Wednesday 3 October 2012

PCF centralising pre-school ops to ensure common standards

By Stacey Chia & Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 2 Oct 2012

ALL PAP Community Foundation (PCF) kindergartens and childcare centres will soon report directly to their headquarters, instead of to the MPs of their respective constituencies.

PCF will also regroup its 330 centres into clusters - each led by a cluster head or an executive principal - so that they can share best practices and centralise administrative and financial procedures. This is expected to be done by 2015.

About 90 centres have already been regrouped into six clusters, said executive committee chairman Lawrence Wong at the annual PCF Teachers' Convention yesterday at Republic Polytechnic.

The moves are part of a major revamp by Singapore's largest pre-school operator to bring all its schools under a centralised system to address the problem of uneven standards.

Giving an update on the PCF revamp, which was first reported in June by The Straits Times, Mr Wong said: "The basic motivation is we want to pool together our resources and find ways to become stronger as an organisation.

"The progress has not been too bad," added the Senior Minister of State for Education, and Information, Communications and the Arts.

Currently, the PCF centres make decisions on curriculum, fees and teachers.

Centres within the same constituency come under a branch administrator, who then reports to the management committee, which is usually headed by an MP, or someone appointed by the MP.

Under the new arrangement, the cluster heads will work together with the PCF headquarters.

But even with the reorganisation, MPs and grassroots leaders will continue to play an important role, Mr Wong told reporters, adding that they will act as advisers.

The restructuring process will also provide better career prospects for teachers, as they will be able to develop their careers over the entire PCF organisation and not just within one centre alone. Recruitment will also be done centrally at the headquarters instead of at each centre.

The change will also mean that centres can have similar curricula.

The effort to raise standards comes as parents place greater emphasis on pre-school education.

Yesterday, 27 PCF teachers and principals were also honoured.

Among them was Ms Shirley Soh, 42, who went the extra mile by giving some of her children one-on-one coaching outside of classroom hours.

The teacher at PCF Buona Vista had noticed that some in her K2 class did not know the letters of the alphabet or even how to hold a pen, and she was concerned that they would not be able to catch up with their peers in primary school.

Worksheets were customised to their learning levels, and she spoke to them in the languages that they were most comfortable in, such as Malay or Mandarin.

She received one of the three PCF Excellence awards given out to outstanding educators to pursue professional development.

They will each get $3,000, or funding for the courses that they choose to pursue, whichever sum is lower.

"What keeps me going is the satisfaction of seeing these kids improve vastly over a span of just a few months, from not knowing how to say 'good morning' to the teachers to being able to converse with their friends," Ms Soh said.

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