Mumbai: The privately-run playgroups, kindergartens, creches and nurseries in the state could soon be regulated by the state government, as Maharashtra is seeking to formalise the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) as part of its National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 rollout.
The government has decided to form a study group to look into various aspects of providing pre-school education to children in line with NEP. Besides regularsing the various pre-primary education centres, the government also wants to link Anganawadis with the school system and provide a standard curriculum for foundational years.
ECCE is a key component of NEP, which envisages an age-appropriate education for children aged between three and eight years, which is termed as the foundational stage. Last year, the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) released the draft curricular framework for the foundational stage.
Currently, the Right to Education (RTE) Act provides for free and compulsory education only for children aged six to 14. Except for government-run Anganwadis, the pre-primary education sector in the state is largely unregulated.
According to a government official, the study group will be headed by the Director of the State Council for Education Research and Training (SCERT) and will include officials from the state's Women and Child Development and Social Justice and Special Assistance departments. The panel is expected to submit its recommendations within a month.
"The study group will look at the ways to integrate the existing pre-primary education centres with NEP. One of the key tasks is to bring playgroups and nurseries under a regulatory framework and link them with schools. The committee also needs to decide what to teach these children. It will also study whether Anganwadi workers can be trained to impart ECCE to children or whether Anganwadis can be integrated with the school system," said the official.
Currently, the state has around 1,10,000 Anganwadis in rural areas, of which 43,000 are located within the school premises. While it's easier to integrate the co-located Anganawadis with schools, the government needs to figure out how to bring the rest of the centres within the ambit of formal education, said the official.
Maharashtra has attempted to bring pre-school education within the regulatory framework since past several years, but has met with limited success. In 2019, the state released an ECCE policy, which among other things provided for the registration of private pre-school education centres. However, the policy is yet to come to fruition.
Vasant Kalpande, Former state Director of Education, said that the study group should take into account the past efforts to regulate early years education and build on them, instead of building a completely new regulatory framework altogether. "The rules should be as flexible as possible. While requiring all private pre-school education centres to register, the state should specify which curriculum needs to be followed. The security and well-being of children must be emphasised," he said.
Kalpande added that the government should focus on bridging the socio-economic divide in education at pre-primary level. "There should also be rules pertaining to fees, to ensure that the education is not stratified," he said.
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