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Indian Journal of Community Medicine

Long Term Effects of ICDS Services on Behaviour and Academic Achievements of Children

Author(s): Arun Kumar Aggarwal, Rajesh Kumar

Vol. 25, No. 3 (2000-07 - 2000-09)

Department of Community Medicine, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh


Research question: Whether ICDS has made any long term effects on the behaviour and academic achievements of children in their early school years?

Hypothesis: ICDS beneficiaries should have benefitted from the services availed during their pre-school years.

Objectives: To assess the academic achievements and general characteristics of past ICDS beneficiaries compared to non beneficiaries.

Study design: Cross-sectional.

Setting: ICDS block in rural area of district Panchkula.

Participants: Children 7-13 years of age.

Statistical analysis: Chi-square test.

Results: Of 1067 children in 7-13 years, 1022(96%) were school going. Twenty one percent children had never attended anganwadis (AWs), whereas 48% had availed services from AWs fairly regularly during their first 6 years of life. Behaviour, general hygiene and academic performance of children who had availed AW services regularly was similar to those who had not availed these services with few differences. Academic achievements of children studying in govt. schools were less than those studying in private schools.

Conclusions: ICDS services probably did made impact as beneficiaries were atleast competing with non-beneficiaries who were in higher socio-economic status.

Keywords : ICDS, Pre-school children, Education


Children are invaluable human assets. It is the state's responsibility to protect the rights of the children and provide equitable chances to them for development1. In India, the scheme of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is considered single largest program to provide the basic services to children from the deprived sections of society. It aims for a better start in life by providing nutrition, health education and non-formal pre-school education in addition to providing many other services. Regular attendance in anganwadis is likely to improve the regularity in school attendance, academic achievements and social behaviour of children.

Number of studies have been conducted in India to evaluate nutritional and various operational aspects of ICDS. No study could be traced having assessed the long-term effects of ICDS on the behaviour and academic achievements of children in their school years. A study was thus conducted to assess the long term effects of ICDS services on the behaviour and academic achievements of children in their post anganwadi years.

Material and Methods:

The study was conducted in RaipurRani ICDS block, district Panchkula. The criterion for selection of this block was that this project was operational for at least 12 years (from 1975-76 to 1989-90) so that children of age 7-13 years now had the opportunity of attending to anganwadis in their first six years of life. Sample size of 500 was calculated with assumption that 50% of the children receive the services for atleast 6 months in a year, at acceptable error of 10%, at 10% level of significance, and 10% non-response and non-availability rate.

ICDS block was notionally divided into 4 parts: North, South, East and West. From each part 3 anganwadis were selected at random by using random number table. In the selected AWs, household survey was carried out. First house in the village was selected randomly. Trained graduate field workers carried out the survey under supervision of investigators.

Study tools:

There were three types of study tools:

  • Household form.
  • Child form for children aged 7-13 years and for their mothers.
  • School performance form for these children.

Household form had questions related to demography i.e. age, sex, marital status, school going status and ICDS user status in first six years of life and socio-economic status i.e. religion, caste, type of housing, household amenities, cattle etc. Mothers based on their memory recall gave the information about how many months child had availed services from anganwadis in each of his/her first 6 years of life. Child form contained questions related to year-wise AW user status of children in first six years of life, details of education i.e. whether child is going to school or has dropped out, personal hygiene, behaviour with elders, family members and with fellow villagers, education and occupation of parents etc. School performance form had questions related to grades achieved in last academic year, school absenteeism and participation in school games and activities.

The families having children 7-13 years were interviewed. Detailed household form and child form was filled for each such family. Mothers and children were interviewed as per the study tools. For filling school form, schools were visited and the information was collected from children and the school teachers.

Analysis was done using EPI info version 6 software. User status of children was determined by adopting a scoring system. For each year during 0-6 years of life, a score of zero was given to children who did not avail anganwadi services in that year, score of 'one' for having attended AWs for <3 months/year, 'two' for 3-6 months/year and 'three' for >6 months/year. Composite score was calculated for all the six years by adding the score of each year. Based upon total scores achieved, children were divided into four groups: (1) zero score, (2) score of 1-6 (3) score of 7-12 and (4) score of 13-18.


