Introduction

Good morning. I am pleased to join you here on the second day of the Early Childhood Conference. I am glad to see so many early childhood professionals and parents coming together to learn and network with one another.

As the theme for our conference this year goes: ”The Incredible Early Years: Supporting Young Children’s Development„, We share a common goal in bringing out the best in every child. With ECDA, early childhood professionals, and parents working closely together, we can create the right environment for our children to thrive and learn.

Yesterday, Minister Chan Chun Sing outlined various initiatives to develop and recognise early childhood professionals at each stage of their careers. In particular, he announced that ECDA will work with industry partners over the next year to further develop structured pathways for professionals in the sector. As the ASPIRE Chairperson, I see this as a very positive development. By obtaining the right skills and experience, educators can look forward to multiple pathways to progress on the job.

ECDA’s role in Supporting Professionals and Parents

Early childhood is a key period for learning and development. Young children learn best when they are given the time and space to play, explore and ask questions. Nurturing a love for learning and supporting their holistic development is key. Learning should be age appropriate and fun. It is important to allow children to develop at their own pace.

Parents and educators play a crucial role through their many interactions with children throughout their development. In particular, studies show that the more parents and educators share information about their child’s learning, the better children do, as parents can support their children at home in ways that complement what they learn in pre-school.1

Today, allow me to share how we will provide more support to both educators in their professional development and parents in their parenting journey. I will touch on 4 key ways we will be doing this:

  • First, Hands-On, Interactive Parental Workshops
  • Second, More Online Parenting Resources
  • Third, More Curriculum Resources for mother tongue pre-school teachers
  • Fourth, Better Information for Parents in selection of pre-schools through a new SPARK Category.

Many of us own at least one electronic device and we have more knowledge at our fingertips than ever before. The flood of different messages can be daunting. Which is credible? What research should we trust? Both pre-school and home environments are crucial and as parents and educators, the line between what is and isn’t developmentally appropriate sometimes becomes blurred.

National Early Childhood Parenting Study

As such, over the past year, ECDA, in collaboration with SIM University, conducted the first national early childhood parenting study. Some of you here today may be among the 3,800 parents who took part. Overall, the findings were positive. Allow me to share some of them with you.

Parents in Singapore are knowledgeable about child development. 90% indicated that they consider all developmental domains, from the physical to social and moral, important for their children’s development. It is also heartening that parents value their children’s happiness and character development over material achievements such as academic success. For their top two choices, almost all parents said that they want their children to be gracious and caring to others whereas only seven out of ten parents said that they want their children to excel academically.

We are also glad that most parents felt that they can trust and rely on educators as important sources of information. ECDA has organised professional development workshops to help educators develop the skill sets needed to effectively engage parents. Likewise, parents can also exchange ideas and techniques with educators, and partner them to better support the diverse needs of their children.

Hands-On, Interactive Parental Workshops

In view of these findings, I am pleased to announce that ECDA will encourage more of such collaboration by working with centres to roll out hands-on, interactive workshops for parents. These workshops will cover topics where parents feel they need more help. For example, more than a third surveyed in the Parenting Study said that they needed help coping more specifically with their children’s temper tantrums. Through these workshops, educators could share proper techniques to manage children’s behaviour.

These workshops will add to existing platforms for parents and educators to collaborate. There are already good efforts by our pre-schools. For example, PCF Choa Chu Kang (Blk 786), a winner of this year’s ECDA Innovation Award for their project ”Kindergarten Classroom Visit„, invites parents and caregivers every term to view their children’s work and meaningfully engage with teachers to better understand their children’s progress and development.

More Online Parenting Resources

Second, ECDA will develop more online resources, such as videos, on useful topics set within Singapore’s context. For example, the Parenting Study revealed that parents could use more ideas on how to support their children’s social and emotional development. To address this, the online resources could share activities parents could do with their children and other creative family bonding ideas.

