The focus of Pratham’s Early Years programme is on the holistic development of children between the ages of 3-8 years and their readiness for school. The programme focuses on four major developmental domains:
• Physical development: develop fine and gross motor skills, along with pre-writing abilities and ensure appropriate growth and health
• Socio-Emotional development: learn to adapt to new settings and people, work in groups and individually, interactions and interpersonal skills
• Cognitive & pre-math development: develop basic problem-solving abilities, knowledge of colours, shape, symbols that are essential for pre-math
• Language development: develop basic vocabulary and improve the ability to express ideas confidently, both individually and in groups.
• Early Childhood is a period where brain development is at its peak. Fostering appropriate developmental abilities of children at this crucial stage has been closely associated with improved outcomes such as better preparedness for school, enhanced retention and all round development of the child.
• There is clearly a need to look at the 3 to 8 age group in India very closely. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2022) on ‘Young Children’ shows that across India, 28.8% of children aged 3 do not attend any government or private preschool. This report also shows a wide variation in enrollment patterns across states.
• While the National Education Policy 2020 has laid out that the appropriate age for a child to enter grade 1 is 6 years of age, a significant number of children in government schools are age 5 or below. The data also indicated that children who enter school before the appropriate age of 6 do comparatively worse than their older counterparts in the same grade.
• Building a strong foundation in children during their early years will make them effective learners and eliminate the need for remedial intervention in the later years.
To build a strong foundation requires a combination of several factors – activity or play-based learning and not a ‘curriculum’ focus, engagement of mothers in a child’s learning, an ecosystem of learning in the child’s community, and continued support in the early years of school to facilitate a smooth transition.
• The instructors or teachers are local community members, who have a strong understanding of the local context, which helps them effectively interact with children and engage with parents.
• The content is based on the child’s immediate surroundings. Activities are conducted with children in varying settings – big groups, small groups and individually – and are supported with contextualised print and play material such as flash cards, story books, story cards, picture cards, beads, clay and daily use objects.
• Children are regularly assessed by instructors through simple activities and observation. The findings of these periodic assessments help instructors track children’s progress and are regularly communicated to parents as an engagement tool.
• Mothers are engaged through regular meetings, creation of mothers’ groups in the community and individual home visits by Pratham volunteers. Engagement with mothers includes discussions, games and material creation and distribution. This is now the most critical element of Pratham’s early years intervention. Pratham’s experience during the pandemic suggested that mothers, family members, and the community played a key role in children’s learning.
Direct demonstration: This involves mobilization of community volunteers to provide daily instructional activities to children in anganwadis, form and work with mothers’ groups and conduct community events. Pratham provides training and on-site monitoring support to volunteers. Pratham’s anganwadi support model follows a ‘teaching in, reaching out’ approach where efforts are made to engage children both within the institution (i.e. anganwadis) as well as outside it – at home and in the community. Outside the anganwadi, Pratham engages mothers in the community and encourages them to participate in their child’s learning process. This is done by forming mothers’ groups in every community and facilitating regular meetings where Pratham staff and community volunteers demonstrate learning activities for them to conduct with their children at home and discuss any issues related to their children’s learning trajectory. Pratham also conducts school readiness melas in every community before the start of each school year for children about to enter grade 1. The mela encourages a mother and child to come together to participate in learning-focused activities.
Government Partnerships: In formal government partnerships, Pratham partners with the state/district-level government to strengthen the existing government infrastructure and resources either in anganwadi centres, or pre-primary classes and early grades within government schools. Pratham and the government jointly work towards the development of the programme, including designing curriculum and material, training government personnel, supporting on-site monitoring, mentoring, measurement and assessment, and periodic reviews. Pratham views these government partnerships as the pathway to achieving systemic change.
As of 2022-23,
• Pratham’s direct demonstration programs reach ~190,000 children in ~4,500 communities across 18 states in India
• Pratham’s government partnership programs reach ~2.2 million children in ~18,000 preschools and ~90,000 Anganwadis across 5 states in India