Monday 17 November 2014

New logo and uniform for PCF preschool services

PCF centres' makeover not just skin-deep
Pre-schools get new uniforms and standard curricula, amid rising expectations, competition
By Janice Tai, The Sunday Times, 16 Nov 2014

The iconic white and blue uniform familiar to many who grew up attending PAP Community Foundation (PCF) kindergartens has been given a makeover. In its place is a white, blue-trimmed, red-collared T-shirt and red shorts.

The fresh look - which will be worn by most of the 44,000 children enrolled in its kindergartens and childcare centres from next year - also comes with a new logo unveiled yesterday by chairman of PCF executive committee Lawrence Wong at a branch in Bishan.

But the changes are more than skin-deep - standard curricula have been developed to be used across its schools, a PCF spokesman told The Sunday Times.

The rebranding exercise of Singapore's largest pre-school operator is part of a three-year revamp that started in 2012 to bring all of its 360 kindergartens and childcare centres under a centralised system.

This was done to address the problem of uneven standards across different centres, and to keep up with rising expectations of parents as more competing players joined the sector.

In the past, centres were run by individual divisions. Each decided on its own curriculum, fees and teachers.

About 200 kindergartens have now started basing their lessons on a curriculum framework developed by the Education Ministry. Some of its features include learning through play, and an emphasis on building social skills and confidence. And 130 childcare centres are also using a newly developed curriculum guided by a framework from the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), which sets out the principles for quality care and learning practices.

The rest of the kindergartens and childcare centres are expected to switch by next year.

PCF said some centres will still run special programmes, such as those using the famous Reggio Emilia approach with its inquiry-based learning philosophy, to allow for diversity. Centres are also encouraged to conduct their own niche activities, depending on the needs of the children.

That is why there will not be a fixed school fee for all centres, said Mr Wong.

"We think we can narrow that variation but we are not about to mandate a standard fee overnight," he said. Currently, PCF kindergarten fees range from $60 to $160, while childcare rates are between $600 and $700.

Mr Wong added that the restructuring process will also provide more pathways for career progression, because staff can develop their careers not only within one centre, but also across the entire organisation.

Ms Felicia Koh has been a pre-school teacher at the same centre in Bishan North for the last 11 years. She was promoted to senior teacher two years ago.

"Over the years, I have seen colleagues leave partly due to limited career options, so the changes will help attract and retain more teachers while sharpening their skills when they are exposed to different practices at other centres," said the 49-year-old.

Housewife Dawn Chew, 33, who has two daughters in childcare now, said parents will feel more assured with the move to level up standards.

"We feel more at ease that the children will enter Primary 1 at roughly the same level instead of having some lagging behind others."

Parents favour new pre-school uniform: PCF
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 19 Nov 2014

PRE-SCHOOL operator PAP Community Foundation (PCF) has come out to defend its new pre-school uniform, saying that parents have given it positive feedback about the design that has drawn flak online.

In particular, they are happy that the new uniform can be worn both in the classroom and outdoors for physical education (PE), a spokesman told The Straits Times.

In fact, the design was created in response to parents' comments over the years that they preferred "one common uniform instead of the present arrangement of two separate sets of uniform - one for the classroom and the other for PE", she said.

But as the production of the new uniforms will start only in a few months' time, PCF remains open to suggestions from parents to improve the design, she added.

PCF unveiled its new-look uniform on Saturday. From the middle of next year, a white, blue-trimmed, red-collared T-shirt and red shorts will replace both the iconic white and blue uniform for classroom use and the PE attire.

Some netizens complained about the makeover - especially the use of red, which did not feature as prominently in previous versions of the uniform - while others asked if they would have to pay more for the new uniform.

Netizen Jessilin Khee wrote on The Straits Times' Facebook page: "Shouldn't change the iconic blue colour. That blue is how we identify the kids from PCF. Change of uniform design to make it comfy for kids is definitely a good move, but not change of colours."

The PCF spokesman said the colour red features prominently in the current PE attire - pupils in childcare wear red shorts, while those in kindergarten have a choice of either red or blue shorts.

PCF's corporate colours are blue and red, she added.

She also said children in PCF centres now need not buy the new uniform.

"We have allowed a three-year transition so that children with the current uniform need not replace them," she said.

The current uniform costs between $10 and $21.40 per set.

The price of the new uniform has yet to be fixed. PCF said it will be kept affordable, and having just one uniform for both indoor and outdoor use also results in more savings for parents.

Housewife Sulaiha Sojiak, 30, whose five-year-old daughter is enrolled in PCF, said: "I recently had to buy another uniform set in a larger size, and my daughter has just one more year left in the kindergarten, so I'm glad it's not compulsory for everyone to switch to the new uniform."

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