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‘Play to Learn’ summit organised in Shillong The summit highlighted crucial role of play in young children’s overall development

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HT Bureau
SHILLONG, Sept 5: The first ‘Play to Learn’ Summit was
successfully organised in Shillong on Tuesday, highlighting the
crucial role of play in young children’s overall development.
The summit was presented by government of Meghalaya,
Meghalaya Early Childhood Development Mission (MECDM)
and Meghalaya Health Systems Strengthening Project (MHSSP)
in collaboration with Sesame Workshop India Trust with
funding support from SBI Foundation and the Indian Institute of
Banking & Finance.
The state of Meghalaya is carrying out an Early Childhood
Development Mission (MECDM), which is the first of its kind
initiative in the country. The main goal of the mission is to
maximize the lifelong potential of children by providing the key
development support required in the critical “early years”: from
conception to eight years of age. The expected beneficiaries of
the mission are caregivers, children between the ages of 0-8
years (including those with disabilities), pregnant women and
lactating mothers. The Mission will convert all Anganwadi

Centers into ECD Centers to provide comprehensive support to
children, including nutrition, cognitive development, socio-
emotional learning, and the foundational development they
will need to succeed later in school and in life. Additionally,
there is a significant focus on community based and home-
based ECD activities. For instance, women’s self-help groups
and father’s circles will receive training so that they can act as
support groups to caregivers and can coach caregivers on
simple activities they can do at home to promote the cognitive
development and overall well-being of their children.
As part of this initiative, Sesame Workshop India, with support
from the MHSSP, is providing technical and implementation
support to the ECD Mission in designing and developing an
integrated ECD model to improve outcomes as envisaged in the
state’s ECD mission.
Sesame Workshop India is a global leader and innovator in play-
based pedagogy as an effective approach to teaching and
learning, with a strong track-record of impact for caregivers and
children in India and all over the world.
In a video message to the organisers of the summit, Conrad
Sangma, chief minister of Meghalaya gave an inspiring oration
in which he said, “I firmly believe in the importance of play in
early childhood education. The Meghalaya Early Childhood
Development Mission is dedicated to nurturing a child’s holistic
growth during their formative years.” He emphasised the
incorporation of evidence-based methods such as positive
parenting and joyful learning, complemented by enhanced
nutrition and cognitive stimulation.

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Sangma further highlighted the synergy of government
initiatives, all with the common aim of propelling Meghalaya to
the ranks of the country’s top 10 states. He called upon all
stakeholders to adopt a mission-oriented approach in the
implementation of the ECD Mission, viewing it as the
cornerstone for shaping the future of the state through its
youngest citizens.
Paul Lyngdoh, minister of the social welfare, government of
Meghalaya said, “As we gather here today at the ‘Play to Learn’
Summit, it is heartening to witness the collaborative efforts of
Meghalaya Early Childhood Development Mission, Sesame
Workshop India Trust, and our esteemed partners. Play is
meaningful; it’s a pathway to nurturing young minds and
building a brighter future for Meghalaya.”
Sampath Kumar, principal secretary, government of Meghalaya,
echoed this sentiment, remarking, “Children are inherently
inclined towards play and it is imperative that we acknowledge
the intrinsic role of play in their comprehensive development.
The Meghalaya Government remains firm in its commitment to
endorsing initiatives that contribute to realizing our vision of
delivering quality early childhood education. “
Simultaneously, Sesame Workshop India has been working
closely with the Social Welfare Department to carry out “Learn
Play Grow” in 4 districts of Meghalaya. Supported by the SBI

Foundation since 2020, this initiative is benefitting 90,000
children in 3000 Anganwadi Centres by training Anganwadi
workers to provide child-centered, play/activity-based
curricula, pedagogical processes, and effective techniques,
which can be further developed to support the Early Childhood
Development Mission throughout the state.
Sanjay Prakash, managing director, SBI Foundation, lauded the
significance of play-based learning as a cornerstone of early
childhood education. He said, “SBI Foundation takes immense
pride in its commitment to the state of Meghalaya and its
Government over the last 3 years along with our partners
Sesame Workshop India to strengthen ECCE in the state. We
are committed to the state to ensure that the young minds
studying in the anganwadi centres get the best start in life and
these children will progress through primary into secondary
education and contribute to the Indian growth story in the
Tusharendra Barpanda, head- Professional Development
Centre, eastern zone, Indian Institute of Banking & Finance
said, “We believe that holistic early childhood development is
key, and IIBF is proud to support efforts to promote the efforts
undertaken for early years in Meghalaya. I am confident that
our continuous engagement will generate new ideas and
strategies to support government of Meghalaya’s efforts in
promoting play-based learning in Meghalaya.”

Sonali Khan, managing trustee, Sesame Workshop India Trust
asserted, “Partnering with the Government of Meghalaya, SBI
Foundation and IIBF to support early childhood development in
the state of Meghalaya is a great honor for Sesame Workshop
India. I acknowledge the innate potential of play as a platform
for exploration, critical thinking, and innovation. Sesame
Workshop has integrated play-pedagogy globally over the last
50 years and has proven impact. It rests upon us, as adults who
are primary caregivers, to endorse and exemplify playful
learning for holistic development of child.”
Since its launch, the ECD Mission has carried out “block
conventions” in 10 blocks of the state, to sensitize community
leaders and front-line workers, as well as government
functionaries, about the importance of early childhood
development, and to invite the full ownership and engagement
of communities in rolling out ECD Mission. A unique component
of these conventions has been the participation of social We,
highlighting the cross-sector nature of ECD and the importance
of joint action to achieve the goals of the mission. A further
unique component of the mission is the focus on community
leadership and participation through a convergence of various
departments: Social Welfare, Health & Family, Education,
Meghalaya State Rural Livelihoods Society (MSRLS) and State
Rural Employment Society (SRES). The Mission recognizes that
success will depend upon a true sense of ownership by
communities, from leadership to the household level.

As of September, the ECD Mission has developed a set of
Mission Guidelines which will be disseminated to all localities of
Meghalaya to enable ordinary individuals, community leaders,
and community institutions such as self-help groups, to carry
out ECD activities. The Mission is now engaged in rolling out
training for Master Trainers at the Cluster Level. On August 24,
2023, the first batch of training were conducted, equipping lady
supervisors, cluster coordinators, ASHA facilitators, Cluster
resource persons, Gram Sevaks/Sevikas, Anganwadi workers,
ASHAs, Community Gender HEalth Activists (CGHAs), School
teachers, Caregivers (mothers, father and other caregivers at
home), Self HElp Group members and Village Organizations
(VO) to be able to train their fellow cluster level colleagues, and
to start training community level functionaries and community
leaders. The next stage of the process will be the initiation of
the core activities of ECD Mission at the community level:
activities at the Anganwadi
Centres, home-based activities to be done by caregivers, and
community events to sensitize and mobilize all community
The summit highlighted the importance of integrating local
culture and folklore practices to develop contextualized
teaching learning materials for ECCE as aligned with the
National Curriculum Framework (NCF, Oct 2022) and New
Education Policy 2020. Discussions explored evidence-based
initiatives to enhance children’s skills, the role of community
engagement in culturally tailored play-oriented education, and
the value of research in play-focused approaches. The summit

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showcased the work of ECD Mission, and the contribution of
vital partners such as Sesame Workshop India in connecting
play-based learning with the National Curriculum Framework
(NCF) and NEP 2020. Caregivers were also highlighted for their
crucial role in supporting children’s play by creating a safe and
playful environment, providing easily available materials, and
fostering independent and creative play.

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