centers is to be given quality pre- service and in-service training. The training of professionals of this area requires careful consideration on issues such as preparation of modules to upgrade knowledge and skills of teachers and care- givers, introducing flexibility in the training programmes, enhancing capacity of existing training institutions, introducing well planned inputs for supervisors, etc. While planning for training of preschool teachers there is a need to focus on practical ‘hands-on-training’, frequent in-service training programmes, exposure visits to model preschool centers and experience sharing amongst teachers.
- Research : The field of education cannot survive unless strong links are created between policy, practice and research. Research provides a scientific basis for developing specific interventions. In order to have an upgradation, research should be pursued as a regular and continuous activity.
- Resources : No programme can be run successfully over a long period of time in the absence of adequate resources of all types – Human, Physical and Financial. There should not be any compromise in matters of the care and education of young children.