A total of 643 houses were surveyed. There were 77% Hindus, 15% Muslims and 5% Sikhs. Thirty-one percent belonged to schedule castes and 40% to backward castes. There was no electricity in 9% houses. Housing was of Kutcha/thatched type in 8%.

Table I: Sex-wise distribution of children according to AW attendance.

AW attendance Females(n=500)
Males (n=567)
Total (n=1067)
Score Score group
0 Zero 98 (20) 129 (23) 227 (21)
1-6 One 70 (14) 98 (17) 168 (16)*
7-12 Two 68 (14) 94 (17) 162 (15)
13-18 Three 264 (53) 246 (43) 510 (48)**

*p<0.05; **p<0.01

A total of 1067 children were enrolled in 7-13 years of age group. Majority of the children 1022(96%) were school going. Of 46 children who never attended to schools, 72% (33/46) were girls. Analysis of anganwadi user status revealed that 21% children had never availed services (scored zero), 30% attended irregularly (15% scored 1-6 and 15% scored 7-12) and 48% utilised services of AWs regularly (scored 13-18). Sex-wise analysis of AW user status revealed that significantly more number of males were irregular users compared to females (p<0.05); and significantly more number of females were regular users compared to males (p<0.05). However, no significant sex difference could be observed among non-users.

Table II: Parents' literacy status and land holding in relation to user status of children.

Parent's characteristics Non-User (n=227) No.(%) Irregular (n=330) No.(%) Regular (n=510) No(%)
Education father Illiterate 56 (25) 96 (29) 210 (41)
    Literate 171 (75) 234 (71) 300 (59)
  mother Illiterate 124 (55) 180 (55) 355 (70)
    Literate 103 (45) 150 (45) 155 (30)
Land holding   Landless 130 (57) 172 (52) 338 (66)
    Having land 97 (43) 158 (48) 172 (34)

Parents profile was analysed in relation to anganwadi user status of children. The literacy rate of parents from non-user group (fathers 75%, mothers 45%) was significantly more than that of regular user group (fathers 59%, mothers 30%). Significantly more number of regular users were landless (66%) compared to irregular users (52%) and non-users (57% - p<0.01). More of regular users were studying in government schools (76%) compared to non-users (61%). More of non-users (31%) were studying in private schools compared to regular users (12%).

Table III: Academic achievement of children (scored good grades) in relation to user status and schooling.

User status Government school Private school
N** n* Percent N** n* Percent
0-6 years
Non-user 135 66 48 67 53 79
Irregular 195 109 56 97 79 81
Regular 352 197 56 48 38 79
3-6 years
Non-user 171 87 51 90 71 79
Irregular 269 153 57 97 77 79
Regular 242 132 54 25 22 88

*n= Number of children having scored good marks in different user status categories. **N= Total number of children in different user status categories.

Children's grades achievement in last academic year were analysed in relation to the AW use rate. Information about 87% school going children (894/1024) could be obtained about academic grade assessment. Fifty-nine percent (119/202) non-users, 64%(188/292) irregular users and 59%(235/400) regular users had scored good grades. Stratified analysis was done to assess association of school grade achievements with type of school and AW use rate. The user rate was defined in two ways: children having used anganwadis from 0-6 years of age and those having availed services only from 3-6 years excluding first 3 years of life. This was done because only children of 3-6 years of age get the services of pre-school education in the AWs. It was observed that in govt. schools 48% of non-users (0-6 years), 56% irregular users and 56% of regular users scored good grades; in private schools, 79% of non-users, 81% irregular users and 79% regular users scored good grades. Similar pattern was observed when user status was restricted to 3-6 years of age group.

Table IV: Characteristics of children in relation to user status.

Characteristics User group
Zero One Two Three
Govt. school (n=135) (n=104) (n=90) (n=353)
Cuts nails 94 94 86 88
Combs hair 95 97 86 86*
Behaviour good with elders 75 75 74 71
Plays games 69 73 61 63
Absent infrequently 95 91 89 86*
Punctual 81 76 77 74
Private school (n=67) (n=48) (n=-49) (n=48)
Cuts nails 97 98 98 100
Combs hair 97 98 98 98
Behaviour good with elders 84 85 73 79
Plays games 75 81 53 77
Absent infrequently 94 96 92 94
Punctual 90 87 75 75


Analysis of general behaviour and personal hygiene of children revealed that 82% children take regular bath, 90% groom hair regularly, 79% cut nails, 91% wear washed cloths and 68% clean teeth daily, 88% wash hands before eating, 94% wash hands after going to toilet. Regular users of govt. schools lagged behind non-users in combing hair and school absenteeism (p=0.01) (Table IV). No significant difference was observed for other parameters including punctuality in attending classes. In private schools although users performed better compared to non-users but the differences were not significant statistically.


