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Early Childhood Development – Need and Challenges in India

Since the day we launched our blog, we have been talking about Early Childhood Development (ECD). But what exactly is ECD? Why is it so important? And why, people like you who are reading this should be aware of its need and challenges in India?

Today, is the right opportunity to answer all your queries because its ‘E’ and for us it’s ECD…

What is ECD?


Birth to six years, is the period when the foundation of cognitive, physical, socio – emotional development, language and personality are laid. The development starts in the womb. Hence this period is divided into sub groups – Conception to birth, Birth to six months, Six months to 3 years, 3 years to six years. ECD, refers to the holistic development of the child.

Why ECD Matters?

Every year 1.5 million children die in India before reaching the age of 6 because of lack of care and protection.

Those who survive, don’t reach their full potential. They do not receive adequate nutrition, care and opportunities to learn. It is proven by neuroscience research that 90% of the child’s brain growth occurs by the time a child is 5 years of age.

Not only this, educated and healthy people participate in, and contribute to, the financial and social wealth of their societies. In fact investing in young children through ECD programmes – ensuring they have the right stimulation, nurturing and nutrition – is one of the smartest investments a country can make to address inequity, break the cycle of poverty, ensure gender justice and contribute to human development. There are ample reasons to believe how critical the early age is for a small child. However, the worst sufferers are poor and neglected children as they suffer from the adversities of being poor like inadequate access to basics like food, shelter, water, sanitation, education and health.

The reality: ECD has never been a priority

India has the world’s largest ECD programme, the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS). It was launched as a central government scheme in 1975 and since 2010 has been by the Centre and States on a cost – sharing basis. It offers children, adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating mothers a package of services from local anganwadi(childcare) centres. These include -

  • Supplementary nutrition,

  • Growth monitoring

  • Primary healthcare,

  • Immunization,

  • Referral to secondary healthcare and pre-school education.

However there are significant problems with the implementation of this scheme at the grassroot level as it lacks adequate human and financial resource, effective implementation, coordination and convergence with various departments at various levels.