Monthly Archives August 2019

Norms: How can we start tackling something so often ignored in governance work? by Katie Whipkey

Norms: How can we start tackling something so often ignored in governance work? by Katie Whipkey

What do you get when you cross university researchers, development aid practitioners, and a few people somewhere in between? This sounds like it could be the start to a good ...

EADI/ISS Series | Why do we need Solidarity in Development Studies? by Kees Biekart

EADI/ISS Series | Why do we need Solidarity in Development Studies? by Kees Biekart

The next EADI Development Studies conference is about “Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice”. But what does solidarity actually mean in relation to development studies? Kees Biekart explores the term by ...

Does attending preschool benefit Indian children at a later stage? by Saikat Ghosh

Despite having one of the world’s largest early childhood education and care program named ‘Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)’ in operation since 1975, the impact of such provisions on children’s later development is still largely unknown in India. Empirical evidence from India suggests that attending preschool makes children more sociable but does not improve their cognitive ability.

Does Early Childhood Education (ECE) matter?

Childhood is the most important phase of human life and the strong foundation made during the early years can lead to improvements in children’s cognitive and social development. It has already been witnessed that ECE contributes substantially to children’s development and well-being and children attending early education programs is associated with improved performance in school1, 2. ECE is considered extremely effective for children from disadvantaged backgrounds as it can narrow the gap in early development between children from different socio-economic classes3.

On the contrary, evidence also suggests that early, extensive, and continuous nonmaternal care may have some development risks for young children and the larger society4, 5. Although ECE may increase cognitive skills at school entry, it may also increase behavioural problems and reduces self-control6. Therefore, there also exist some sort of disagreements regarding the effects of ECE programs on children’s development.

Based on the above backdrop, a study was recently conducted to understand whether attending preschool provide any benefit to children at the later stage of their life. Based on a sample of 1369 first graders, the study took place in India which is home of approximately twenty percent of the world’s child population in the age group of 0-6 years. The key question asked in this context was: do the children who attended preschool possess greater skills at the primary school level? Children’s accumulation of cognitive and social skills was assessed by respective class teachers using twelve indicators such as their attention towards class, ability to remember lessons, friendliness towards peers, etc.

Does attending preschool help Indian children?

The results from the study suggest that the ECE provisions in India are able to contribute to child development, but only partially. Children who attended preschool were found performing better, but this association was not uniform over different skill types. Although attending preschool seems to help children in improving their social skills, there was no such effect with respect to cognitive skills. Furthermore, in contrast to the parental notion about the private preschools being better than the ICDS ones, there was no such evidence found of any of the preschools having a relative edge over the other.

Given the fact that not only preschool attendance but also the quality of the preschool matters, one can hold the quality of preschools in India as responsible for not being able to provide any cognitive incentive to children. The focus of the ICDS programme seems more on the feeding aspects than on promoting behavioural change in childcare practices. The people responsible in these settings are often not very well educated and do not have the required skills to take on this responsibility7( p.30). Besides, the curriculum followed in the private preschools were also criticized for its quality and suitability for children8, 9. Therefore, both types of preschools seem lacking the quality to contribute to children’s cognitive development.

On the other hand, regardless of the quality of care and curriculum, attending preschool allows children to interact and communicate with peers and integrate themselves. Normatively, first friendships are established during the preschool years, and the acquisition of social skills such as helping and sharing, etc. during preschool predict later school engagement and academic success10, 11.

Therefore, by providing an improved and more scientific curriculum to the children, ECE provisions in India can help children in greater skill accumulation. Taking into account that parents mainly send their children to preschool for early education and school readiness12, emphasizing on the educational component of the ICDS programme could attract more parents towards it. Given the fact that the ICDS programme is mainly targeting the marginalized section of the society, expanding its coverage and improving the quality of service provisions would certainly help children from the disadvantaged backgrounds to build a strong foundation.

