New Multi-disciplinary Training for practitioners to enhance child development



1  The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and Temasek Foundation (TF) in partnership with Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) launched today, the first multi-disciplinary training programme for practitioners who support the development of children from low-income families.

2  The Multi-Disciplinary Programme for Enhancing Child Development funded by TF aims to strengthen the capabilities of KidSTART practitioners working with young children from low-income families with competencies across child development, health and social work domains for effective early childhood intervention. This will enable the practitioners to better meet the multiple needs of young children, support their holistic development and ensure that they have a strong foundation for a good start in life.

3  KidSTART practitioners provide upstream early childhood development support to children from low-income families from prenatal up to the 6 years across the child development, health and social work domains¹ . The training is in tandem with KidSTART plans to scale up its reach to 5,000 more children in the next three years.

4  The multi-disciplinary training programme comprises two parts, (i) a foundational training programme conducted by NYP; and (ii) an in-service training programme conducted by SUSS. TF has committed $1.15 million to support the training of 300 practitioners over 3 years. The Foundational Training, conducted by NYP in collaboration with KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital and National Institute of Early Childhood Development, provides practitioners with limited or no prior work experience with young children from low-income families, with a better understanding of the challenges faced by the families.

5  Basic concepts and theories around child development, health and nutrition and social work domains will be covered in applied learning. Through dialogue sessions with experienced professionals from the healthcare, early childhood and social service sectors, practitioners will also be able to better appreciate the ecosystem of community support needed to meet the diverse needs of young children from low-income families. These insights will help practitioners to provide integrated and holistic support to KidSTART families.

6  Experienced practitioners may deepen their capabilities through the in-service training conducted by SUSS. The specialised training programme which comprises seven² Continuing Education and Training (CET) modules aims to equip KidSTART practitioners with deeper knowledge and skills to effectively support KidSTART families. A completion of all Continuing Education and Training (CET) modules will culminate in the issuance of a Certificate in Child and Family Intervention (CCFI). Other social service or early childhood practitioners working with young children from low-income families may also sign up for the programme. More information on the foundational and in-service training programme can be found in Annex A.

7  Minister of State for Social and Family Development, Sun Xueling, participated in one of the foundational training sessions over Zoom with representatives from TF, NYP and SUSS. She said, “The early years of a child are very important in setting a strong foundation for their later years. A child’s development is contingent on many factors such as health and nutrition, family support and opportunities for learning. As we expand KidSTART to help more low-income families, we will have to ensure that those working with young children have the right knowledge and skills to support KidSTART children and their families holistically. We are thus grateful to partners like Temasek Foundation, Singapore University of Social Sciences and Nanyang Polytechnic for partnering us in the development of this new multi-disciplinary training programme and training KidSTART professionals to best support our low-income families and children.”

8  Mr Richard Magnus, Deputy Chairman of Temasek Foundation and Chairman of Temasek Foundation Cares, said “The experiences from Temasek Foundation Cares KIDS 0-3 and KidSTART have shown that practitioners working with low-income families with young children require multi-disciplinary competencies to perform their roles effectively. Temasek Foundation recognized the need to share the learnings with the wider community. We are very pleased to have partnered ECDA to develop this structured curriculum and training programme, and we hope to see it scale up to benefit more early childhood practitioners in the coming years.”.

9  KidSTART Home Visitor Sua Swee Lee, who participated in the multidisciplinary training programme said, “Parents of young children from low-income families are faced with many competing demands and sometimes overlook the importance of early childhood development, health and nutrition and benefits of enrolling their children in preschool early. Coming from an early childhood background, the new multi-disciplinary training programme helped to deepen my knowledge in areas that I was unfamiliar with, such as concepts and principles guiding social work practices and how to apply these in my work. I also gain a better understanding of the ecosystem of support and after the training, I feel more confident to support our KidSTART children.”

10  Quotes from other partners and students can be found in Annex B.

  • This includes knowledge and skills-based competencies such as rapport building and communication skills; parenting, caregiving and caregiver-child relationships; issues related to social and family functioning, multidisciplinary collaboration, etc.
  • Currently, 5 CET modules are available.

a. Foundational Training by Nanyang Polytechnic The foundational training will provide new practitioners with an introduction to concepts around child development, health and nutrition and social work domains and provide a better understanding of low-income families and poverty in Singapore.

b. In-service Specialisation Training conducted by Singapore University of Social Sciences As part of the in-service Specialisation Training, KidSTART practitioners with experience may further build their capabilities by opting to take one or more of the following Continuing Education and Training (CET) modules. Completion of all seven modules will culminate in the issuance of a Certificate in Child and Family Intervention (CCFI).

    1. Children as thinkers and meaning makers 

Children as Thinkers and Meaning Makers examines how young children think and learn as they make sense of the world around them. Building on key learning theories, students will better understand the process of knowledge construction by children and how to enable children to be more engaged by fostering dispositions such as curiosity, persistence, flexibility, reflectiveness, and a collaborative outlook to problem-solving.

