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Examining the Contexts, Practices and Costs of Early Childhood Care and Education in India: Responsive Models for Child Development

Examining the Contexts, Practices and Costs of Early Childhood Care and Education in India: Responsive Models for Child Development

Principal Investigator: Dr Jyotsna Jha, Centre for Budget and Policy Studies, India

While India has one of the largest state-based Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programmes in the world, and an expanding NGO and low-cost private ECCE sector, a significant proportion of marginalised children do not have access to institutions providing quality early childhood care and education. With over half of children under five years of age living in poverty, with persistently poor outcomes related to health and education, improving the quality and reach of early childhood care and education is an urgent policy imperative.

There is a driving need to ensure that early childhood care and education is responsive to community practices and contexts. ECCE policy and institutional practices in India have been largely informed by norms that have emerged from outside the communities of their enactment, shaped particularly by theories of child development that have been developed in the west. A central aim of the study is to identify the concepts and practices of care and education of children within disadvantaged rural families, many of whom are from tribal communities, and to understand how institutional ECCE provision can be more responsive to the historical, cultural, and political economic contexts of child development in these communities. The research draws on ethnographic inquiry with families, communities, and ECCE providers (across state, NGO and private for-profit sectors) in the states of Bihar and Tamil Nadu.

Critical variables for the scaling of responsive ECCE will be identified, drawing on the ethnographic analysis of ECCE practices across states, institutions, and communities. Cost analyses of responsive ECCE models aim to address the policy and planning implications of the study. Given persisting issues with the governance, financing, and implementation of ECCE in India, this project offers policy-relevant knowledge for ensuring quality early childhood care and education for the most marginalised communities.

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