Early childhood care and education has been at the forefront of cultural beliefs within India – a culturally diverse country. Experiences within India have demonstrated differences within the education system based upon social constructs. It is hoped to examine how India has progressed with its views on education and also its approaches to assisting children develop holistically through its Integrated Child Development Services.
India has a population in excess of 1 billion people of which India has the largest population of children. (2009) [Accessed online: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html] In comparison to the UK, India are challenged with how the well being of children is supported as it has been observed that there are two dominating factors which stand out: the quality of care and the availability of educare.
Education and childhood have great importance within the Hindu religion, with emphasis placed on children as an incarnation of God. It is reflected within ancient scriptures which place emphasis on a relationship between the “shishya” and “guru”. This ancient teaching is portrayed within the Vedic system which demonstrates a sacred connection between the pupil/teacher. Instruction was based within the teacher – guru’s own environment/home known as an ashram or a gurukul. (Mohite, P & Bhatt, N (2008))
As a country with such diverse language, religions, beliefs and values dependent upon the area in which people live, it can be noted that it is a challenge to respect all the customs and values within the country. With democracy prevailing within this republic state, a universal method for delivering educare has been affected by its history and is reflected within schooling – with strong emphasis on citizenship. The UK also place emphasis on this area, however it was observed that children celebrate their diversity and share their experiences together through assemblies and family events. Children are able to recognise their uniqueness, without feeling
The colonial period, 1851 the introduction of English and British institutionalised system as reflected by the philosophy of Froebel was offered by Scottish Missionaries, replacing Sanskrit/Arabic methods of teaching. (Kapoor, S (2006))
However, by the early nineteenth century, India had educationalists influencing the conventional British method of teaching. Gijubhai Badheka placed emphasis on the cultural values, morals and ancient Indian system through his institution known as “Dakshinamoorthy Bal Mandir” – A Temple for children. (Kapoor, S (2006)
It can be examined that culture, traditions and religious beliefs are an important aspect of child care and education within India in comparison to the UK where scientific research from the likes of Montessori, Piaget and Vygotsky. The emphasis that childhood is constructed is evident in the manner in which both countries philosophers have examined child development.
Tarabai Modak. Modak ran “The Nutan Bal Shikshan Sangh” translated as the New Child Education Society within Mumbai in the early 1920’s. Modak was one India’s most influential practitioners, just as the MacMillan Sisters in London during the same period. She had adapted the methods of Montessori to meet the needs of Indian culture: language, family values and morals, supporting pre- school education with under privileged children. (Mohite, P & Verma, A (1986))
This demonstrates that the educational systems in place within both countries place great emphasis on the child, the teacher and the environment in which learning is offered. Furthermore it shows that both countries have identified social issues in relation to children and have tried to offer solutions to overcome the social restrictions in place.
Another pioneer of the time who worked closely with Badheka and Modak was Anutai Wagh whom designed the concept of Courtyard Garden or Anganwadi. This concept followed the principles of Mahatma Gandhi – a down to earth, pre-school education at grass root level. Wagh and Modak both decided to bring the concept of schooling to rural areas of the country. The objective was to bring the school to the child rather than to child to school.(Mohite, P & Verma, A (1986)
Children have been on the political agenda in both countries. This demonstrates the belief that children are a valued asset in the country; however India having been granted independence had a wide range of challenges regarding a welfare state.
Post independence preschool education was offered by Scottish Missionaries and Voluntary Organisations, however, as there was a lack in investment from the government the delivery of education was restricted. (Mohite, P & Bhatt, N (2008))
However, by 1953, the government had taken its first steps regarding social welfare, setting up the Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB). This linked a multi disciplinary approach to working between voluntary organisations and the government. The work of educationalists such as Badheka, Wagh, Modak had successfully influenced education and care in such a way that it had not gone unnoticed. This also allowed for private enterprise to also get involved in the education and care element of childhood. (Kapoor, S (2006))
In 1961 The Indian Council for Child Welfare set up Bal Sevika training for those working within the childcare and education sector as well as supporting the Bal Waadis. Even though these were restricted within certain regions of the country, the 2000 centres had a child centred approach – promoting learning through songs and stories. (Mohite, P and Verma, A (1986))
In 1975 the government with the assistance from the World Bank and also the assistance of UNICEF commenced a provision of planning and development. This is more frequently described as ECCE, Early Child Care Education planning has occurred within five year plans. It is felt that this has allowed the country to evaluate and evolve the planning for children’s needs to the climate, economic and global provisions. (Mohite, P & Bhatt, N (2008))
It can be examined that childhood has a strong social, economic and political importance with it being put on agendas around the world. Thanks to the more recent initiatives such as the Human Development Index, UN Convention on the Rights of Child (1989) Education for All Movement (1990). Each country has taken a different approach on how they hope to support children’s well being and holistic development. Both the UK and India have taken the American interventionist approach of Head Start and have adapted this system to meet the current needs of their own country.
With India having a population in excess of a billion people (Census 2001) and further more even though the country is 24 times the size of the UK, this densely populated country has the world’s largest population of children 176 million children between the ages of 0-6 of which 8.1 million children are not in any form of education.
ECCE has been offered through parallel systems delivered through the state, voluntary and private provisions, however, it can be noted the manner in which service provisions are delivered are greatly varied. This is apparent within both countries as India demonstrates a bigger gap in those whom are wealthy and that 26% of the population (2005) lived in poverty. (www.unicef.org) The UK also has a greater inequality in poverty with 22% of UK population in 2005 living in poverty. (http://www.poverty.org.uk/summary/key%20facts.shtml) However, it is important to understand these statistics have no bearing in terms of percentages as the measure for poverty in both countries is different.
