1. The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), in collaboration with Temasek Foundation Cares, will pilot an initiative in selected preschools, which will see teachers being trained to apply teaching and learning strategies under the Abecedarian Approach (AA) in the classroom. The three-year pilot, named the "Temasek Foundation Cares - ABCD (Abecedarian Based Child Development) Kids Programme", aims to better support the early development of infants and toddlers from low-income families in these preschools. This will contribute to the holistic development of children in their early years, forming a strong foundation for a good start in life.
2. AA is an evidence-based approach that emphasises language development and high quality adult-child interactions to stimulate child development and growth. Research studies conducted on AA have shown that such interactions with a child's teacher and parents have enabled children from lower-income backgrounds to improve their cognitive and socio-emotional development, and catch up with their peers.
3. Temasek Foundation Cares has committed a total of $1.6million to fund the pilot programme over three years. Under the pilot, ECDA will provide training and coaching to teachers from the participating preschools to equip them with the knowledge and skills to implement AA in their classrooms. ECDA will assign AA Mentors to guide teachers and model the delivery of AA strategies in the preschools. Through facilitated parent engagement sessions organised by the preschools, parents will also be taught strategies that they can apply at home to reinforce their children's learning.
4. 16 preschools under NTUC My First Skool, PCF Sparkletots, Persatuan Pemudi Islam Singapura (PPIS), and Presbyterian Community Services will be selected for the TF Cares - ABCD Kids Programme. ECDA will work with the four preschool operators to train 60 teachers and identify about 100 children across the 16 preschools to participate in the pilot. If the outcomes of the pilot are positive, the programme may be rolled out in more preschools in future. Nonetheless, the impact of the pilot is expected to go beyond those who have been identified for additional support within the three years, as teachers trained in AA may also apply the approach in their daily interactions with other children in the classroom.
5. Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development visited a PCF Sparkletots preschool that has been selected to pilot the AA, and where three teachers have been trained. He said, "This pilot programme supports the government's continued efforts to invest in quality, accessible, and affordable preschool education. In particular, AA provides preschool teachers additional evidence-based tools to enhance their classroom practices, and further support the development of children from lower-income backgrounds. With the support and partnership of preschool operators, community partners, teachers, and parents, we can and will continue to do more to give our children the best possible start in life."
6. Recognising that the strategies can help build up the capabilities of his teachers, Mr Victor Bay, Chief Executive Officer of PCF said, "We are excited to be part of this pilot because we believe in the importance of high-quality teacher-child interactions. The teachers who have attended the Abecedarian Approach training have gained knowledge and skills to grow professionally and this will enhance their interactions with our children. At PCF Sparkletots, we place great emphasis on the professional development of our staff. We look forward to a positive outcome from the pilot, so that more Early Years teachers can be trained in the Abecedarian Approach."
7. Mr Richard Magnus, Chairman of Temasek Foundation Cares, said, "Children have a natural curiosity to explore, discover and learn. Through intentional and meaningful interactions with adults, this programme will help children to expand their cognitive, language and emotional abilities. Their parents will learn to reinforce the lessons and learnings. This is a critical developmental pilot which we hope will be scaled up."
EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT AGENCY
TEMASEK FOUNDATION CARES
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. What is the Abecedarian Approach?
The Abecedarian Approach is an evidence-based programme with over 40 years of research history. Developed by Dr Joseph Sparling and Dr Craig Remey in 1972 as part of the North Carolina Abecedarian Project, AA provides a set of strong teaching and learning strategies to enhance adult-child interactions and stimulate child's growth and development.
The project was named Abecedarian, as it borrows the alphabet letters - A, B, C and D - as a reference to one learning the rudiments of something. The project's vision was to develop simple tools that would produce high returns for children's development and outcomes.
The approach has been implemented in different parts of Australia such as the state of Queensland, state of Western Australia and state of Victoria. In Canada, the province of Quebec, and Manitoba has implemented AA. AA is also implemented in other states/provinces in USA, Romania, India, Pakistan, Zambia, Denmark and China.
