Thursday, 9 January 2014

MOE-run kindergartens: 5 more to open in 2015

By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 8 Jan 2014

ANOTHER five Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergartens will open next year, revealed Education Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.

He added that the ministry is "quite close" to finalising the locations of the five centres, which will be located in the heartland to make them accessible to more children.

More details will be announced in about two months' time.

Mr Heng was speaking during his first visit to an MOE-run kindergarten at a void deck in Tampines Street 45, one of the five centres that opened this year.

These started with about 250 children, fewer than half of the 560 places offered across the centres. Some parents had cited the lack of childcare and school-bus arrangements as reasons for the lukewarm response.

"We are learning from the experience, and we are looking at how we can reach out to potential parents better," said Mr Heng, explaining that his ministry will take into consideration the needs of working parents.

Still, the priority for these kindergartens is not to "chase after numbers" but to serve as research centres to come up with the best ways to teach children, he added.

"I hope that as more parents know about what we're doing, they will probably take a closer look at the possibility of putting their children in the kindergarten."

Mr Heng said hands-on learning will be a big part of the curriculum being used in the five new MOE schools.

"An activity may appear simple by itself but, through play, quality interactions with their teachers and with their peers, children are learning a wide range of skills."

To this end, picture books developed by MOE curriculum specialists are used to engage the children, who are guided to relate the stories to their own experiences.

Children also learn through role play, for instance, by pretending to be in a restaurant or supermarket.

Another area of emphasis in the MOE kindergartens is bilingualism and multiracialism.

Each school day, an hour is spent teaching mother tongue languages and another 40 minutes, on English.

At the Tampines school, signs which list everyone's birthdays in four languages were spotted, and even the dolls the children play with depict different races.

"We want the children to be exposed to their mother tongue language on a frequent basis every day," explained the centre's head Doris Ong, 46.

"Hopefully, they can acquire the language as much as possible... through an interactive way."

The MOE kindergartens will also aim to get parents more involved in their children's education, said the ministry yesterday.

At the Tampines centre, parents can borrow resources like books and games to use with their children at home. There are also plans to organise parenting talks.

An online portal and support group for parents are also in the works.

The Tampines kindergarten, with space for 80, has a current enrolment of 12 Malay and 19 Chinese children across its morning and afternoon sessions, with four teachers in charge.

In all, the five kindergartens are employing 30 teachers who were recruited for their experience in early childhood education, said an MOE spokesman.

The other four centres that opened this year are in Bukit Batok, Farrer Park, Telok Blangah and Punggol.

Eventually, there will be 15 centres by 2016.

Madam Karen Heng, 40, whose daughter Chloe Tan is enrolled at the Tampines kindergarten, said she was drawn to the centre's "broad-based curriculum" which focused on letting children learn through play.

Added the human resources manager, who stayed with Chloe on her second day of school: "I also like that the school is transparent - for instance, they allowed parents to sit in for the first two days to watch the children."

* Five more MOE kindergartens coming in 2015
Total of 540 places at centres in Punggol, Jurong West, Sengkang, Bukit Panjang, Yishun
By Amelia Teng, The Sunday Times, 2 Mar 2014

The Education Ministry will open five more kindergartens next year, with space for 540 children.

The locations of the new kindergartens - in Punggol, Jurong West, Sengkang, Bukit Panjang and Yishun - were revealed yesterday by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who said demand was the key consideration.

That is why Punggol is getting a second centre. The first, at Punggol View Primary School, was the only one among the first five ministry-run kindergartens to fill all 120 places.

The new one will be at Punggol Green Primary.

Three others in the new batch will be within primary schools - Jurong West's Frontier Primary, Sengkang Green Primary and West Spring Primary at Bukit Panjang.

They will have 120 places each.

The fifth centre - at the void deck of Block 318A, Yishun Ave 9 - will have 60 spots.

Care services will be provided at these kindergartens.

Mr Heng said his ministry decided on the locations and intake after working with the Early Childhood Development Agency. Projected demand for pre-school services was high in newer towns such as Punggol and Sengkang, which have younger families.

He spoke to reporters after visiting the open house of the kindergarten in Dazhong Primary in Bukit Batok. It was one of the first five ministry kindergartens that opened this year - four in primary schools, and one at a void deck in Tampines Street 45.

Except for the one in Punggol View Primary, they met with a muted response after parents complained about a lack of childcare and school-bus arrangements.

Only about 130 children are enrolled at the four centres, which had offered 440 places.

Last month, the ministry said it would cut next year's new enrolment by as much as half at the four centres, while the one at Punggol View will continue to offer 120 places.

Mr Heng reiterated that the ministry, which plans to run 15 kindergartens by 2016, was not chasing after intake figures, but wants to use the centres to develop high-quality resource materials and appropriate teaching methods.

The centres will help the ministry test and develop fresh approaches and best practices in early education, to be shared with other pre-school centres.

Yesterday's open house was attended by about 50 families.

Civil servant Lim Hui Jun, 33, is hoping to enrol her four-year-old son in the new centre at Frontier Primary, near her Jurong West home.

"The main attraction is that it is in a primary school which has new facilities, and he can get used to the primary school environment earlier," she said. "It's not so much about the academics. I want him to learn social skills and mix with other children."

Parents who want to enrol their children for K1 at any of the 10 kindergartens may do so on April 4 and 5.


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