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Editorial of the Day (29th Feb): Investing in India’s Children

Context: India’s investment in early childhood education is less despite evidence of its benefits.

Importance of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)

  • The human brain undergoes its most significant development during the first six years, making ECCE crucial for laying the foundation for future success.
  • Studies show positive impacts of ECCE on:
    • Cognitive and motor skills development, especially for disadvantaged children.
    • Educational attainment: Anganwadi attendance leads to completing 0.1-0.3 more grades of school.
    • Women’s health and well-being.
    • Public health expenditure reduction.
    • Social unrest prevention: strong socio-emotional skills built early can contribute to a more peaceful society.
  • This has prompted a shift to focus even earlier in the life cycle, i.e., children under six, leading to initiatives such as:
    • Ministry of Education’s National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy (NIPUN) Bharat for foundational literacy and numeracy, and
    • The Ministry of Women and Child Development’s (MWCD) Poshan Bhi Padhai Bhi to improve ECCE quality through the Anganwadi system.

Current State of ECCE in India

Anganwadi System

  • World’s largest public ECCE provider, catering to 8 crore children under six.
  • Recent budget increase for teaching-learning materials: ₹140 crore to ₹420 crore per year (tripled).
  • Allocation for Anganwadis in Budget 2024-25: ₹21,200 crore, which is:
    • More than rural roads (₹12,000 crore) and irrigation (₹11,391 crore).
    • Less than National Education Mission (₹37,500 crore) and National Health Mission (₹38,183 crore).
  • Impact evaluations show positive outcomes, particularly in reducing gender and income-based gaps.

The Need for Increased Investment and Research

  • International studies suggest a 13% annual return on investment for every dollar invested in ECCE.
  • India needs to conduct longitudinal studies to explore the specific impact of its ECCE programs, including Anganwadis.
  • Estimating the potential gain to GDP from individual benefits of strong ECCE is crucial for evidence-based policymaking.
  • Investing in research on the macroeconomic and social implications of ECCE is essential.


  • Increased investment in ECCE is critical for:
    • Enabling women to participate in the workforce.
    • Ensuring children’s development and future success.
    • Achieving India’s aspirations for a “Viksit Bharat” by 2047.

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