Early Childhood Care and Education(ECCE)


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Prelims: Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.

Mains: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.



What is Early Childhood  Care and Education( ECCE) and its significance?

Early childhood is the formative stage of the first six years of life. It is the period of most rapid growth and development and is critical for the survival of an individual as a toddler.

  • Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) encompasses care, health, nutrition, play, and early learning within a protective and enabling environment.
  • India has 158.7 million children in the 0-6 years age group (Census 2011) and catering to this important segment of the population to ensure holistic development is imperative. 
  • India is also a signatory to both the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) 1989 and Education for All (EFA) 1990, which has postulated ECCE as the very first goal to be achieved for ‘Education For All’.
  • Also under SDG 4.2, the target is to ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care, and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education by 2030.
  • Significance of ECCE:
    • Scientific evidence confirms that there are critical stages in the development of the brain during the early childhood period which influence the pathways of physical and mental health and behavior throughout the life cycle.
    • It is important to note that deficits during this stage of life have substantive and cumulative adverse impacts on human development.
    • According to UNICEF, Pre-primary education gives children a solid foundation upon which all learning depends on, making every stage of education that follows more efficient and more productive.
    • Thus, attention to ECCE is the most cost-effective way to break the intergenerational cycle of multiple disadvantages and remove inequity, leading to long-term social and economic benefits.


What are the constitutional and legal provisions concerning ECCE in India?

  • Directive Principles of State Policy(DPSP): Article 45 directs that "The State shall endeavor to provide ECCE for all children until they complete the age of six years".
  • RTE Act: Section 11 states that the appropriate Government may make necessary arrangements for providing free pre-school education for children above the age of three years to prepare them for elementary education and to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.


What are the various policy measures pertaining to ECCE in India?

National ECCE Policy, 2013

  • With the vision of holistic and integrated development of the child, focuses on the care and early learning to support children's all-round holistic development.
  • It identifies 3 sub-stages with age-specific needs:


Age-specific Needs 

Conception to birth

Ante and postnatal health and nutritional care of mother, maternal counseling, safe childbirth, etc.

Birth to three years

Survival, safety, protective environment, health care, nutrition, etc.

Three to six years

Protection from hazards, health care, nutrition, play-based preschool education.

Table of sub-stages in ECCE


  • It acknowledges multiple models of ECCE service delivery that are offered by public, private, and non-governmental service providers through Anganwadi centers(AWCs), crèches, play schools, pre-schools, kindergartens (balwadis), home-based care, etc.
  • Key areas
    • Universalising ECCE and ensuring adaptive strategies for inclusion of all children with specific attention to vulnerable children.
    • Access with equity and inclusion in programmes and interventions across service providers.
    • Improving quality standards, regulation, curriculum, play and learning material, programme assessment, and child assessment.
    • Strengthening Capacity (institutions, personnel, families, and communities)
    • Monitoring and Supervision. (By National ECCE Council )
    • Research and Documentation.
    • Advocacy and awareness generation.
    • Convergence and Coordination among policies and programmes.

Other Policies Measures:

  • National Policy for Children (1974): Under the policy, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) was initiated on a pilot basis in 1975 to lay the foundation for holistic and integrated development of children and building capabilities of caregivers.
  • National Policy on Education (1986): The Policy considers ECCE as a critical input for human development and recognizes the holistic and integrated nature of child development. 
  • National Nutrition Policy (1993): The Policy recommended interventions for child care and nutrition during early childhood.
  • 12th Five-Year Plan: The plan emphasizes the need to address areas of systemic reform in ECCE across all channels of services in the public, private, and voluntary sectors, going beyond ICDS (AWCs).
  • India Newborn Action Plan ( 2014): The India Newborn Action Plan (INAP) was launched in 2014 to reduce preventable newborn deaths and stillbirths in the country with strategic interventions. It defines six pillars of interventions: 
    • Preconception and antenatal care and Care during labour and childbirth, 
    • Immediate newborn care and Care of healthy newborns, 
    • Care of small and sick newborns and Care beyond newborn survival.
  • National Education Policy 2020: It recommends the inclusion of ECCE in the formal education system by proposing a new 5+3+3+4 structure. ECCE is a part of the first 5 years which is the Foundational Stage which includes Pre-School and classes 1 and 2. 


