Thursday 12 September 2013

Pre-school sector gets S$6m boost

Fund aims to pilot model pre-schools and boost research efforts
By Siau Ming En, TODAY, 10 Sep 2013

A S$6 million partnership between Lien Foundation and NTUC First Campus was announced this morning, to help boost Singapore’s pre-school sector.

Funds from this first-ever collaboration will be pumped into four areas, one of which is the opening of My First Skool @ Braddell Heights Community Hub.

The new branch, which will be built at the old Serangoon Interchange, aims to be a new model for heartland pre-schools. There are plans to use community spaces for play and planned learning, as well as to incorporate technology to help children learn.

The centre is expected to open in December this year and will take in 200 children aged two months to six years.

In the first quarter of 2014, a second branch of the Caterpillar’s Cove childcare centre will also be set up at the Devan Nair Institute, to provide a “living classroom” for trainee teachers at the SEED Institute training centre to observe lessons and complete their practicums. 10 per cent of the new places here will be set aside for children from less privileged families, with financial grants funded by the Lien Foundation.

Some of the funds will also go into research on early childhood education in Singapore. There will be three areas of research - early intervention and help for children from low-income families, the impact of parent engagement, and an evaluation of a relationship-based curriculum for children up to three years old.

There will also be a national campaign to boost the professional image and status of pre-school teachers.

Speaking at an event held at Caterpillar’s Cove Child Development and Study Centre at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Mr Lee Poh Wah, the chief executive officer of Lien Foundation said: “This initiative is a bold response in support of the ongoing reforms taking place in the pre-school sector. We wish to spur the development of more well designed pre-schools that not only optimise resources, (but) also become inspiring places of learning for children, teachers and parents.”

A model pre-school for the heartlands
My First Skool@Braddell Heights Community Hub boasts studios, indoor courtyard and tablets to facilitate learning
By Siau Ming En, TODAY, 11 Sep 2013

A new childcare centre opening in December in the Serangoon heartlands is set to redefine the standards of pre-school education here, promising an indoor courtyard for concerts, brand-new studios to conduct various activities and even tablet computers for students to aid their learning.

This was the vision laid out yesterday, as local philanthropic organisation Lien Foundation and childcare centre operator NTUC First Campus inked a S$6 million partnership.

Those behind the new facility — called My FirstSkool@Braddell Heights Community Hub — said it is intended to be a “model childcare centre for the heartlands”. It also wants to set the bar for future pre-schools in terms of its design, curriculum and practices. Another new centre in Jurong will be set up in the first quarter of next year under the partnership.

Against the backdrop of new kindergartens offered by the Ministry of Education, as well as possible new models of pre-schools introduced by new anchor operators, Lien Foundation Chief Executive Officer Lee Poh Wah felt that a mature anchor operator like NTUC First Campus will have to “evolve” and “throw its weight behind good concepts”.

The use of a courtyard play space for “flexible learning” is a key feature of the Serangoon centre. “This courtyard is really a dedicated space where we take the children out of their classrooms, with nothing to do there other than to play,” said Ms Ho Yin Fong, the Academic Director of early childhood training centre SEED Institute, run by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

There will also be three studios — My First Imagination, My First Invention and My First Ensemble — which NTUC First Campus said are “designed to facilitate specialised play, creative play and music making for children”.

Likewise, tablets will also be used as teaching tools at the centre, an idea developed after a visit to Perth found students there were armed with iPads to aid their learning. There are also plans to incorporate technology in the daily operations of the centre, such as to take attendance and temperature.

The new centre will take in 200 children and 16 infants, with the age range from two months to six years. Fees will be set at S$630 a month, which is below the industry median.

Another aspect of the partnership involves research, which will examine how early childhood education in Singapore can be improved. The partnership will also benefit pre-school educators, with the opening of another branch of The Caterpillar’s Cove at the Devan Nair Institute in Jurong.

NTUC First Campus said the second centre, to be located next to SEED Institute, will be a “living classroom and teaching school” for trainee teachers to observe and complete their practicum and research. The centre will cater to 130 children, including 12 places for infants. Over the next five years, 10 per cent of the places will be set aside for children from less privileged families with funding from Lien Foundation.

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