2. What does applying AA entail?
Using AA means implementing the following four AA elements individually, intentionally, frequently and with a plan for each child.
• Language priority: Commitment to make every experience an opportunity for talking, listening, and learning language;
• Enriched caregiving: Intentionally adding educational content to the daily, repeated routines of care;
• Conversational reading: Individual and pair reading that emphasises back and forth communication; and
• Learning games: 200 experiences or games played between an adult and one or two children to enhance child development and parent-child interaction
Elements of AA can be applied in any kind of adult-child interaction - educators, parents, or caregivers. It has been used in child development centres, classrooms, family day care, play groups, home visits in other countries.
3. How is AA different from other teaching and learning strategies?
The elements of AA may already be familiar to or used by early childhood professionals, but implementing AA is unique as it focuses on doing it individually, intentionally, frequently and with a plan for each child. As part of their continuing professional development, preschool teachers in Singapore are equipped with professional training and AA is meant to augment this by providing teachers with an additional set of strategies to use in the classroom.
4. How has AA shown to be beneficial for child development?
Some of the key findings of the Carolina Abecederian Project (Original Study) include:
(i) Majority of children who received the Abecedarian intervention continued to stay in the normal IQ range.
(ii) Children had significantly higher achievement in reading and math at ages 8, 12, 15 and 21.
(iii) At age 21, almost 70 per cent who had received the Abecedarian intervention were attending a 4-year college or were employed in a skilled job, compared to about 40 per cent.
(iv) At age 30, 23 per cent had graduated from a 4-year university compared to 6 per cent for control group.
(v) Children who received Abecedarian type childcare had the highest mean IQ score, and maintained the long-term advantage.
(vi) Children from families with mothers of lowest education reaped huge benefits.
5. How will AA be applied in the TF Cares - ABCD Kids Programme?
To make such high-quality interactions a frequent and intentional occurrence, the strategies of the AA can be operationalised in four contexts: (i) during spontaneous, unplanned events, (ii) in repeated routines of caregiving, (iii) while reading books; and (iv) in purposeful games.
Under the TF Cares - ABCD Kids Programme, teachers in preschools can incorporate AA strategies into their existing curriculum and apply the strategies as part of their daily routines.
6. How does the teacher play an important role in implementing AA?
A teacher with basic understanding of early childhood development can use AA to further augment their role in supporting children in their learning and development. Moreover, for young children under three years old, the consistency and continuity of care is paramount. The trust and the attachment children have with the teacher would facilitate the administration of AA by the teacher.
7. How will teachers benefit from the programme?
Apart from the additional support provided to low-income children, the programme will also support teachers in their professional development as they benefit from the training and mentorship by ECDA and the AA mentors. As they gain the knowledge and skills to apply AA strategies, they will be able to draw on a wider set of teaching and learning strategies to provide better quality programmes in preschools.
8. What is the role of the AA mentor?
Teachers would be assigned a mentor who will guide the teachers and model the delivery of the AA strategies in the preschools. Regular feedback, reviews and observations will be made by the mentor who will support teachers to ensure that AA is implemented properly.
In the initial phase of implementation, the mentor will visit the preschool regularly to observe, support and guide principals and teachers, and jointly review progress with the principals and teachers. Once they have developed the expertise, principals and teachers will implement AA independently in the preschools.
9. How are pre-schools selected for the pilot?
For the pilot, ECDA will be working with preschools identified to have a relatively higher number of children from low-income families. The selected preschools are well spread across the North, East, West and Central parts of Singapore.
10. How will the TF Cares - ABCD Kids Programme complement the KidSTART programme?
Unlike KidSTART where families and children are provided additional support through programmes outside of the preschool, the TF Cares - ABCD Kids Programme is weaved into the preschool curriculum. As such, preschools under the TF Cares - ABCD Kids Programme pilot may be currently supported by KidSTART, allowing the KidSTART children in these centres to also benefit from the use of AA strategies by their teachers in the classroom.