     2. Child health, growth and well-being 

Child Health, Growth and Well-Being focuses on creating safe indoor and outdoor environments for young children (infants to preschoolers); as well as the importance of maximising their health, maintaining hygiene, and physical activity and nutritional balance. It introduces developmental milestones for young children’s physical development as well as strategies to build inclusivity towards children with special needs. Observational skills are emphasised and the course also introduces prevailing childcare and kindergarten licensing requirements in Singapore and basic methods of managing emergencies.

     3. Abecedarian Approach in Early Childhood Education This module is an introduction to the Abecedarian Approach (AA) and the effect it has on child development and learning. 

The Abecedarian Approach comprises a suite of strong teaching and learning strategies that can be used within many existing curricula. The theoretical underpinnings derive from Vygotsky’s concept of adult-mediated activities, Scaife and Bruner’s explanation of joint attention and Piaget’s sequencing of developmental progression. Also central is a focus on oral language competencies emerging from birth to age three that form a foundation for later literacy and reading. These key concepts are embodied in the AA through four core educational programme elements: Language Priority, Enriched Caregiving, Conversational Reading and the Learning Games. This course includes a practicum component where learners are required to observe as well as be involved in programmes that have adopted AA into their curriculum and/or intervention work with children and families.

     4. Human growth and lifespan development (birth to adolescence) 

This course covers the developmental changes, issues, and challenges in human development from birth to adolescence with special reference to the physical, cognitive, and socioemotional aspects of human growth and development. The course will also examine contemporary concerns from birth through adolescence, and will provide students with a solid foundation in the knowledge of human growth and life span development. There will also be discussions on other developmental issues and social concerns related to the various stages of the life-span such as issues on parenting children and adolescents, child abuse, juvenile and eating disorders, all of which have implications for a career in a helping profession.

     5. Microskills for interviews and home visits 

This course seeks to enable students to learn microskills, concepts and develop competencies integral in establishing a therapeutic relationship with the client in the helping process. The learning process encourages self-awareness of the influence of oneself in the context of conducting home-visits and interviews. In addressing the multicultural aspects of our work, this course also examines the importance of cultural competency. The integration of theories and skills in this course seek to support students with the practical know-how for the engagement, assessment and influencing of the client in face-to-face sessions at the agency and in the client’s residence.

     6. Children and their issues 

Social work with children occupies a key part of the field. This is because (a) children have potential vulnerabilities that give rise to support and protection needs and (b) childhood is the principal time of growth and development requiring good parenting and multidisciplinary developmental input. This module provides a grounding in social work skills for working with children across three dimensions a) Principles, Law & Practice; (b) Protecting Vulnerable Children; and (c) Disruption and Distress. 

Through an examination of statutory protections available to children in special circumstances, the course will equip students to carry out effective interventions with children. The emphasis is on the Strengths-based Approach and empowerment in the context of daily life, with the aim of improving relationships and helping children and youth to deal with crises.

     7. Families and their issues. 

This course examines demographic and socio-cultural changes that have led to contemporary challenges facing families. Through a careful study of different types of families, the course will enable students to apply their prior knowledge to situate children within the context of family issues with a view to achieving family integration and appropriate functioning. The emphasis is on a holistic approach that encompasses ecological and systemic frameworks for practice. 

  1. Quote SheetDr Bryan Chua, Director, School of Health & Social Sciences from Nanyang Polytechnic 

“Children from low-income families require the support of practitioners who can understand their needs, and are able to help create a conducive environment for their early years’ development. Our curriculum introduces key early childhood concepts to equip practitioners with a better understanding of the environment and challenges these children face. We are confident our training will provide a strong foundation that will enable the practitioners to support the holistic development of young children.” 

2. Dr Chan Lin Ho, Associate Professor of the School of Human Development and Social Services from Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) 

“Currently, many helping professionals working with children from vulnerable families in Singapore tend to come from specialised fields of either early childhood education, social work, psychology or counselling. The Certificate in Child and Family Intervention (CCFI) programme offered by SUSS is designed to equip experienced practitioners with the necessary knowledge across the early childhood, health and social service domains and to enable them to acquire the competencies to work with and better meet the multiple needs of young children from low-income families. 

The CCFI programme is extended to the social service and early childhood sectors as an avenue for in-service training and continuing professional development. Programme participants can select specific modules to study and are not required to enrol in all seven modules.” 

3. Jasmine Low, Medical Social Worker at National University Hospital (Practitioner who attended the Foundational Training conducted by NYP) 

“After I attended the Foundational Training programme, the sharing by the multidisciplinary professionals from the early childhood, social work, and healthcare sectors, along with engagements with other KidSTART practitioners allowed me to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of how the KidSTART model works with multiple partners in the community – both in-house practitioners and external professional support – to support young children from low-income families. This broadened perspective has allowed me to see how the National University Hospital can also value add to this ecosystem of support by enhancing health and nutrition support for vulnerable families through the merged KidSTART Home Visitation Programme.”