Friday, 25 August 2017

50 MOE kindergartens to open by 2023

16 more Ministry of Education (MOE)  kindergartens to open in next three years
MOE aims to have 50 by 2023; full-day pre-school places will be upped by 40,000
By Priscilla Goy and Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2017

Sixteen new kindergartens run by the Ministry of Education (MOE) will open in the next three years as part of a wide-ranging effort to offer affordable, high-quality pre-school education to more children.

By 2023, MOE hopes to have 50 such kindergartens located in primary schools and providing 14,000 places - enough to cater to a fifth of all Singaporeans and permanent residents aged five and six.

Over the next five years, full-day pre-school places will also be ramped up by another 40,000, part of which will come from new "early years centres" that take in children aged up to four and are run by government-funded pre-school operators.

To ensure a steady pipeline of quality educators, the National Institute of Early Childhood Development will take in its first batch of students in 2019. It is expected to provide 60 per cent of all trainee pre-school teachers in the next few years.

These details were revealed by MOE yesterday, expanding on initiatives announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Sunday's National Day Rally, in which he said he wants every child to go to a good pre-school.

Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng stressed that these moves were not an attempt to nationalise the early childhood sector. He pointed out that the 50 kindergartens MOE aims to have are still a minority compared with the 450 or so kindergartens already running.

Instead, the MOE kindergartens will serve as the "engine" driving higher teaching standards, and better pedagogies and curricula in a bid to "uplift the (early childhood) landscape".

He said pre-school education has moved on from rote learning methods in his time, "when we learn mathematics is one plus one equals two and we recite the timetables". The focus now is on getting young children to learn through exploration and play, and "allow them to expand their natural curiosity and develop that creativity".

"We want to ensure that every child in Singapore will have access to equal opportunity and social mobility - that every child has a strong start regardless of family background so that they can have a solid foundation in the first steps towards our education journey," said Mr Ng. He highlighted how subsidised monthly fees at MOE kindergartens are as low as $1.50 for households with an income of less than $2,500.

He also said that "parents will still have a choice" in picking the right pre-school option for their child, given that pre-schools run or supported by the Government will make up two-thirds of the market by 2023.

Since 2014, MOE has launched 15 kindergartens. Of the upcoming 16, three will open next year, seven in 2019 and six in 2020. They will be in newer estates such as Punggol and Sengkang, where there is high demand for pre-school services.

Asked if the moves will encourage Singaporeans to have more children, Mr Ng said he hopes so.

"But education outcomes in themselves are already a good achievement, if we can get this right. There is (a lot) of work to be done, and we intend to do it well."

The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2017

Fees at Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergartens start from as low as $1.50 a month, after subsidies.

This is for Singaporean families with a household income of up to $2,500 per month, who get the highest amount of support under the Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS).

The KiFAS subsidy amount depends on the income tier that a family falls under and the fees charged. Parents may be eligible for subsidies of up to 99 per cent of the fees, capped at $170.

Singaporean families with a higher income of $4,500 per month, for instance, pay $75 per month after subsidies.

Those with an income of more than $6,000 do not get subsidies and pay $150 a month for fees this year. This will rise to $160 next year, but is still below the industry median fee of $171.

Increasing the number of MOE kindergartens would lead to more affordable pre-school places provided, the ministry said yesterday.

Children enrolled in kindergartens run by anchor operators, which get government grants and priority in securing sites but must meet fee caps and quality criteria, are also eligible for KiFAS subsidies.

All MOE kindergartens to be within primary schools
Move will allow for closer collaboration between pre-schoolers and primary pupils
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2017

All Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergartens will be located within primary schools so that pre-schoolers will have a smoother transition to Primary 1.

The ministry said yesterday this was based on its experience so far - having run 15 kindergartens, including 12 in schools. Having both in one place allows for closer collaboration between pre-schoolers and primary pupils, and is a win-win for both.

During a visit to an MOE kindergarten in Punggol Green Primary yesterday, Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said: "One of the programmes here that I like a lot... has Primary 3 and 4 pupils taking the five- and six-year-olds around the school on a biodiversity trail. The younger kids have somebody to look up to, and the older kids have a sense of responsibility, taking charge and taking care of the kindergarten kids. All this lends to a lot of tacit learning."