Furthermore it can be observed that overcrowding within private education and with the urgency of parents to give their children a head start to the gain access to the best schools in the area can only be advanced through the funding for such services. It was apparent at the amount invested by those families in business, industry or professional employment to get the best in education and care for children. This furthermore provides evidence to the rich and those whom can afford services can better themselves, whilst those in severe poverty remaining poor.
The UK has provisions within the welfare state in which they support children and their families supplementing income with benefits, housing and free education. In comparison India has tried to assist it’s communities to grow out of poverty through the provision of many social and welfare schemes.
ECCE is included within the constitution but not as a right for every child. Positive discrimination exists within the country to ensure those whom are financially disadvantaged gain support. At present it is only available within five states, Ultar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The area of India in terms o number of children being supported under this scheme is 18 million. This means that remaining 158 million children are not supported by this project. That accounts for at 1 in every three child not getting access to key provisions which would help better their standard of living and improve their chances survival.
Upon visiting an ECCE provision through the Integrated Child Development Services programme, it was noted that the provision of childcare was a place where children were able to obtain a nutritional meal daily. It was noted from the key worker that this was the starting point in building trusting relationships to encourage children off the streets, orphaned children whom were in some form of paid employment to get help. The centre provided opportunities to share stories, sing songs in an attempt to return children whom may not have access to childhood experiences.
Another reason why nutritional meals are a part of Anganwadi centres that within India malnutrition is a major factor for poor health and even causing deaths in young children. 28% of children have a low birth rate and by the age of two years 50% of children are underweight with malnutrition. (www.unicef.org)
Further issues recognised on experiences within India involved the role of voluntary organisations in the administration of immunization vaccines, so children could be protected against disease. Within the UK it can be noted that every child has the access and takes for granted the immunisation and healthcare scheme offered by the NHS. The state welfare scheme within the UK is free to all however the services offered by the voluntary organisations within India are designated for those whom cannot afford to pay for health care. As these schemes are based on donations they are not offered too all and were noted to be offered within the two states of India which had been visited.
An inequality which India is still faced with does not just relate to financial circumstances but relate to gender as well. Much work is being done by the government and also by voluntary organisations to support women and young girls. However, young girls are excluded from the education system as the beliefs within certain cultures require them to develop life skills such as looking after the family home, cooking, child rearing. In some situations it has been observed that those orphaned children, the girls take on the role of mothering their siblings.
Statistically it is apparent that more boys enrol onto primary education than girls, however measures are in place through UNICEF street kids programme where girls are paid to attend school. Literacy rates demonstrate the isolation of women, with fewer than 50% being able to read or write in comparison to men achieving 75%.
In order to assist with the drop-out rates within school, primary aged children are paid a fee for each day they attend school. Within a year a child can earn $312, which is paid weekly to the children from vulnerable backgrounds. Vulnerable children are girls from “slums” living below the line of poverty, those within tribes again limited to educational rights due to culture, or those girls from lower castes.
It can be observed within India that the social transition between the home life of a child and school the linguistic, chores/housework, responsibilities of learning through imitation and observation, learning through play, customs and rituals are varied in comparison to the UK and schooling in India where free play is promoted. This allows children to explore and engage in experiences. India focuses most of free play using natural resources such as toys made from wood, coconuts and clay. This form of play observed was similar to that recognised through the work of Goldschmeid, which is used greatly within the UK.
Strong foundations within families are reflected within the education system, celebrating grandparent’s days, having opportunities to have grandparents, uncles and aunts or parents come into school to discuss their careers, festivals and experiences. There is a strong emphasis on citizenship and patriarchy within teaching element of education along with strong emphasis on morals/ family values.
Centres of Excellence and Sure Start projects within the UK offer support to families with children under the age 5 years. Vulnerable people such as those living below or at the poverty line within the UK, single mothers, young parents or those who are disabled/suffering from health issues are provided with support by professionals in relation to achieving the outcomes as set within Every Child Matters (2004), giving the child best start in life. The project does involve multi disciplinary working whilst within India they are aiming to work to this, as the schemes which operate within India vary from state to state, dependant on the political views and funding.
The underpinning values, cultural beliefs and historic notions of education and child care have been examined with regards to social issues affecting both countries. It can be noted that both countries are hoping to invest in the future generations, however it will be time which provides the evidence of whether these interventionist methods of Sure Start and ICDS have stood the test of time. Society constructs childhood, however the journey for children is still poised with challenges but with a hope that “Every Child has the Potential to Shine no matter what background, economic situation and within the world as children are one big community. It has been noted how both countries are laying the foundations for their future!” (Khan, A (2008)Taare Zameen Par)
Mohite, P & Bhatt, N (2008) Mapping Children’s Transition From Home to School in India ,Research in Comparative, Accessed online at: http://www.wwwords.co.uk/rss/abstract.asp?j=rcie&aid=3315 (May 2009)
Government of India (2001) Census of India Online, Access online at: http://www.censusindia.net/ (April 2009)
Unicef (2004) Country Statistics Accessed online at http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/india_statistics.html (April 2009)
Swaminathan, M (1998) The First Five Years: A Critical Perspective on Early Childhood Care and Education in India, SAGE India
Kakar, S (1978) The Inner World: A Psycho Analytic Study of Childhood & Society in India OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS New York
Mohite, P & Verma, A (1986) Research In Early Childhood Education Trend Report, National Education Policy, Government of India, Accessed online at: http://www.education.nic.in/cd50years/g/Z/9J/0Z9J0601.htm (May 2009)
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