Research on child psychology has proved that preschools or playschools can have a great effect on the early learning and skill development capacities of young children within the age-group of 3-6 years. As a result, more and more parents now want to enrol their children in preschools where their little ones can learn to behave and function within an organised structure.
However, choosing the right preschool isn't child's play. Parents have to stand in queue for admission forms, prepare themselves and their child well to face the interview.
Sometimes, even after doing all this and more, the child is refused admission. All parents must be, therefore, aware of the key regulations that govern preschools.
In India, in 2017, the Right to Education division of the National Commission For Protection Of Children framed guidelines for running preschools. Here are 11 regulations that preschools must adhere to.
What parents must know about preschool regulations
Preschools can be run by governments, NGOs and private bodies. Presently, the Anganwadis are the only authorised government organisations to impart education to children in the age group of 3-6 years. However, parents should know that, apart from Anganwadis, several government schools also have nursery sections where children aged 3-6 years are admitted. These schools are not only monitored by the education boards, but also by the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. In cases of grave abuse of child rights, the child welfare committees may also exercise their authority.
Private bodies can also run playschools for children aged 3-6 years. However, these schools must be registered with the nodal officer. This officer is responsible for implementation of the Integrated Child Development Scheme under the department of Women & Child Development or Social Justice in each state or union territory. Hence, it is important for parents to always clarify whether the preschool is registered with the necessary governing body.
No playschool is allowed to admit children below the age of three years. Similarly, no playschool is allowed to retain any child beyond six years of age.
For all playschools, the child-teacher and child-caregiver ratio is fixed at 1 teacher/caregiver for every 20 children. Furthermore, the teachers must be eligible to teach children within the age group of 3-6 years according to the established norms and regulations. Parents, therefore, must verify that only individuals eligible to teach children of that age group have been engaged as teachers.
Playschool buildings must have a child-friendly infrastructure. For example, all playschools should have first-aid kits, toilets should be child-friendly and take into consideration the needs of differently-abled children, and the building should have proper walls and security mechanisms to provide security to the children. The buildings must also have proper ventilation, fire safety mechanisms and there should be no obstruction to the doors and windows.
The playschools must not impart education for more than three to four hours per day and should not conduct any assessments which may make some children feel inferior to others.
Playschools must install CCTV cameras for safety purposes. The school must provide digital data security to children and their parents as well.
Playschools must have parent-teacher associations (PTA), for which the representation should include 75 per cent parents (the majority of whom should be mothers) and 25 per cent teachers. The playschools should also ensure that the PTA and the school follow the norms of redressing grievances.
In the name of discipline, no preschool can give corporal punishment. S.2(24) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and protection of children) Amendment Act, 2015, defines corporal punishment as follows: 'Corporal punishment' means the subjecting of a child by any person to physical punishment that involves the deliberate infliction of pain as retribution for an offence, or for the purpose of disciplining or reforming the child. S.82 of the same act lays down penalties for corporal punishment. According to this Section, corporal punishment is completely prohibited and is recognised as a penal offence. The punishment includes a fine of Rs 1,00,000 or imprisonment for three years or both. The caregiver concerned is also liable to be dismissed from services.
It is the right of the parent to know whether any teacher or caregiver has ever been accused under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Amendment Act, 2015 or Child labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, 1986 and the 2016 amended version of the said law. If, however, it is found that any teacher or caregiver is employed in the playschool, who may have been accused and subsequently charged and penalised under these laws, the playschool management is liable to undergo punishment. The registration and recognition of the said playschool may also be cancelled.
Finally, playschools must maintain a hygienic pantry. This includes banning of junk food within the campus specifically for children and sensitising parents about its ill effects.
Parents must remember that while the Internet may provide various lists of good playschools in their region or locality, they must not go by these suggestions only. All playschools must be properly checked in the light of the above key points. Unregistered and unrecognised playschools may not only be risky for the safety of the child, but sudden closure of playschools may also create problems for the parents as well as for the child. The 2017 Regulation clearly mentions that in case of such closure, the playschools must take steps to transfer the children to other playschools. But, in reality, such closures result in chaos and harassment for the parents and children.
Hence, it is always better to check out the playschools beforehand before enrolling your children in them.
Written by Dr Debarati Halder on 23 November 2018.
Dr Debarati Halder is the Honorary Managing Director of the Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling (www.cybervictims.org). She is also working as Professor & Head of the Department of Research, Unitedworld School of Law, Karnavati University, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. She can be reached at email@example.com
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