Tag Archives education

Now it’s time to start monitoring how children learn: moving beyond universal access to education in Bolivia

Now it’s time to start monitoring how children learn: moving beyond universal access to education in Bolivia

A recently published UNESCO-led evaluation of the quality of education in Bolivia and other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean revealed just how badly it is faring in providing ...

EADI/ISS Series | Empowering African Universities to have an impact by Liisa Laakso

EADI/ISS Series | Empowering African Universities to have an impact by Liisa Laakso

Discussions on the impact of higher education and research have increased, together with the rise of strategic thinking in the management of universities during the last decade. Governments, taxpayers and ...

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: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/UNICEF_SOWC_2016.pdf
  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.

Do teachers discriminate in occupational expectations and grading? by Shradha Parashari

Do teachers discriminate in occupational expectations and grading? by Shradha Parashari

Marks assigned by teachers tend to motivate students, have bearing on their career choices, admission to universities and affect students' self-esteem. Existing literature shows that teachers may hold preconceived stereotypes ...

Nepal’s school-merging programme goes against the right to education by Nilima Rai

Nepal’s school-merging programme goes against the right to education by Nilima Rai

Nepal’s government is increasingly merging schools due to shrinking population numbers in its rural areas, arguing that this will improve the quality of education. However, as Nilima Rai points out, ...

Striking for a transformative university by Karin Astrid Siegmann and Amod Shah

Budget cuts in higher education limit universities’ transformative potential. A big strike is therefore planned in the Netherlands for all sectors of education on 15 March 2019. This strike follows demonstrations amongst others by university staff and students in The Hague in December 2018. This post is a conversation between ISS PhD researcher Amod Shah and senior lecturer Karin Astrid Siegmann about what motivates them to participate in the protests.

Karin: So many people came for the demonstration in The Hague—many more than I had expected! There were 1,000, some say even 2,000 people. What motivated you to join, Amod?

Amod: I was very impressed at the size of the demonstration, too. Being part of an educational institution, an element of solidarity motivated me to join. And there are very real impacts of these proposed cuts on us as PhD researchers. We are already in a situation where there is limited capacity for PhD supervision and training because academic and administrative staff are stretched and need to balance research and teaching responsibilities. The budget cuts aggravate that. There’s also a broader discussion to be had: these cuts are huge and structural. What does that mean for the university?

Karin: I see people without permanent contracts and tenure often don’t dare to speak up, criticise, or do anything that would distract their attention from getting those publication points necessary to get tenure. Overall, I see a move towards the neoliberalisation of universities: universities are more and more managed like ‘knowledge factories’. There’s more attention to quantifiable outputs than to the contents of your research, the meaning of what you teach, and of your research for society. To me, a public university should be a space where people manage to think out of the box, creatively for a better, more just society.

In my research and teaching, I use Polanyi’s work quite a bit. He looked at European societies from the perspective of efforts to commodify everything in society, driven by business interests and also pushed by governments. I see similar dynamics in the neoliberalisation of universities. Yet they are a space that should not be commodified in a healthy society. The effort will backfire, I think. But Polanyi also perceived simultaneous counter-movements by ordinary people, by social movements. I see the protests as such a form of resistance.

Amod: Very real conflicts of interest are created when, instead of government funding, you rely on a private organisation, foundation, or company to provide funds for research.

Karin: ‘Conflict of interests’ puts it very politely. I see an increasing influence of corporate interests that want to uphold the status quo. For instance, I see many more calls for research on climate change adaptation rather than what can be done to prevent climate change. That allows us to not question a westernised consumerist way of life, a dogma of economic growth.

For the ‘knowledge factory’, a similar model is being implemented not only in universities but also other sectors, such as in healthcare or in government offices where you should care about the public good rather than higher productivity. This model works through individualisation and competition. It provides disincentives for people to collaborate, but also encourages them to recycle their own work in order to make a career.

Such an individualistic model also makes it easier within institutions to divide and rule and silence critical voices. Michael Burawoy has written a really interesting class analysis of how a university manages to silence protest against new public management restructuring by dividing academic staff from admin staff, through the provision of some privileges to academic staff.

Amod: This is a very good point! As a former MA student and now as a PhD researcher, I see that playing out at ISS, too. By creating such differences—that as a PhD student you are not a student but you are not a staff member either—you intentionally or unintentionally harm the ability for people to collaborate.

We are of course aware that there are funding pressures, but it’s important not to let go of the ethos of a university that contributes to social change. There should be space for collaboration, to think more broadly, not to be oriented solely towards the next publication, or finishing your PhD or getting a job. There are universities and spaces where people are trying to get away from this rat-race kind of orientation The University of Gent is one example: their new system for faculty evaluation de-emphasises quantitative metrics and focuses on what faculty members are proud of[1]. There are real examples out there about how things can be better—these are not ideas which are just up in the air.

Karin: Yes, I was really touched by that example. Another example I have heard about is the planned cooperative university in Manchester. Because of the increasing privatisation in universities, students don’t have the funds to study. That way, universities becomes a more and more exclusive space. With a cooperative university, they want to develop an alternative model with students and staff as the main stakeholders.

Amod: For me, what’s happening in the Netherlands is symptomatic of a more global phenomenon, of the state withdrawing from higher education. What do you think?

Karin: I just referred to Burawoy’s class analysis of neoliberalised universities. I heard him speak about that two years back in Lahore, Pakistan, at a private university. I found it so interesting that somebody coming from a public university in the US presented an analysis that spoke both to the situation of students at a private, elite university in Pakistan and somebody like me who is teaching at a public university in the Netherlands. Very different contexts, but his observations rang a bell for so many people in the audience.

Amod: I would add to this the idea of the university as an egalitarian space, where people from very different backgrounds are able to come and study together. I think that’s a hallmark of public education across the world. This egalitarian space is one of the first casualties of the privatisation and neoliberalisation of higher education. I see that a lot in India now, with the mushrooming of expensive private universities.

Karin: I think even in the publicly funded universities in countries that claim to be very egalitarian like the Netherlands, you very often see the reproduction of class, racial, and gender hierarchies. I don’t pretend that right now public universities are egalitarian spaces. But in private universities, it is very clear that the customer-pays principle rules. Whereas in public universities you can contest that, and there’s space to demand more inclusiveness.

Amod: I agree. I think that’s what these protests are about—maintaining a space for contestation in the public higher education system.

Karin: So, we will take to the streets again on 15 March?

Amod: Yes!

The 15 March demonstration at Malieveld, The Hague will start at 12:00 (noon) and will continue until approximately 13:30.

[1] We would like to thank Zuleika Sheik for sharing this information.

Image Credit: Alice Pasqual on Unsplash

About the authors:

csm_5abd70057687ec5e3741252630d8cc66-karin-siegmann_60d4db99baKarin Astrid Siegmann is a senior lecturer in gender & labour economics at ISS.




amod-photoAmod Shah is a PhD candidate at the ISS.


Development Dialogue 2018 | Do children entering preschool early develop more quickly? by Saikat Ghosh and Subhasish Dey

Development Dialogue 2018 | Do children entering preschool early develop more quickly? by Saikat Ghosh and Subhasish Dey

Despite fierce debate among scholars regarding the age at which children are ready to enter preschool, the issue remains contentious. This article based on an empirical footing argues that earlier ...

Emancipatory education in practice: perspectives from Rio de Janeiro’s favelas  by Veriene Melo

Emancipatory education in practice: perspectives from Rio de Janeiro’s favelas by Veriene Melo

Emancipatory education is a platform to humanise and redefine the educational process in liberatory terms. Linking theory and practice from this lens can help us explore the role of education ...