MOE launched its kindergartens in 2014, starting with five. It currently runs 15, and will expand to 29 by 2020. It plans to have 50 by 2023, catering to about one in five Singaporeans and permanent residents aged five to six.

Among the existing MOE kindergartens, three are located in public housing estates.

MK@Fernvale Link in Sengkang will move to nearby Fern Green Primary in 2019, while MK@Yishun will move to Huamin Primary in 2020. Details on which primary school MK@Tampines will move to will be revealed later, said MOE.

At a media briefing yesterday, MOE said there are currently no plans to give pre-schoolers priority admission to the primary school they are studying in. But as more such kindergartens are set up, the issue bears looking at.

An MOE spokesman said: "We have had only 15 MOE kindergartens (MKs), of which 12 are sited in schools... To have MKs on a much wider scale and then thinking about what that might mean for admissions, that is something we would have to study quite closely."

MOE kindergarten teachers use two key pedagogies to engage children - purposeful play, where activities are planned to achieve learning outcomes but are still enjoyable, and quality interactions, where teachers use prompts and ask questions that engage children in conversations to help them build on ideas and concepts.

MOE kindergarten staff and parents said there are benefits to the co-location arrangement.

Ms Panmeline Wong, centre head of the MOE kindergarten in Punggol View Primary, said: "There have been good interactions between the older and younger children, with the older ones taking more responsibility and being like the gor gor and jie jie (older brothers and sisters) to the younger ones."

She said about half of the pupils who graduated from the pre-school went to Punggol View Primary.

Housewife Kris Cheong, 39, said she enjoys the convenience of sending her daughter, six, to the MOE kindergarten in West Spring Primary, and her son, eight, to the same primary school.

"I think my daughter will be familiar with the environment and can explore the rest of the facilities more easily before going to P1."

19 PCF-run places to serve as early-years centres
All eligible kids in these EYCs to be guaranteed a place in an MOE kindergarten within 1km
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 25 Aug 2017

At least 19 childcare centres and kindergartens run by PCF Sparkletots will be converted to "early-years centres" (EYCs) which admit children aged up to four, unlike most pre-schools that take in children aged up to seven.

PCF Sparkletots is the largest pre-school operator in Singapore and is managed by the PAP Community Foundation.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) and PCF Sparkletots gave details yesterday of which early-years centres will partner the 13 new MOE kindergartens to open in 2019 and 2020. All eligible Singaporean and permanent resident Nursery 2 (N2) children in EYCs will be guaranteed a place in an MOE kindergarten within 1km of the centre.

On average, 60 per cent of places in the kindergarten will be reserved for them.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said at the National Day Rally on Sunday that more EYCs - on top of the first four announced in February - would be set up to address the shortage of pre-school places for children aged up to four.

The first four EYCs - three run by NTUC's My First Skool and one by PCF Sparkletots - are expected to open in Punggol next year. The PCF-run EYC in Punggol North will partner three MOE kindergartens, two to open next year and one in 2020.

Most of PCF Sparkletots EYCs will be in areas with high demand for pre-school services, with eight in Sengkang and four in Yishun.

MOE also listed two more EYCs that will partner with two MOE kindergartens in Punggol and Sengkang, with details to be given later.

A spokesman for PCF Sparkletots told The Straits Times that parents are being told of its partnership with MOE, so they can decide whether to enrol their children in the MOE kindergartens, go to other pre-schools or stay on in PCF Sparkletots after N2.

She added: "Due consideration has been given to children who will soon be in their kindergarten years in PCF pre-schools converting to EYCs... These pre-schools will continue to offer K1 and K2 programmes until end-2020 for these older children who choose to remain in PCF Sparkletots."

When asked what this move would mean for teachers in the K1 and K2 classes, she said PCF Sparkletots is the largest pre-school operator here and teachers would be able to continue teaching in the EYCs or take up available teaching positions in its over 340 other pre-schools.

Sengkang West MP Lam Pin Min and Mr Teo Ser Luck, MP for Sengkang Central ward in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, said the conversion of PCF pre-schools to EYCs will help to alleviate the long waiting lists in pre-schools in their wards.

Mr Teo added: "It's a good coordination of space usage, with EYCs having more space for children aged up to four, and MOE kindergartens having the space in primary schools to take in K1 and K2 kids."