These resources will complement the suite of print, mobile and web-based resources launched at last year’s Early Childhood Parenting Conference. One of the resources launched last year was the quarterly Beanstalk Magazine. We have since produced 4 issues, shown in the slide here, and more than 170,000 copies have been distributed to parents. I believe many of you would have received it from your child’s kindergarten or child care centre.

We also launched our mobile app, APParent in SG. This app shares useful tips each week such as bonding activities for parents and children. It has received more than 4,500 downloads to date. In addition, the Grow@Beanstalk portal serves as a one-stop portal with ready-to-use ideas, such as how to strengthen parent-child communication.

Community partnerships to support parents and educators

In addition to parent-specific resources, we also want to create more common spaces that can be used by both parents and educators. The Singapore Science Centre has created KidsStop, a dedicated new space for children to engage in hands-on experimentation. The National Museum of Singapore has also created Play@National Museum of Singapore for children to explore our heritage and culture.

ECDA has collaborated with community partners in the development and implementation of unique programmes for children and educators. For example, ECDA’s Guidance Project, ”The Electric Corner„, by the Singapore Science Centre, teaches children the fundamentals of scientific inquiry through the topic of electricity. Yet another project, ”Singapore’s Little Treasures„, by the National Heritage Board involves the creation of a discovery bag of specially curated artefacts for pre-schoolers, which developed children’s awareness and knowledge of Singapore’s rich history and multi-cultural heritage. We would like to thank the Singapore Science Centre and National Heritage Board for working in partnership with ECDA and look forward to your continuing support!

Curriculum Resources for Mother-tongue pre-school teachers

Third, I am also happy to announce we will continue to enhance our curriculum resources for mother-tougue pre-school teachers. Last year, I launched the Nurturing Early Learners Framework for Mother Tongue Languages at this conference, and I am pleased to know that it is now translated into the Chinese, Malay and Tamil Languages.. The Framework, accompanied by an Educators’ Guide and teaching and learning resources, form a complete tool kit of kindergarten curriculum resources for mother-tongue pre-school teachers. Educators will be able to use these resources to build children’s foundational language skills and nurture their holistic development. ECDA will work closely with MOE to provide training for the use of this Framework in 2015.

Better Information for Parents in Selection of Pre-schools

Beyond providing specific resources to parents and educators, ECDA strives to enhance the quality, affordability and accessibility of early childhood services across the board. I am glad to note that there has been much progress.

  • Two weeks ago, ECDA launched the new child care Registration Management System to bring greater convenience to parents and operators.
  • 16 more child care centres will be developed in the coming months by ECDA-appointed anchor operators.
  • More lower- and middle-income families will also be able to benefit from the enhanced Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme, or KiFAS, from January next year.

Fourth, I am pleased to announce today that ECDA will introduce a new Commendation Category for SPARK-certification to provide parents with better information in the selection of pre-schools. The Singapore Pre-school Accreditation Framework, or SPARK, is a voluntary accreditation framework that provides pre-schools with quality benchmarks and guides their improvement efforts. We expect around 380 pre-schools to be SPARK-certified by the end of the year. In fact, some just received their SPARK certification yesterday.

The Commendation Category for SPARK-Certification will recognise centres with strong teaching and learning practices. This will help parents more easily identify which pre-schools have key traits that stimulate children’s development. These include, for example, a well-designed and integrated curriculum, strong teaching pedagogies, and a conducive learning environment.

Conclusion

Allow me to conclude. ECDA will continue to enhance our parenting resources to keep them relevant and meaningful. We are committed to design better platforms for educators and parents to exchange knowledge and skills. We will continue to support educators to do their jobs well. Together, let us enjoy the incredible early years of our children.

With this, I wish all of you a fruitful and engaging conference. Thank you.

Footnote
  1. Sylva, Melhuish, Sammons, Siraj-Blatchford, Taggard, Elliot (2003). ”The Effective Provision of Pre-school Education (EPPE) Project: Findings from the Pre-school Period„. http://www.ioe.ac.uk/RB_summary_findings_from_pre-school(1).pdf