  1. Weiland, C. & Yoshikawa, H. (2013). Impacts of a prekindergarten program on children’s mathematics, language, literacy, executive function, and emotional skills. Child Development, 84(6), 2112–2130.
  2. DeCicca, P. & Smith, J. D. (2011). The long-run impacts of early childhood education: Evidence from a failed policy experiment. National Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper 17085.
  3. UNICEF (2016). The state of the world’s children: A fare chance for every child. Retrieved from:
  4. Belsky, J. (2002). Quantity counts: Amount of child care and children’s socioeconomic development. Development and Behavioural Pediatrics, 23(3): 167-170.
  5. Belsky, J. (2001). Developmental risks (still) associated with early child care. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry & Allied Discipline, 42(7): 845—859.
  6. Magnuson, K. A., Ruhm, C. J. & Waldfogel, J. (2004). Does prekindergarten improve school preparation and performance?. NBER Working Paper No. 10452
  7. UNESCO (2006). Select issues concerning ECCE India. Paper commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2007, Strong foundations: early childhood care and education.
  8. Kaul, V. & Sankar, D. (2009). Early childhood care and education in India’. New Delhi: NUEPA.
  9. Swaminathan, M. (1998). The First Five Years: A Critical Perspective on Early Childhood Care and Education in India. New Delhi: SAGE.
  10. Howes, C., Hamilton, C. E., & Philipsen, L. C. (1998). Stability and continuity of child-caregiver and child-peer relationships. Child Development, 69, 418–426.
  11. Ladd, G. W., Price, J. M., & Hart, C. H. (1988). Predicting preschoolers’ peer status from their playground behaviors. Child Development, 59, 986–992.
  12. Ghosh, S. (2019). Inequalities in demand and access to early childhood education in India. International Journal of Early Childhood. DOI: 1007/s13158-019-00241-8

    Image Credit: Jay Galvin on Flickr

About the Author:

saikatDr. Saikat Ghosh is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LifBi), Germany where he is leading a project focusing on early childhood education in India.  He is a former ISS Graduate (2011-12) and awarded his Ph.D. from the University of Bamberg in 2018. His research interest centers on poverty, education, inequality, and social policy analysis with a particular focus on developing countries. Formerly, he has worked for the Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences (BAGSS), Germany, UNU-WIDER, Helsinki, and the State Government of West Bengal, India.

Sri Lankan President Sirisena’s political war on drugs by Shyamika Jayasundara-Smits

Sri Lankan President Sirisena’s political war on drugs by Shyamika Jayasundara-Smits

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s answer to drug-related crimes is bringing back the death penalty. According to recent reports, international drug smugglers are increasingly turning to Sri Lanka as a ...

Revolution and music: women singing out in Sudan by Katarzyna Grabska and Azza Ahmed A. Aziz

Revolution and music: women singing out in Sudan by Katarzyna Grabska and Azza Ahmed A. Aziz

With the attention to Sudanese women musicians actively participating in the current uprising in Sudan, this article reflects on the history of women’s involvement in music and how their performances ...

Creative Development | Sudan protests: artistic acts of citizenship by Azza Ahmed A. Aziz and Katarzyna Grabska

Since December 2018, flashing images of protests in Sudan have appeared in mainstream media. This, however, barely touches upon the ongoing struggles of the changing local and diasporic dynamics of what ‘citizenship’ and belonging in Sudan mean (see ISS research project). Many acts of citizenship (see Isin and Nielsen 2008) have been most visibly associated with artistic creativity that spread across Sudan and  in  diaspora. In this article, we reflect on how art has been one of the key drivers of the revolution and the transformation of local and diasporic citizenship claims pertaining to Sudan.

The December 2018 Sudanese Revolution: A Hub of Artistic Creativity

The revolution was propelled by demonstrations all over Sudan. The demonstrations demanding freedom, peace and justice culminated in a million persons march happened on the 6th of April, 2019. Demonstrators reached the Army headquarters in Khartoum and were joined by people from all over Sudan.  Since that date, large swathes of the Sudanese population had been occupying  a space in front of the Army headquarters (midan al itisam): the sit in space. Almost two months of occupation of this space created a world where  revolutionaries could join  to realize  their objectives of freedom, peace and justice. They demanded that military forces that overthrew Omar El Bashir (representing military junta that came to power through a coup in 1989) on 11th of April hand over power to a civilian led transitional government.

Artistic and creative practice has played a seminal contribution to the development of resistance and the revolution. The genesis of the sit in space had reignited a flurry of creativity ranging from painting, photography, filming, spoken word and whatsapp messaging that conveys information about its  evolution  to diverse audiences:  the Sudanese public , the diaspora and the outside world, through graphic design, slogans, speeches, song lyrics  and live recordings. Prior to the protests, art in public spaces of  Khartoum was rare. Women artists were significantly more absent. During the sit in, the walls of the city became covered with extensive murals or art work.