Dr Lam, who is Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health, said there is still a need, however, to set up more childcare centres as "the demand will continue to be high due to the many new flats still being built in the constituency."

New institute will cater to 60 per cent of trainee teachers
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2017

When it begins operating in 2019, the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) will cater to about 60 per cent of trainee pre-school teachers, making it a major player in offering such training.

This is because the new institute will consolidate the early childhood programmes now offered by the Institute of Technical Education, Ngee Ann and Temasek polytechnics, and the Seed Institute.

Newly-appointed director Loke- Yeo Teck Yong, 50, said bringing the four training institutes under one umbrella will create critical mass that can allow it to respond quickly to the sector's needs.

"With this consolidation of the faculty, there is more scope (for) specialisation," said Mrs Loke, who is currently the Ministry of Education's divisional director of education services. For example, training in niche areas, such as special education needs and mother tongue languages, could be strengthened.

Courses will continue to be run at the four institutes when NIEC accepts its first intake, expected to exceed 2,000. But students from the different locations will be brought together regularly.

In his address at the National Day Rally on Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke about the need to raise salaries and attract more talent to the sector. The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) said last year that about 4,000 more pre-school educators are needed by 2020, to add to the current pool of 16,000.

While the Singapore University of Social Sciences offers a degree programme in early childhood education, NIEC will offer certificate and diploma-level training courses for post-secondary students, and continuing education and training courses for those who made mid-career switches and pre-school educators.

Diploma holders make up the majority of the 4,000 educators needed, said the ECDA.

NIEC trainees can also take up a training award, which will cover their school fees and provide an allowance in exchange for them serving a bond of one to three years in the early childhood sector.

Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng told reporters yesterday that much work needs to be done on career pathways for teachers and improving their salaries, and it is a crucial first step to raise standards in professional development and the quality of early childhood education training.

Mrs Loke noted that the current training system, which includes three other ECDA-accredited training providers besides those under NIEC, provides for an adequate number of trained professionals. But setting up the NIEC will make it more nimble and responsive to change.

Going beyond the normal curriculum: PCF to offer more opportunities in arts, sports
PAP Community Foundation will offer more opportunities in areas like painting, aikido and drama
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2017

As families filed into the National Gallery Singapore for a day of fun and festivities, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged that his party's charitable arm - the largest pre-school operator in Singapore - will play a part in helping children develop their passion in areas such as the arts and sports.

The PAP Community Foundation (PCF), which runs 360 centres, will offer additional opportunities to develop such interests through enrichment programmes, including in painting, gymnastics, aikido and drama, Mr Lee said yesterday.

Over 10,000 PCF staff, children and their families roamed the halls, exploring works by the likes of Cultural Medallion recipient Chng Seok Tin and eccentric Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Also displayed were 50 colourful artworks by PCF pupils.

"Today's event here will give you a taste of the kind of things which we are encouraging kids to do, which are beyond the normal strict curriculum, and which you'll find fun and enriching and will expand your minds and your horizons," said Mr Lee. "So parents can be assured that at PCF, their kids will be well looked after and can learn from a wide variety of programmes."

This year's PCF Family Day was held at the National Gallery Singapore to coincide with the Children's Biennale.

In his National Day Rally speech last week, Mr Lee announced new steps to improve capacity and quality in the pre-school sector.

Good, affordable pre-school will let all children, regardless of family background, have equal opportunities to succeed in life, he noted.

Yesterday, he said that as an anchor operator, PCF - which today takes care of more than 40,000 children - will support the Government's plans, and build and operate "early years centres" in new Housing Board estates.

These centres will cater to children aged up to four, for whom there is still a shortage of places. He said: "Then, we will be able to concentrate more on the early years education, and fulfil our part to make a fair and just society in Singapore."

He also said that the Government will be supporting pre-school teachers and staff in training and upgrading their careers.

Noting that the number of pre-school places in Singapore will almost double to 200,000 in the next five years, Mr Lee said: "That means anybody who wants to put his child in pre-school even at the age of two months old - which is when people start pre-school nowadays - can do so."

He also said that while there may now be a bit of a queue for parents in young neighbourhoods like Punggol and Sengkang, "we're working hard to cut the queue down".

"Within the next two or three years, we will make very significant progress," he said.

