Ladies and gentlemen
It is my pleasure to join you this afternoon.
Quality educators are the heart of early childhood. The three past award recipients you saw in the video - Siti, Wen Yuan and Raihana - clearly embody many of the qualities that make them trusted and respected educators. I believe there are many others like them, and just last month, I gave out many awards to outstanding teachers, educarers and leaders at the annual Early Childhood Conference. Please join me to applaud the passion and commitment of our early childhood educators.
We know from many studies that a skilled educator makes all the difference in the preschool. It is not just about teaching the ABCs and preparing for Primary One, but also about nurturing our young children’s ability to relate well with others, to be confident, curious and resilient individuals, and to be anchored in strong values. Apart from academic knowledge, early childhood educators need to model positive behaviour, to build warm and responsive relationships with their children, and to keep up with their boundless energy!
Given the important work that early childhood educators do, we can and should do more to appreciate, respect and support them. As you may have read in the Straits Times, one forum writer recently wrote in to call for “more recognition and respect” for preschool teachers. Another writer also said that “parents need to know what these qualified professionals are teaching children, and to believe that they are truly paying for a service that can make a lifelong impact on their children.” In response, a third writer opined that improving the image of pre-school teachers “must be matched with a pay scale that recognises their skills and hard work, and their importance in society.” I agree with these writers, and believe we are moving in the right direction. Many parents support our call for all preschools to give their educators a day-off on Teachers’ Day. Working conditions, salaries, and training opportunities have been and will also continue to improve.
I would also like to call upon parents to support our teachers by not undermining their role as educators. We will always have our own views about how our children should be educated or looked after; and every parent will have differing views. As such, it is just not possible for a teacher and school to accommodate every request. By taking teachers to task, especially in a very visible way, we can erode their standing in our children’s eyes and this will negatively impact their ability to teach and lead our children. Hence, I urge parents to kindly be circumspect and respectful while engaging our educators.
Today, we will be giving out a record number of ECDA Training Awards to more than 300 students from ITE, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic. This four-fold increase from last year show that we have many remarkable young individuals eager to carry the baton of nurturing our future generation. Collectively, the value of these awards is more than $10 million - it is a large investment on the part of the Government, but an investment that is certainly worth making.
Better recognise and support pre-service educators
We will continue to support every early childhood educator in their journey to excel in their craft. To this end, we will be introducing two new initiatives. First, to recognize recipients who have been outstanding peer role models and performing well in their studies, we will introduce a Commendation Award starting next year. Eligible candidates will be nominated by your respective institutes, and selected by ECDA to receive a certificate of commendation and a cash prize. I hope that through this, our award recipients will continue to strive for excellence, and be role-models for your peers and juniors.
Second, as part of our efforts to support passionate individuals who are committed to a career in the early childhood sector, ECDA will be introducing a new Training Award (University) for those keen to pursue a degree. Every Singaporean or Permanent Resident who successfully enrols into the new full-time Bachelor of Early Childhood Education at UniSIM which begins in July next year will be invited to apply. Like our other training awards, this award will cover full course sponsorship, Learning Resource and Professional Development grants and a monthly allowance. Together with UniSIM, ECDA will engage and support these award recipients at key stages of their journey.
Importance of lifelong learning spirit
There is much more that we can do to raise the quality of early childhood education in Singapore. For our children, I encourage you to continue to develop yourselves professionally. Many of you embody this, including Ms Nurshahilah Bibi and Ms Tiffany Lim, who are receiving their ECDA Scholarships today. Ms Bibi and Ms Lim are currently pursuing the Master of Education in Early Childhood at the National Institute of Education, which I am sure is not easy as they also juggle their full time work responsibilities.
At the Early Childhood Conference held last month, I launched the Skills Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education. I hope you will use the framework as a guide to plan and track your own development as you deepen your competencies. I encourage you to also share your knowledge and experience, learn together as a community and, together, uplift the quality of the sector.
Inspire and Aspire
For many of you, your family members or mentors have inspired or supported you to pursue your interest in early childhood education. For one of our Training Award recipients, Muhammad Ilyasa, his role-model is his grandfather, who was also an educator. Despite having initial hesitation, Ilyasa’s family is now 100% behind him after seeing his passion and how he is thriving in his studies. I am sure there are many similar stories in the auditorium today. So, to the family members, lecturers and employers in this auditorium, a big thank you.
And to our recipients, I urge you to always remember what inspired you to join this sector and what you wanted to achieve. I am confident that every one of you will in turn inspire our future generation. Once again, congratulations and I wish you a fulfilling journey ahead. Thank you.