Better training, career progression for early childhood educators among new initiatives to boost pre-school quality
SINGAPORE – Efforts to lift the quality of pre-schools here will get a boost as improvements to training and career progression opportunities for early childhood educators were announced on Saturday (Oct 16).
There will also be more support for kids from low-income families to encourage early pre-school enrolment and regular attendance.
Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli announced the new initiatives at the Early Childhood Conference 2021 on Saturday and encouraged educators and pre-school operators to work together in training and development.
He also launched the Skills Framework for Early Childhood following a review of the original 2016 version.
The review was done by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), in collaboration with SkillsFuture Singapore, pre-school representatives and stakeholders.
The new framework spells out the career pathways and competencies required for various job roles in the early childhood education sector.
In particular, the career pathways have been expanded to reflect the potential progression and development available for educators teaching children in the younger age groups of two months to four years old, and the leadership career pathway now has new job roles such as deputy centre leader and pedagogy specialist.
Said Mr Masagos: “This provides greater clarity on the progression and development pathways for educators in the early years, as well as new leadership roles that educators can aspire towards.”
There are also new career pathways for learning support educators and early intervention educators, reflecting ECDA’s continued efforts in advancing inclusion in pre-schools.
The framework can help interested individuals assess their career suitability and identify the required training for entry into the sector, said ECDA, adding that opportunities for professional development and career progression are important factors for retention.
It said: “As the sector adopts the refreshed skills framework and puts in place the expanded career pathways, we expect the salary of early childhood educators to grow in tandem with the improved skills, larger responsibilities and more complex job roles required.”
A Continuing Professional Development Roadmap will also be rolled out progressively from 2022, it added.
Mr Masagos announced that from December, families under the KidSTART programme will get yearly top-ups to the Child Development Accounts. This is funded by contributions from corporate and community partners.
KidSTART supports parents by helping to provide them with the knowledge and skills to nurture their children’s early development and over 2,000 children have participated to date. It runs programmes for children and parents.
Children who are aged four or younger when they enrol in pre-school will receive $200 in the first year and subsequently $100 for each year of regular attendance till age six. Those above age four at enrolment will receive $100 yearly.
“We want to enable every child to have the best chance to flourish in life, regardless of their family background or resources,” said Mr Masagos.
ECDA said the move is meant to encourage families to enrol their children in pre-school early and have regular attendance in KidStart programmes and at school.
The money given is on top of the Government’s recent announcement of a one-off $200 top-up for all Singaporean children aged six and below.
Mr Masagos also announced that pre-appointment training for inclusion coordinators in pre-schools will begin from end-2021.
It was announced earlier this year that every pre-school would have to appoint one staff member as an inclusion coordinator from the second half of 2023.
ECDA has been pushing for more inclusion in pre-schools in recent years and pre-schools have followed suit.
For example, Presbyterian Community Services has partnered the philanthropic organisation Chua Foundation to increase capacity and care for children with special needs through a new programme.
Presbyterian Community Services, which runs 11 pre-schools islandwide, aims to increase the number of places for these children from the current 50 to 220 by 2025.
On Saturday, Mr Masagos also launched the Early Childhood Digitalisation Grant to support the adoption of digital solutions by pre-schools.
More than $4 million will be available over the next three years to help pre-schools defray the cost of adopting pre-approved digital solutions.
“Pre-schools can also look out for new solutions to help them e-enrol children and use data analytics to make our pre-schools run better,” he said.
This article was originally featured in The Straits Times, published Oct 16, 2021 by Goh Yan Han.
New S$4 million grant to help pre-schools adopt digital solutions in the next 3 years
SINGAPORE: A S$4 million grant was launched on Saturday (Oct 16) to help pre-schools reduce the cost of adopting pre-approved digital solutions over the next three years.
The digital solutions include e-payment and e-enrolment systems, the use of data analytics to analyse and automate operations, as well as virtual training for pre-school educators.
These are covered under a three-stage industry digital plan, which lists the solutions pre-schools can adopt at each stage of growth, said the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) in a media release.
“ECDA and IMDA have pre-approved solutions that will assist pre-schools in their operations at different stages of digital readiness,” said the agency.
“These solutions are supported by certified vendors and have been curated to facilitate simple and quick adoption by pre-schools,” it added.
“Apart from pre-school management, operators and educators can look forward to new solutions for e-enrolment and data analytics for centre operations from early November. More pre-approved solutions will be added progressively.”
Announcing the Early Childhood Digitalisation Grant, Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said: “Under the IDP (industry digital plan), your pre-schools can find IT solutions that we have approved. These can help them reduce the time spent on routine tasks and even help them to update your parents more easily.
“Pre-schools can also look out for new solutions to help them e-enrol children and use data analytics to make our pre-schools run better.”
Operators can now submit their grant applications through the Business Grants Portal.
EXPANDING DEVELOPMENT, LEARNING SUPPORT
ECDA will also expand the development support – learning support programme to more pre-schools. The programme enables children who require low levels of early intervention support to access such services at their pre-schools.
The aim is for every pre-school to appoint one of its staff as an inclusion coordinator from the second half of 2023. They will partner early childhood educators to identify children with “potential developmental needs” for early assessment, said ECDA.
They will also connect educators and parents with “relevant early intervention resources and services”.
Pre-schools can look forward to training for their inclusion coordinators from the end of this year, said Mr Masagos.
“Besides improving professional training and quality of pre-schools to benefit all children, we are making our pre-schools more inclusive and stepping up support for children with developmental needs,” said Mr Masagos.
The programme will cover 60 per cent of pre-schoolers aged five to six by 2025, and 80 per cent of them in the long term, said ECDA in its media release.
MSF will also pilot a new Inclusive Support Programme at selected pre-schools for children that need medium levels of early intervention support, and will release more details later, said Mr Masagos.
For children from low-income families, yearly top-ups to child development accounts will be introduced as part of the Growing Together with KidSTART initiative.
Each KidSTART child will receive S$100 for each year of regular attendance until they reach six-years-old, said an ECDA spokesperson in response to media queries.
Children will also be eligible for an additional one-time top-up when they enroll in pre-school, they said.
The one-time top-up will be more – S$200 – if they enroll between ages three and four, compared to S$100 for those who enroll at above age four, the spokesperson noted.
The Government recently also announced a S$200 top-up in the Child Development Accounts (CDA) of all Singaporean children aged six and below, said Mr Masagos.
“This will benefit all families by helping to offset the costs of raising a child. But we will go further. We will provide more support for families and children who enrol and participate regularly in pre-school and KidSTART activities through yearly CDA top-ups.”
This is to encourage families towards early enrolment and regular attendance, said ECDA.
A larger top-up amount would be given to families who enroll their children in pre-school earlier, between ages three and four, it added.
The Growing Together with KidSTART initiative was launched in 2019 to raise community support for children from low-income families. It has garnered S$4 million in cash donations and sponsorships from businesses and individuals, said ECDA.
“We also want to enable every child to have the best chance to flourish in life. Regardless of their family background or resources,” said Mr Masagos.
“I am hopeful that with these new moves, we can better support children with diverse needs in our pre-schools, so that every child can shine and achieve their fullest potential.”
This article was originally featured in Channel News Asia, published Oct 16, 2021 by Ang Hwee Min.