What are the schemes and programs for ECCE in India?

  • Integrated Child Development Scheme(under Saksham Anganwadi) and Poshan 2.0: 
    • It is an integrated nutrition support programme, and Early Childhood Care and Education is an integral component of this programme. 
    • The major objectives of the Scheme are to improve the nutritional and health status of children in the age group 0-6 years and to reduce the incidence of mortality, morbidity, and malnutrition.
    • The scheme offers a package of services like supplementary nutrition, pre-school non-formal education, Nutrition & health education, immunization, etc.
    • The scheme provides a platform in the form of Anganwadi centres for providing all the above services. 
    • The Anganwadi services under ICDS have focused on ensuring calorie sufficiency,  quality and diversity of diets, and behavioral change towards better nutrition.
  • PM-POSHAN( Previously known as Mid-day Meals Scheme) 
    • The Government has launched the Centrally Sponsored Scheme Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM POSHAN) for providing one hot cooked meal in Government and Government aided Schools from 2021-22 to 2025-26. 
    • Under the Scheme, there is the provision of hot cooked meals to children of pre-schools (before class I) and also to the children of classes I to VIII. 
  • National Health Mission (NHM)
    • The National Health Mission was launched in 2013. The NHM envisages the achievement of universal access to equitable, affordable, and quality healthcare services that are accountable and responsive to people’s needs. 
    • The main programmatic components include Health System Strengthening, Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal, Child and Adolescent Health, and Communicable and Non-Communicable Diseases.


What are the challenges concerning ECCE in India?

  • Unavailability of trained human resources: One of the challenges faced in Early Childhood care in India is the unavailability of trained teachers, including those specifically dedicated to early childhood education in settings such as Anganwadis.
  • Issues with the private sector: The unregulated private service providers in ECCE suffer from issues of inequitable access, uneven quality, and growing commercialization.
  • Lack of reliable data: There is no reliable data available about the actual number of children attending ECCE programmes.
  • Quality issues: The quality and coverage of non-formal preschool/ early childhood care and education imparted through these multiple service providers are uneven and sub-optimal.
  • School Readiness Competencies: A significant number of children in India who had completed pre-primary education, whether in public or private institutions, lacked the necessary competencies required for school readiness when they entered primary school.
  • Lack of convergence: There is an inadequate understanding of the concept of ECCE and its basic premises, philosophy, and importance among all stakeholders.
  • Capacity issues: Inadequate institutional capacity in the existing system and an absence of standards, regulatory norms, and mechanisms to ensure quality.


What measure could help in making ECCE more effective? 

  • Integration with primary schools: There should be coordination between primary schools and ECE centers, and every primary education center must set up an early childhood center.
  • Teacher Training: Teachers specially trained in ECE should be preferred, and the element of child stimulation should be added to all training programmes. It is necessary to develop literature and training materials in the area of ECCE.
  • Multi-stakeholder approach: Involving families and the community in the design and implementation of ECCE learning activities.
  • Enhanced budget allocation: Enhanced budgetary allocation specifically for ECCE can be made. The individual allocation to overlapping and diverging schemes like Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and ICDS can be allocated under a dedicated ECCE head. 
  • Collaboration: Enhanced Collaboration and coordination between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Women and Child Development for ECCE. A dedicated ECCE wing can be set up for effective convergence. 




Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):


Q) What are Anganwadi centers?

Anganwadi is a type of child and mother care centre in India. The Anganwadi Centres (AWCs) are a part of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme, a centrally sponsored government scheme. Anganwadi centre provides basic health care. It is a part of the Indian public healthcare system. Basic healthcare activities include contraceptive counseling and supply, nutrition education and supplementation, and preschool activities.


Q) Who are auxiliary nurses and midwives in India?

Auxiliary nurses and midwives (ANMs) are health workers who play a crucial role in providing maternal and child healthcare services, including Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), in India. They are trained to assist in deliveries, provide postnatal care to mothers and newborns, conduct immunizations, and offer health education and counseling to families, among other responsibilities related to maternal and child health.