Within the sit in zone a huge 3 km canvas was being prepared by artists within the premises of a technical training school. This canvas was to be presented to the public. It would encompass artistic symbols as well as the signatures of those who would represent all those who dedicated their lives to staying in place. Another zone, that was a rubbish dump, had been transformed into a space of beautiful art. This creative practice gave a clear sense of belonging and facilitated making political claims for many, regardless of gender, class, age and ethnic origin.

Art is fundamentally linked with revolutionary processes and plays an important role in creating a sense of belonging and citizenship. Through painting the walls of the army headquarters, singing in public, filming and photographing, the demonstrators performed acts of citizenship, expressing their ideals and demands for Sudan and their own understanding of rights as Sudanese people. With the digital access and the instant sharing of messages of hope, despair, and demands for justice, freedom and civil rule, it became possible to disseminate these practices across the globe both for those remaining in Sudan and those   in diaspora.

The sit-in period was characterized by protracted negotiations between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the driving force of public mobilization the Sudanese Professional Association (SPA).  This was a fraught process that included the involvement of the notorious Rapid Security Forces (RSF) militias under the leadership of Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemeti)  the second man within the TMC. On the 3rd of June at the crack of dawn on the last day of the Muslim fasting month, Ramadan, the TMC  brutally dispersed the people occupying the sit in space. Live bullets were fired on peaceful civilians and many people were mortally wounded, killed, raped and injured (see dying for the revolution BBC). This massacre was followed by measures aimed at terrorizing  civilians and executed by the RSF that patrolled the streets, randomly harassing, beating and raping. The erasure of most of the creative acts of citizenship by painting over many of  the murals on the walls of the sit in area was set into motion  in order to wipe out the achievements of the revolution and silence its call. Notwithstanding that  Khartoum remained eerily silent for 10 days with the internet quickly disabled and  people fearing to leave their homes , the mobilization rapidly persisted.

Art, erasure and making of citizenship

The erasure of art orchestrated by the  TMC,  in the aftermath of the massacre, points to the power of art and artists to create a political space for expression of citizenship. Yet, the massacre and the erasure led to other creative practices  in music and visual art that frames  new contours of belonging and political rights. During the six months of protests and especially during the massacre, many lost their lives. They were framed as martyrs. They became a motivation for the youth who started proclaiming their right not to be forgotten: ‘we will not forget and we will not forgive, blood for blood we will not accept monetary compensation’. This expresses their intent to persevere in creating a better Sudan worthy of their sacrifice. This particular narrative of how martyrs are  predominantly represented is visible in the music of Ahmed Amin.

In visual art, the work of Assil Diab, a Sudanese artist living in Qatar, illustrates the significance of remembering and documenting the sacrifices of those who died during the peaceful protests. Alongside a group of artists, she paints wall murals depicting the faces of the fallen on the walls of  their family homes. She seeks  permission  from  their families to bear testimony to the fact   that Sudan has not forgotten their sons and daughters (graffiti art).

Through art, young musicians and visual artists are constructing a new model of a deserving citizen, a martyr. The calls for freedom, peace, and justice, sit alongside other claims to citizenship depicted here through these ‘good deaths’. This medium instills that martyrs are occupying a worthy place in the hierarchy of citizens in Sudan.  This is just one aspect of how art plays into some  key imaginaries of belonging and provides a reading of diverse ways of participating in the revolution as an evolving nation-making Sudanese project  that emanates from the local and from afar.

This article is part of a series on Creative Development. A second part to this article dealing with women and music during the Sudan protests can be read here.

Image Credit: Jakob Reimann on Flickr

PHOTO-2019-08-08-11-57-49Azza Ahmed Abdel Aziz lives between Khartoum and London.  She holds a Ph.D in Social Anthropology, with a special focus on Medical Anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her research focuses on cultural understandings of health and well-being. She has been following the unfolding upraising in Khartoum since December 2018 and has been documenting the everyday protest practices, focusing specifically on the artistic expressions. She is also a co-researcher with Kasia Grabska in the ISS-funded project on creative practice, mobilities and in development in Sudan. 

Kasia Grabska_

Katarzyna (Kasia) Grabska is a lecturer/researcher at the ISS and a filmmaker.