Pest control technician Rosman Abdul Rahim, who has five children aged five to 14, said the push to expand and improve the pre-school sector would better help children get a head start, "especially since the pace in Singapore is very fast".

He added: "It's also good for families where both parents work, so they don't have to worry too much about their children."

At yesterday's event, over $500,000 raised by a group of PAP MPs led by South West District Mayor Low Yen Ling was given out to eight beneficiary organisations.

Mr Victor Bay, PCF chief executive officer, said he hopes these efforts will build a strong community spirit that can encourage children to grow into compassionate adults. "At PCF, we believe that no one is too young to contribute towards building an inclusive society."

MOE sharing resources as it moves to ease fears over pre-school pressure
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2017

News of the Ministry of Education's (MOE) plan to run 50 kindergartens by 2023 - announced at the National Day Rally - has prompted fears among some parents and industry observers that this will mean more academic pressure for pre-schoolers.

But the MOE is looking to challenge those perceptions as it moves to share more teaching and learning resources with the rest of the pre-school sector based on its curriculum to raise teaching standards. They emphasise the value of "purposeful play" and having "quality interactions".

Since last year, a set of MOE-developed kindergarten curriculum resources based on its Nurturing Early Learners (NEL) framework has been delivered to more than 800 pre-schools.

An online portal ( was also started this year, allowing all pre-school educators to get lesson ideas and share good practices and lesson activities.

No rote learning is involved in the MOE's pre-school curriculum, said Ms Juliet Chia, a senior specialist in pre-school education from the MOE's education services division.

Rather, its NEL framework emphasises the holistic development of a child, and the MOE kindergarten curriculum also has a focus on early childhood bilingualism.

Stated learning objectives do not require a child to be able to spell out certain words, or to know the multiplication tables by heart. Rather, they include goals like having a child be able to enjoy reading and understand what he reads.

During a regular four-hour kindergarten programme, children spend about two hours on MOE's Starlight Literacy Programme, which develops their speaking and listening skills in English and one of the three mother tongue languages.

Some of the MOE's language teaching resources, such as large picture books for reading aloud to children - known as "Big Books" - have also been distributed to other pre-school centres. There are 120 titles available under the Big Books series that are set in a local context. Another two hours in the programme will include time for outdoor play, and learning activities that integrate different concepts.

The fact that MOE kindergartens have frequent interactions with the primary schools that they are situated in has also helped primary school educators better understand what to expect of pre-schoolers, said Ms Serena Park, who heads the MOE kindergarten in Riverside Primary School. "After learning that there are no spelling tests in our kindergartens, the principal (of Riverside Primary) has realised that they can't expect children to spell immediately in the first term, and that they have to gradually ease them into it."

How kids learn at MOE kindergartens
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2017

1 Language immersion through Big Book reading

When learning English or one of the mother tongue languages, a teacher guides students in the reading of a picture book. It has been customised to fit the local context and can also include content that teach values, such as respecting diversity.

At the MOE Kindergarten @ Frontier Primary School, for example, children have been reading a story about a girl who meets and makes friends with new neighbours from places like Vietnam or Japan.

During a reading session yesterday, children got up at intervals to learn the character strokes for Chinese words in the story through physical movement, which helps kinesthetic learners who learn through physical activities.

Children may use their hands to "write" in the air, or balance on one leg to illustrate the strokes that make up a character with the other.

2 Learning numeracy through hands-on activities

One of the activities at MOE Kindergarten @ Frontier includes having children work in pairs to count the number of beads on a bracelet - 10 in total. They are then asked to separate the beads and think about what pairs of numbers add up to 10: three and seven, for example, or two and eight. This lays the foundation for mathematics.

3 No homework, but opportunities for family bonding

As part of the Starlight Literacy programme for mother tongue, pre-schoolers will read a picture book over the course of two weeks, and take home what is known as a "family-based activity" every fortnight.

Parents will be encouraged to engage in activities with their children related to the content of the book, and speak to them in the mother tongue.

For example, if a book is about exploring a park, parents will be asked to get their children to look out for leaves they see around the neighbourhood, take photographs of them, and show them in class for a sharing session.

National Day Rally 2017: Building up preschools
MOE: Laying a Stronger Foundation for Our Children

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