Early Childhood Development (ECD) has been a key focus of the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) for several decades. In India, ECD programmes are being implemented in Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh.
In addition, the Aga Khan Education Service (AKES) has built capacity in the field of Early Childhood Development and currently operates out of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telengana, managing 27 Early Years facilities in the rural, peri-urban and urban areas, which include “in-school” set ups, stand-alone centres and community based centres.
The ECD programme helps children get a head start in life by bringing together international best practices in early childhood development and the needs of local contexts. AKF focuses on using locally relevant curricula, experimenting with different types of training and support for parents, caregivers and pre-school teachers, and identifying successful and sustainable ways of mobilising and involving communities. Special emphasis is placed on ensuring programmes reach girls and other marginalised groups.
AKF also supports the establishment and strengthening of local resource centres (mostly governmental) that over time evolve into sustainable institutions that meet the needs of young children and their families. In 2013, a ten-country study of AKF’s ECD programmes found that in most cases pre-school children with one to two years of pre-school education, scored on average about 10 percentage points better on achievement tests than children without this experience and were much more prepared for school compared to other students entering school as the same age. For AKES, the Shishu Pahel Paddathi or the “Child First” approach defines all its interventions in ECD.