I would like to welcome scholarship recipients, pre-school operators, and representatives from our early childhood training institutions to the first scholarship award ceremony held by the Early Childhood Development Agency.
Today, we celebrate the achievements of our Early Childhood professionals. We recognise the passion and dedication they have for their work, the children and the sector.
This profession draws a special kind of person – someone who is committed to making a difference in the lives of young children. Centre leaders, teachers and educarers play a central role in delivering quality programmes, building partnerships with parents to help children develop holistically and form strong foundations for their subsequent learning.
Our manpower priorities for the sector continue to be key:
1. First, we need to attract sufficient people who are passionate about the ECCE field to meet the manpower needs of the sector as we expand capacity.
2. Second, teachers must have opportunities for professional development and upgrading to keep their skills current, and help fulfil their longer-term career aspirations. This will help improve the quality of the professionals in the sector and the sector as a whole.
Over the past few years, we have taken steps to enhance attraction, development and retention of our Early Childhood professionals.
- In 2011, we provided more support for professional development and talent attraction by introducing new professional pathways and entry routes for educarers.
- Last year, we enhanced scholarships and training awards for diploma and degree courses in early childhood development, and introduced a framework for continuing professional development.
Since then, we have been consulting teachers, ECE specialists, leaders and operators regularly on what more can be done to uplift the quality of the sector, and to ensure that a career as an early childhood professional is meaningful and rewarding.
In this regard, we will be introducing various manpower initiatives over the next 3 years. The total investment on manpower initiatives for the sector will be $30 million over the next 3 years.
Let me first address the issue of meeting the sector’s manpower needs. We want to provide more support to passionate individuals who are committed to a career in the early childhood sector, and we want to do so from the onset – when they commence their diploma training at our Polytechnics.
We will introduce a new ECDA Training Award for Full-Time Polytechnic students undertaking the Diploma in Early Childhood Care and Education. This replaces the full-time diploma scholarships currently offered by MSF.
- On top of the full course scholarship at $7,000 and one-off learning resource grant at $1,050, Funding support will be provided for professional development while students are studying to cater to their individual interests - For example, supplementary courses in art, speech and drama or special needs.
- The Training Allowance will be increased from $300 per month to $800 per month, and;
- Training Award holders will be placed across the entire early childhood sector, upon graduation instead of only child care sectors under the existing scheme.
We are also building in greater flexibility with the application of the Training Awards for students who may decide that this is the profession for them in the second or third year of study. They can apply for the Training Award when they are more decided on their choice of career.
It is also important for teachers starting out to be nurtured and developed for a good head start in their career. ECDA will continue to look for ways to improve the practicum training for teachers, and help trainees transition to working in a centre environment. In the same light, upon completion of their training, ECDA will facilitate Training Award holders to have proper induction and mentoring support, and ensure employers pay starting salaries commensurate with market norms.
Operators will also play a vested role in promoting the development of Training Award holders, and help co-fund 5 to 10% of the total award quantum, depending on the type of operator. In addition, when placing graduates to centres, ECDA will set aside more placements for operators who provide quality and affordable services and/or have a social mission.
Next, let me address the issue of professional development and upgrading.
For teachers who have been in this sector for some time, they can look forward to progression opportunities. In this respect, ECDA is taking concrete steps to support their longer-term career aspirations.
MOE and MSF have awarded in-service scholarships and training awards for the kindergarten and child care sector respectively since 2009 for degree, masters, and part-time diploma programmes.
We will expand opportunities for in-service teachers to upgrade by harmonising these sponsorship schemes under ECDA. Similar sponsorship, eligibility criteria and conditions will be provided for both kindergartens and child care centres. As part of this harmonisation:
- Scholarships and training awards, currently available to child care centres and non-profit kindergartens will now be made available to all kindergartens.
- Recipients will be provided the flexibility to be bonded to the Early Childhood sector instead of specifically to kindergartens or child care centres. This will give educators greater flexibility when planning their career in the sector.
From our surveys and focus group discussions, educators regard professional development opportunities as important to keeping their skills relevant and providing quality pre-school education to children.
ECDA will look into supporting more systematic professional development for our teachers. We will build on the Continuing Professional Development Framework that was launched last year, which includes developing progression pathways and more CPD courses. This will further deepen the knowledge, skills and practices of our early childhood educators, and create a fraternity of quality EC educators with a commitment to the profession. We will release more details later this year.
Shortly, we will hear from two teachers, Ms Nur Binte Riduan and Ms Lim Qian Hui, of their experiences in the sector. They are exceptional and committed teachers who have taken pro-active steps to fulfil their career aspirations to further their professional training and to make a greater contribution to the sector. I hope that more teachers will follow their footsteps in taking up these scholarships and training awards in tandem with their career aspirations.
We recognise that early childhood educators play a crucial role in caring for and developing our children on the ground, and often times these are very demanding and it also takes a lot of time for us to provide the kind of quality programmes that we want, working with parents and other stakeholders in the sector.. We would like to work with other stakeholders in the sector to continually refine our programmes to make sure that our teachers have the best training and resources available to fulfil their missions that they have undertaken.
We will continue our efforts to provide recognition and support for our early childhood educators, and to build better partnerships with parents, operators and training institutions to provide a more fulfilling experience working in the sector.
Recently when I met many of you in the focus group discussion, many of you have given very valuable feedback on how we can strengthen the curriculum for our trainee teachers. This includes not just how to teach and care for our students, but also how to interact with parents and manage their expectations. At the same time, it should also include issues like crisis and issues management. All these are good suggestions which ECDA will look into, and we will see how we can incorporate them into the curriculum in the coming year.
The manpower initiatives shared today are part of a broader plan to raise the quality, affordability and accessibility of pre-schools in Singapore. On one hand, we are in the midst of selecting operators to come on board our enhanced Anchor Operator Scheme. On the other hand, we will continue to provide a suite of support schemes for non-anchor operators. We have started the first tranche focusing on operators with a social mission last month; we will be rolling out another tranche next month to focus on capability building and infrastructure assistance.
Once again, I congratulate all the well-deserving scholarship recipients here today and trust that you will have a meaningful and rewarding career ahead.