Going back to the 90s – Findings From a New Empirical Study by Vidhi on How Early Childhood Education Fared During the Pandemic

Report Launch and Panel Discussion

Following are some of the key findings from the report ‘Starting from Scratch | The Role of Parents, Teachers, and Tech in Early Childhood Education during Covid-19.

Enrolment in virtual classes fell by 30-40%, and regular attendance fell by 60%. 86% of households were reliant on Whatsapp, and 52% of households had less than one device per child. 24% parents had to purchase devices for education, and 37% reported needing to buy other educational materials. Parental engagement is key to ECE, but 45% of households de-prioritised ECE in favour of older children’s education.

These data points, from Vidhi’s new study, involved a survey of 676 low-income urban households and interviews of 58 ECE teachers in Maharashtra and was launched on 1st October 2021. Watch the report launch and following panel discussion below.

Report Launch and Panel Discussion

The reality is that the society we live in is deeply unequal. In the last 20-30 years, at least the access divide was being bridged, if not the quality. But during COVID-19 we moved to the early 90’s.  There is an absence of devices and high quality internet connection, and the government cannot provide access to devices to all children. A lot of creative solutions have emerged but have yet to see something that is scalable,” said Atishi (MLA, AAP), a panelist at the discussion.

Other panelists included Dr. Rebecca Winthrop (The Brookings Institution), Ashish Dhawan (Founder and Chairman of Central Square Foundation), Saurabh Taneja (CEO of The Akanksha Foundation), Siddhant Sachdeva (Rocket Learning), and Nisha Vernekar (Lead Education, Vidhi). The discussion was moderated by Dhvani Mehta (Co-Founder, Vidhi). 

Ashish Dhawan also expressed his concern about country-wide bridging of the digital divide, but added, “Smartphones are the future and we must experiment a lot more ‘now’ to provide access to education. WhatsApp is a useful tool. It reduces the burden of tech adoption. This low tech meets the parents where they are and is very engaging at the same time.”

While explaining the international context of strengthening school systems for enhancing parental engagement in ECE, Dr. Rebecca Winthrop said, “Schools are the hub for learning and development and should be the hub. They are present in every community. School systems in most places of the world have an inward approach – education is limited to the boundaries of schools. The logistics are high and heavy. The mindset shift that ‘parents are partners’ is the critical element. Teachers are very important mediators in that.”

Nisha Vernekar, said, “In the Indian context, we find that various barriers prevent parents, especially from low-income and under-resourced contexts from engaging in ECE even when they have access to virtual classrooms, such as lack of knowledge on methods to engage in ECE. The role of teachers in enabling parental engagement by alleviating these barriers is thus crucial”.

About the Report: Starting from Scratch | The Role of Parents, Teachers, and Tech in Early Childhood Education during Covid-19

“Starting from Scratch” studies the role of parents, teachers and tech in the delivery of ECE during COVID-19 in balwadis and Akanksha Foundation schools, and Rocket Learning’s low-tech program called the E-Paathshala program, being run in partnership with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM). 

Read the full report here.

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