The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is one of the largest multifaceted programs for mothers and children. Various experts since its inception have evaluated the programme for its health and nutritional benefits. However, very limited work has been done to evaluate the overall effects on the knowledge, behaviour and academic grade achievement of children in their early school years.

Our study showed that 21% children had never availed AW services, 30% had availed irregularly and 48% regularly. It was observed that more children from labour and illiterate class availed services from AWs compared to service/business or literate class. Although, AW services are meant for poorest of the poor, others are not debarred if they come to attend the AWs. Our data supports the same. More of the weaker population availed the services compared to well off population.

For analysing long term effects of ICDS services on academic achievement of children our hypothesis was that regular users will be performing better than non-users. Socio-economic status could be an important confounder. It is related both to the chances of availing services from AWs and childhood stimulation through better accessibility of household amenities, interaction by educated parents and exposure of children to private schools. It was observed that more of users were from poorer section of population and more of them were reading in government schools. Performance of children in private schools was far better than that in the Govt. schools, however, there was no significant difference in the performance of users compared to non-users. It seems that results are contrary to the expectations as per the hypothesis. However, another interpretation of this could be that despite the fact users belonged to poorer segment of the society these children were competing with children from higher SES. It is possible that had ICDS services not been there, then their performance would have faltered.

A study at Ludhiana2 revealed that the mental development of the anganwadi attenders was significantly better than that of non-attenders in all the age-groups both in rural as well as urban children. A positive co-relation was observed between pre-school education and mental development of children. In another study, it was observed that the intellectual status of children attending AWs in villages covered under ICDS scheme was better than that of children in non-ICDS services3. A study conducted in urban areas reported that exposure to ICDS enhanced the overall development of children and that ICDS children had a better scholastic performance4. Other authors have also made similar observations5,6.

There was higher school absenteeism among users compared to non-users in govt. schools. This could be because of the fact that users belonged to poorer sections of the society. More of their parents were illiterate and were doing labour/agriculture work. Children might be supporting their parents in income generation especially during seasonal activities. There could be higher sickness rate in this population. In private schools no such differences were observed. This further substantiates our observation. Families even with very low income, if aware about the importance of education, tend to send their children to private schools. They are more concerned about the regularity in school attendance.

However, further in-depth studies should be carried out to understand the factors that influence anganwadi attendance, choice of school, regularity and punctuality in school attendance and academic performance. Our study had limitation of using memory recall of mothers for assessing AW user status. Further studies linking actual attendance of children in AWs with the expected outcome variables should be carried out.


  1. National Policy for Children 1974: Rights of the Child - World declaration and plan of action from the World Summit for Children, New Delhi. The Department of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India 1991; 77.
  2. Raizada N, Sachar RK, Bhatia RC, Sehgal R, Soni RK: The impact of pre-school education component of ICDS on mental and cognitive development of children. Indian Journal of Maternal and Child Health 1993; 4: 4-8.
  3. Ashis V, Zaheer M, Sinha SN, Siddiqui AQ: Impact of ICDS on intellectual status of children. In Punhani R, Mahajan R. eds. Research on ICDS: an overview vol.I (1975-85) New Delhi, National Institute of Public Co-operation and Child Development 1989; 361.
  4. Sood N: An evaluation of non-formal pre-school education component in Mongolpuri ICDS block. National Institute of Public Co-operation and Child Development, Technical Bulletin I(1), April 1987.
  5. Paranjape RK, Paranjape NM. A study of impact of ICDS scheme on school enrollment and school dropout rate in Maharashtra. In Punhani R, Mahajan R. eds. Research on ICDS: an overview vol.I (1975-85) New Delhi, National Institute of Public Co-operation and Child Development 1989; 372-4.
  6. Sunder Lal, Rajwati: Early childhood education - An effect to enhance school enrollment. In Punhani R, Mahajan R. eds. Research on ICDS: an overview vol. 1 (1975-85) New Delhi, National Institute of Public Co-operation and Child Development 1989; 234.
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