Friday 22 November 2013

Training and pay rise for pre-school teachers: Early Childhood Conference 2013

Careers will also be improved as part of efforts to attract and retain them
By Priscilla Goy And Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 21 Nov 2013

PRE-SCHOOL teachers can expect higher pay, more training and better career progression, as the Government signalled intentions to close the gap between them and their counterparts in the education service.

"You didn't join the sector because of money," said Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing yesterday. "But we should also not have you leave the sector because of money."

The statement, made in his speech at the Early Childhood Conference at the Singapore Expo, drew loud applause from the audience of about 2,000 pre-school professionals.

The need to attract and retain pre-school teachers is getting more acute, with the Government aiming to add 20,000 more childcare places to the current 85,000 in the next four years.

There are now around 12,000 pre-school professionals, with 2,000 more needed by 2017.

Mr Chan did not say how much more pre-school teachers - who earned a median basic monthly salary of $1,800 last year - will get.

But Dr Lee Tung Jean, the chief executive of the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) spearheading the moves, earlier suggested that the pay of the Education Ministry's allied educators could serve as a benchmark.

These allied educators, who support teachers in their work, earn between $2,000 and $2,730 if they are diploma holders, like most pre-school teachers.

Education Services Union executive secretary Ang Hin Kee said pegging pre-school teachers' pay to that of allied educators is fair.

"They have largely similar qualifications, while primary school teachers normally hold degrees," said the Ang Mo Kio GRC MP.

In a bid to raise the quality of pre-school education, Mr Chan announced a new Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Masterplan, which will give "good reason" for increasing wages.

The plan includes a road map outlining key responsibilities for staff, who will have to complete courses to move ahead in teaching and leadership pathways. Incentives - such as bonuses tied to training and job scope - will be given to encourage teachers to attend the courses.

The Government will help operators release staff for training by being flexible with staff-student ratio requirements on CPD training days. The ECDA said it will also work with NTUC's Seed Institute and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency to expand the pool of relief teachers.

More details will come next year, but so far, it is not compulsory for operators to follow the road map. "But teachers would be keen to upgrade themselves and, at the same time, get cash incentives," said Ms Suhana Salleh, principal of a My First Skool branch.

Smaller operators and parents hailed the new framework.

Said administrative officer Vivian Loh, 33, who has two kids in pre-school: "Pre-school teachers deserve higher pay. I hope the Government can help fund this, so operators don't pass costs to parents."

From kitchen to classroom, all for the love of kids
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 21 Nov 2013

MOTIVATED by a love for teaching kids, Ms Tan Bee Geok went back to school at the age of 45 with the aim of getting the necessary qualifications.

Despite failing an examination, she kept going until she became a qualified pre-school teacher.

Yesterday, she was named one of six winners of the Outstanding Early Childhood Teacher Award, which goes to exceptional teachers of children aged four to six.

As a cook at a childcare centre 11 years ago, Ms Tan, now 51, said she would often mingle with the children there after she had finished cooking.

"My supervisor saw the potential in me and encouraged me to go for some basic courses," said Ms Tan.

The mother of four sat the O-level English examination as a private candidate in 2006, retook the examination a year later after failing it, and went on to attain a diploma in early childhood education last year.

Now a teacher at a PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Little Wings childcare centre, where she has been working for two years, she tries to make her lessons interesting for the children. For example, instead of simply reading stories to them, she incorporates music and drama into her lessons.

Awards in three other categories were given to outstanding pre-schools, leaders of these schools and staff who care for children aged two months to three years.

Ms N. Pushpavalli, 59, of Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten, won the Outstanding Early Childhood Leader Award. Recognising the importance of continuous learning, she gives her staff opportunities to attend professional development courses.

The awards, organised by the Early Childhood Development Agency, were presented by Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing at the Early Childhood Conference yesterday.

Mother tongue goals before P1
MOE spells out 'learning goals' in new framework for pre-school teachers
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 22 Nov 2013

ZAO AN! Selamat pagi! Kaalai vanakkam!

Children heading into Primary 1 should know how to use such simple greetings, along with the ability to recognise their name and an awareness of their local ethnic culture. These were several of the "learning goals" spelt out in a new teaching framework for mother tongue languages (MTL), launched by the Education Ministry yesterday.

It will serve as a reference for teachers when it comes to the teaching of Chinese, Malay and Tamil for children aged four to six. Currently in English, it will be translated into the three languages next year and be accompanied by a teacher's guide for each language.

Other recommendations in the Nurturing Early Learners (NEL) framework for MTL includes kids being able to write Chinese characters with the correct sequence of strokes after observing teachers. Children should also be able to share their ethnic customs for Deepavali and Hari Raya, for instance.

Speaking at the Early Childhood Conference at the Singapore Expo yesterday, she explained that research showed that the "golden period" for children to pick up languages is in their pre-school years, and the learning goals will help smoothen their transition to Primary 1.

Pre-school professionals and parents, who can access the framework on the Education Ministry's website, welcomed the move, saying it gives them a clear guideline on what children need to know before starting formal schooling.

Ms Tan Beng Luan, principal of Creative O Preschoolers' Bay, said that pre-schools now have a "common direction" when it comes to mother tongue education. "There's nothing wrong with schools having different curricula, but some teach difficult words and go beyond what is age-appropriate for children," said Ms Tan, whose pre-school has a Chinese Language teacher and an English Language teacher in every class.

Finance manager Joan Ng, who has a daughter in Kindergarten 2, said: "It's good for schools to be on the same page, to have a common understanding of what's needed before kids go to primary school."

The ministry also launched the NEL Educators' Guide yesterday to suggest ways to further plan and improve their lessons to pre-school teachers. This complements a broader curriculum framework, which was revised in February, for areas such as numeracy and discovery. A visit to a primary school canteen, for instance, can include activities such as practising how to buy and sell using tokens.

Other kindergarten learning resources will be rolled out over the next two years to support pre-school teachers.

- Participate in simple conversations 
- Be aware of mother tongue's written form, such as knowing how Malay letters sound, or how parts of a Chinese character give clues about its meaning
- Recognise words like their name
- Be aware of ethnic cultures, and be able to share details of local customs
- Show interest in learning and activities, such as following the actions in a song
More details can be found at


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