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Tracing the Quality of Public Childcare in the Neighborhoods of Chennai, India

Ieva Zumbyte

DATA MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR A DOCTORAL DISSERTATION IMPROVEMENT GRANT APPLICATION

PROJECT OVERVIEW

Early childhood programs are the most important investment that any government can make to ensure children’s long-term health and wellbeing (García et al. 2019). Such programs have also become high on the global development agenda, but scholars emphasize that to enhance children’s development, childcare services need to be accessible and high quality (Drèze 2006; Britto et al. 2017). Although governments around the world have created new childcare programs, we know very little about the processes that determine the quality of such programs in low and middle-income countries. In particular, we lack evidence and theory to explain variations in the quality of public childcare in places where such services are needed most—resource constrained urban centers in the global south. In this dissertation, I investigate the factors that determine quality of public childcare in one of the fastest urbanizing cities in the world—Chennai, India (population of 8.6 million). Indian government provides free universal early childhood services delivered through neighborhood-based centers. While Chennai has historically had a strong political and bureaucratic commitment to provide childcare and established a network of 1,806 public childcare centers, the city has struggled to ensure that quality of services is uniform across its neighborhoods. Thus, for my dissertation I ask: 1) How do parents assess the quality of public childcare and participate in shaping it? 2) How does the quality of public childcare vary across neighborhoods of Chennai? And 3) How do childcare workers understand their role and adapt childcare delivery according to neighborhood context?

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