Union Minister for Women and Child Development (WCD), Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani, during a national event organized on strengthening Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) at Vigyan Bhavan on 10th May 2023, launched “Poshan Bhi, Padhai Bhi”, that is “Education along with nutrition”, in the presence of Shri Munjpara Mahendrabhai, Minister of State MWCD; Shri Indevar Pandey, Secretary (WCD) and Shri Sanjay Kaul, Chairperson of the ECCE Task Force of the Ministry.
In the presence of over 800 state representatives, ICDS functionaries, CDPOs, Supervisors, and Anganwadi workers, Union Minister Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani delivered the keynote address. She highlighted the Government’s commitment to ensuring holistic development of all children under the age of 6 years, with a focus on building their skills in the key development domains identified under the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) physical/motor, cognitive, socio-emotional-ethical, cultural/artistic, and the development of communication and early language, literacy and numeracy under ‘Poshan bhi Padhai bhi’ which is in pursuance of the recommendations of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 and the ECCE Taskforce established by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Recommendations of the Task Force were the outcome of exhaustive consultations with State governments, experts, and most importantly parents and the community.
Speaking about the new teaching material (TLM) and methodologies, the Union Minister informed that the ECCE material and audio-visual material were tested with 1.5 million parents in over 10,000 communities through 1 lakh activities. She also emphasized the importance of developing inclusive teaching-learning material in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and relevant departments in the States so that methodologies in ECCE for Divyang children are developed and Anganwadi workers can counsel parents to send their children to attend Anganwadi centers.
Highlighting the role of toys as TLM in foundational development, Union Minister also spoke about the creation of indigenous and DIY toys with locally and easily available materials like wood, cloth, mud, clay, etc. that has brought Anganwadi centers under the National Action Plan for Toys (NAPT).
The Union Minister recognized and congratulated the passion and commitment of Anganwadi workers who measured the height and weight of around 7 crore children according to WHO standards and then uploaded the information on the Poshan Tracker ICT platform during Poshan Pakhwada in March 2023. Lauding this feat as unparalleled in the world, the Union WCD Minister echoed the country’s collective confidence in the Anganwadi behenein and in their ability to contribute holistically to the development of children. Additional support to more than 1.3 million Anganwadi workers through a three-day specialized ECCE training with play-based pedagogy, led by National Institute for Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD), was also announced under the “Poshan Bhi, Padhai Bhi” program with the enhanced budget proposed for ECCE training and teaching learning materials.
Minister of State MWCD, Shri Munjpara Mahendrabhai, recognized India’s achievement in making Poshan a household name. He said, “Together, we are trying to shift our systems and our thinking – from basic hygiene in Swachh Bharat, to good nutrition practices in Poshan Abhiyaan, and now “Poshan Bhi, Padhai Bhi.”
Secretary Shri Indevar Pandey, MWCD, building on the implications of “Poshan Bhi, Padhai Bhi” mentioned the endeavour of achieving 2-hour daily ECCE teaching in Anganwadi centers that will be delivered in the mother-tongue and aligned through state curricula to the National Curriculum Framework. He also underlined the collective responsibility for the holistic development of the country’s younger population, including early stimulation for children in the age group 0-3 years and the need to build Anganwadi centers into vibrant learning centers that children would look forward to attending. He stated that in this direction, a policy decision has been taken to convert all mini Anganwadi Centres in the country into full-fledged Anganwadi Centres
The event also hosted a panel discussion titled “How can your State grow in ECCE: Learning from Precedent” that spotlighted ECCE best practices from the States of Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh, moderated by Shri Sanjay Kaul, Chairperson of the ECCE Task Force of the Ministry. Shri Sampath Kumar, Principal Secretary, Meghalaya Government spoke about the importance of investing in ECD to improve health, education, and life outcomes for children and the need to focus on transforming Anganwadi centers into ECE centers.
Shri Mohd Zafar Khan, Deputy Director, ICDS, spoke about different initiatives in the State of Uttar Pradesh like SAMBhav, Poshan Pathshala, and a roadmap to reduce malnutrition. Reiterating Shri Sampath Kumar’s submission of the need for transforming Anganwadi centers, he spoke of adding BaLa paintings, child-friendly furniture, WiFi, LED TV, etc.
Dr. Indurani Jakhar, Commissioner (Additional Charge), ICDS spoke about the best ECCE practices implemented in Maharashtra and underscored their strategy of triple-A: Aarambh, Aakar, Ankur. Aakar deals with ECCE at the Anganwadi center level and is a child-centric preschool education program implemented since 2016. It focuses on a child’s holistic development through experimental learning and has shown enormous growth in learning outcomes over the last 5 years of its implementation.
Shri S.J. Chiru, Principal Secretary, Social Welfare & Women Empowerment brought to the fore Tamil Nadu’s perspective where 54 thousand Anganwadi serve over 22 lakh children. Mentioning best practices, he spoke about the Aadi Paadi Vialyadu Pappa (APVP) program which is a developmental and age-appropriate annual and contextualized curriculum where 11 child friendly-theme based activities (minute-to-minute programs) are distributed to Anganwadi workers.
The national event closed with an interesting demonstration by Anganwadi workers on the new methodology and related techniques.