Foundational Stage at Early Childhood Care and Education
Primarily at home: Ages 0-3
Up to 3 years of age, the environment in which most children grow up is in the home with families, while some children do go to creches. After the age of 3, a large proportion of children spend significant time in institutional settings such as Anganwadis and preschools. Providing high quality preschool education in an organised setting for children above 3 years of age is one of the key priorities of NEP 2020.
Up to age 3, the home environment is (and should remain) almost the sole provider of adequate nutrition, good health practices, responsive care, safety and protection, and stimulation for early childhood learning i.e., everything that constitutes and forms the basis for ECCE. After the age of 3, these components of nutrition, health, care, safety, and stimulation must continue at home, and must also be ensured in an appropriate and complementary manner in institutional settings such as Anganwadis and preschools.
Appropriate ECCE at home for children under the age of 3 includes not only health, safety, and nutrition, but also crucially includes cognitive and emotional care and stimulation of the infant through talking, playing, moving, listening to music and sounds, and stimulating all the other senses particularly sight and touch so that at the end of three years, optimal developmental outcomes are attained, in various development domains, including physical and motor, socio-emotional, cognitive, communication, early language, and emergent literacy and numeracy. It must be noted that these domains are overlapping and indeed deeply interdependent.
i. 3-6 years: Early childhood education programmes in Anganwadis, Balvatikas, or pre schools.
ii. 6-8 years: Early primary education programmes in school (Grades 1 and 2).
Importance of Holistic Development at Foundational Stage
From 3 to 8 years of age, ECCE includes continued attention to health, safety, care, and nutrition; but also, crucially, self-help skills, motor skills, hygiene, the handling of separation anxiety, physical development through movement and exercise, expressing and communicating thoughts and feelings to parents and others, being comfortable around one’s peers, sitting for longer periods of time in order to work on and complete a task, ethical development, and forming all-round good habits.
Supervised play-based education, in groups and individually, is particularly important during this age range to nurture and develop the child’s innate abilities and capacities of curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, cooperation, teamwork, social interaction, empathy, compassion, inclusiveness, communication, cultural appreciation, playfulness, awareness of the immediate environment, as well as the ability to successfully and respectfully interact with teachers, fellow students, and others.
Importance of literacy and numeracy
ECCE during these years also entails the development of early literacy and numeracy, including learning about the alphabet, languages, numbers, counting, colours, shapes, drawing/painting, indoor and outdoor play, puzzles and logical thinking, art, craft, music, and movement.
The aim is to build on the developmental outcomes in the domains mentioned above, combined with a focus on early literacy, numeracy, and awareness of one’s environment. This becomes particularly important during the age range of 6-8, forming the basis for achievement of Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN). The importance of FLN to overall education is well-understood, and fully emphasized in NEP 2020.
Resources:- National Curriculum Framework for Foundational Stage-2022