1 The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) under the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will oversee both Early Intervention (EI) services and preschool services from end 2020, with the transfer of EI functions from the Disability Office in MSF to ECDA to be done progressively from July 2019. MSF will also launch a workgroup to strengthen the support for children with developmental needs,1 Minister for Social and Family Development Mr Desmond Lee announced today. These initiatives build on efforts announced in January 2019 by Minister Desmond Lee to make EI services more affordable and customised to each child's needs, under the Third Enabling Masterplan (EMP3).2
ECDA TO OVERSEE PROVISION OF EARLY INTERVENTION SERVICES FOR PRESCHOOLERS
2 Over the years, the Disability Office within the MSF has worked closely with key sector partners including hospitals, preschools, SG Enable and Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWO) on timely detection of children with developmental needs, provision of early intervention services, caregiver training, manpower planning and capability development.
3 To enhance coordination of early childhood development and support services for families and children, MSF will integrate the oversight of EI services with preschool services under ECDA, progressively from July 2019. All EI services will come under ECDA by end 2020. With EI services being delivered increasingly through preschools, having these services under ECDA will give the Agency a holistic view of the learning and development needs of all children under the age of seven. As the regulatory and developmental authority of the early childhood sector, ECDA will be able to undertake a more coordinated approach toward manpower and capability development of both early childhood educators and EI professionals,3 which often draw from a similar manpower pool. It will also strengthen our continued efforts to make preschools more inclusive.
LAUNCH OF INCLUSIVE PRESCHOOL WORKGROUP
4 To further support the integration and inclusion of children with developmental needs within the preschool setting, MSF has expanded the range of EI services over the years to allow more children with developmental needs to access preschool education and care services alongside their typically-developing peers.
a) The Learning Support (LS) and Development Support (DS) programmes support children with mild developmental needs within preschools. Earlier this year, Minister Desmond Lee announced that a new programme, the Development Support Plus (DS-Plus), will be rolled out in phases from 1 July 2019 to support children with mild to moderate developmental needs within preschools.4 Under these programmes, professionals such as Learning Support Educators, EI teachers, therapists and psychologists work with the child in his/her preschool once or twice a week, and collaborate with preschool teachers to adapt teaching methods and activities to better engage and integrate these children in the classroom setting.
b) There are also ongoing efforts in the sector to develop preschools that cater to children with moderate developmental needs alongside other children, such as AWWA's Kindle Garden and Canossaville Preschool.
5 Building on these efforts, MSF will set up a cross-sectoral workgroup involving people, private and public sector partners to study and develop recommendations to support children with moderate to severe developmental needs within preschools. It will study the experiences of centres which serve children with moderate to severe developmental needs, to develop approaches that may be extended to more preschools. This will also give typically developing children in more preschools the opportunity to gain greater understanding and appreciation of children who may be different from themselves and develop the socio-emotional skills to empathise, support and work with their peers who have developmental needs. The workgroup will be co-chaired by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and National Institute of Education (NIE) Associate Dean (Education Research) Kenneth Poon.
6 Senior Parliamentary Secretary Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said, "These initiatives under the Third Enabling Masterplan affirm our commitment towards fostering a caring and inclusive Singapore. We will continue to build strong partnerships and co-create solutions with the preschools and the social service sector to give all children with developmental needs a good start in life."
1Developmental needs refer to developmental conditions ranging from physical issues (e.g. muscular dystrophy), sensory issues (e.g. vision or hearing loss), and cognitive issues (e.g. autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability), to learning needs without accompanying disabilities (e.g. mild language developmental delays).
2The Third Enabling Masterplan is a set of recommendations developed through a partnership between the people, public and private sectors, for Singapore to build a more inclusive society where persons with disabilities are empowered and enabled to realise their true potential.
3EI professionals comprise Early Intervention teachers, Learning Support Educators, Therapists and Psychologists.
4From July 2019, children who have made sufficient progress under the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) at the EI centre can transit to receiving intervention in a preschool setting under the DS-Plus programme.