Monday, 22 September 2014

Pre-school career path to focus on skills

Teachers may also get better pay with new initiative
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 20 Sep 2014

PRE-SCHOOL teachers will get a career pathway that focuses on their skills instead of qualifications - and could see bigger pay packets to go with it.

The initiative to help staff in or entering the sector was announced yesterday by Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing.

Speaking at the annual Early Childhood Conference at Singapore Expo, he urged pre-schools to pay their staff more - making the point three times during his half-hour speech.

"I will do what I can to help you... manage your costs," he said. "But I hope that you translate some of these savings into lower fees for our children and better pay for our teachers."

In a message to staff, he said: "My promise to you is that I will take care of your career development, your remuneration, and you help me to take care of the Singaporean children."

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) will work with operators over the next year to develop a more structured career framework, in line with recent recommendations from the Applied Study in Polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education Review (ASPIRE) committee, which focus more on competencies than paper qualifications.

The agencies will draw up the competencies required at each job level and aim to offer more development opportunities at different career stages.

Pre-school professionals face different entry requirements, depending on which class level they care for.

About 80 per cent of Singapore's 14,000 pre-school staff are qualified to at least diploma level. The rest have certificates or are being trained.

For those without diplomas, the polytechnic continuing education and training (CET) diploma will recognise skills acquired on the job or from prior training - reducing course hours by up to 25 per cent.

They now need five O-level credits to be eligible for the CET diploma, but from next year this will be reduced to three, though they must also fulfil other criteria such as having at least a year of relevant work experience.

For poly and ITE students taking courses in pre-school education, internships will be increased from three months to six - giving them more time to apply skills they have learnt.

There will also be more discretionary admission to diploma courses in pre-school education, and a training grant which sponsors poly students' course fees will be extended to ITE students. More details on the enhanced internships and CET diploma will be released early next year.



Playgroup teacher Nur Aini Mohammed Ayum, 22, who graduated from the ITE in 2010, is currently not eligible for the CET diploma as she does not have five O-level credits. Said Ms Aini, who will sit two O-level examinations next month: "Some people may not have scored well enough... to get into polytechnics, but they have the experience and should have more opportunities to upgrade themselves."





A brighter SPARK for parents
Singapore Pre-school Accreditation Framework being fine-tuned to better serve parents
By Janice Tai, The Sunday Times, 21 Sep 2014

Parents will be getting more help in selecting pre-schools and managing their children.

The national pre-school accreditation scheme is being fine-tuned to help parents zoom in on the best schools, said Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah at an early childhood conference yesterday.

"This will help parents more easily identify which pre-schools have key traits that stimulate children's development," she said.

She said parents also find it daunting sometimes to figure out which early childhood research or approach is credible, so more parenting workshops and online resources will be rolled out.

From next year, a new commendation category will be added to the Singapore Pre-school Accreditation Framework (SPARK).

This is for pre-schools with outstanding classroom practices, such as having the centre leader follow up with teachers on teaching strategies after observing them, as well as close monitoring of children's play, among other criteria.

The SPARK accreditation, which evaluates education programmes for children aged four to six in kindergartens and childcare centres, is voluntary but serves as a guide for parents to identify good schools.

About 380 pre-schools are expected to be certified by the end of the year.

At the event at Singapore Expo, Ms Indranee also shared the findings of the first national early childhood parenting study, which polled 3,800 parents.

It found that parents are knowledgeable about child development. Most consider physical, social and moral development important.

However, parents also said they need more help in supporting their children's social and emotional development. One-third of them said they need help coping with their children's tantrums.

Ms Indranee said the Early Childhood Development Agency will work with pre-schools to roll out parenting workshops on these topics and create online resources.

Mr Siram, 35, who has a four-year-old son, said parents will find the revamped accreditation system useful. "Nowadays, there are so many pre-schools with so many different approaches, so this serves as a baseline guide," said the founder of a technology firm, who goes by only one name.


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