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Maharashtra to come up with rules to regulate preschool sector

"A policy is being worked out to bring play schools and daycares under the government’s purview,” an official said.

Written by Dipti Singh , Priyanka Sahoo | Mumbai |
Updated: January 18, 2017 4:59:11 pm
schools, detention policy, no failing policy, no detention policy, india news Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde said the policy would make it mandatory for all new daycares and playschools to register with the government. (Representational image)

The government has finally decided to regulate the thousands of pre-schools mushrooming across the state, following the assault on a 10-month-old girl at a Kharghar daycare and the worries over popular playschool chain Treehouse becoming non-functional. While the Union Women and Child Development Ministry has a framework for pre-schools in place since 2013 — the early childhood care and education (ECCE) policy — the state has failed to adopt it, leaving the sector unregulated. However, after the recent incidents, concerns were raised in the state Assembly by several legislators, and the state’s women and child development (WCD) department and education department are now working on a policy to regulate it.

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“Currently, there is no regulation for standalone pre-schools/playschools and daycare centres are a rapidly growing business across the state. While the WCD department is responsible for children between the age group of 0-6 years and the education department thereafter, till date, this sector comes under neither departments. However, now, a policy is being worked out to bring play schools and daycares under the government’s purview,” said Nand Kumar, principal secretary, department of school education and sports.

Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde said the policy would make it mandatory for all new daycares and playschools to register with the government. “They will have to follow government norms such as installing CCTV cameras, getting their staff members registered with the police, etc. The state would also work out the training required for employees at these centres.”

At present, people can start daycare centres or play schools at their residences or in rented buildings without necessary facilities. Some tie up with already established companies, while others start franchises.

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“There is no provision under the Mumbai municipal corporation Act for such daycares and play schools. It does not come under our ambit and hence we cannot initiate action against them. The centres can choose whether or not they want a certificate from us,” said Arvind Gosavi, chief inspector of shops and establishment department of the BMC.

Over the past few years, the preschool sector has become a major industry, with some big names opening about 5,000-7,000 schools across India. These branded preschools/playschools are now known as the organised sector among playschools.

“Reports on the organised sector, or the branded playschool industry, predicted the sectoral growth at 36% Compound Annual Growth Rate. Any entrepreneur can rent a place with a few thousand rupees, upgrade the facility for a few lakh rupees and get started. Due to lack of awareness, most parents fall in the trap and get their kids enrolled in such centres. The preschool years are a very critical learning period for children, since the manner in which a child learns and retains is developed majorly during this time. Yet, there being no restrictions, just about anybody can become a preschool teacher,” said Jayant Jain, president of Forum for Fairness in Education.

Experts call preschools a ‘business’ as the government doesn’t include them under the Right to Education Act. While the Right To Education (RTE) Act makes education a fundamental right of every child between the age group of 6 and 14 years, it doesn’t recognise the need for education before that.

“The previous government considered an early childhood policy, a curriculum draft framework and one for quality standards. However, it is only a vision document and has not been made a law yet,” said Swati Popat Vats, president of Podar Education network — which runs Jumbo Kids — and president of NGO Early Childhood Association.

However some educationists have a differing view.

Lina Ashar, founder of Kangaroo Kids Preschools of the Billabong Trust, which has around 100 centres in India, Qatar and Maldives, said, “The government should not hurry and chalk out reactionary measures. They should involve all stakeholders in the process, including educators, large brands of playschools and parents.”

Inputs by Vishwas Waghmode

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