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Singapore Government

Speech By Minister Masagos Zulkifli At The Early Childhood Conference (ECC) On 16 October 2021

Speech By Minister Masagos Zulkifli At The Early Childhood Conference (ECC) On 16 October 2021

Introduction

[Children: “Hello, Mr Minister!”.]

• Hello children! I’m Masagos.

[Children: “Mr Minister, there are many teachers here today.  Can you say hello to them too?”.]

• Hello to all our educators. I’m glad to join all of you again at the Early Childhood Conference. It’s the highlight of the year for the EC sector – where we all gather as a fraternity, to learn from each other.

• I would like to start by thanking you for your contributions towards our national efforts to fight against COVID-19. Many of you have worked tirelessly to keep our children safe. At times, coming up with creative and novel solutions to engage our children. I know it hasn’t always been easy, and many of you had to make some sacrifices. But let’s do our best to take the necessary precautions and stay vigilant. Because we want to make our preschools as safe as possible for our children, especially the younger ones. We appreciate your hard work, and I am sure that I speak on behalf of all the children and their parents too!

Supporting our Educators

[Children: “Mr Minister, my teachers work very hard to take care of us and help us grow. Can you help them too?”]

Launch of the new Skills Framework for Early Childhood

• Yes, certainly! Your teachers play a big part in making preschool not only enjoyable and fun for you, but also for you to grow and develop! Like you, all of us, including our teachers also need to continue learning throughout our lives!

• So, to our educators listening in, allow me share how we are creating more ways to develop yourself professionally.

• One way is through the Skills Framework. Think about it as a map that charts out the various pathways in the sector. Each path represents the type of career that our educators can choose to grow into, together with the different skills and competencies that they require in order to progress or maybe even to switch paths halfway. Just like how we use maps to guide us from one point to another, the Skills Framework does the same thing – enabling and guiding our educators’ development in their professional journey!

• Today, I am glad to announce that we have updated the Skills Framework for Early Childhood. I thank educators and preschools for your valuable inputs as well!

• Let me share three key changes we have made:

a. First, we have expanded the Infant and Early Years Educator Track and the Leadership Track. This provides greater clarity on the progression and development pathways for educators in the early years, as well as new leadership roles that educators can aspire towards.

b. Second, we have added new Learning Support and Early Intervention Tracks to reflect the porosity between Early Childhood and Early Intervention job roles.

c. Third, we have set out six desired attributes for educators, summed up using the acronym “RIPPLE”.

• This is a meaningful symbol of your work as educators, as it signifies the impact you make, not only in our child’s early years, but beyond. It also testifies to the rippling effect that it can have on the child’s family and the community.

• Going forward, we will also address both “Educarers” and “Teachers” as “Educators” to recognise the equal importance of all early childhood educators. Regardless of the age group under their care.

[Children: “Wow. That’s so many new things – I also want to become a preschool educator when I grow up!”]

Upcoming launch of the CPD Roadmap

• That’s great! Being a preschool educator is a noble and good profession, that both boys and girls alike, can aspire towards.

• I also want to tell everyone listening in, that with the launch of the new Skills Framework, we will also be rolling out the Continuing Professional Development (or CPD) Roadmap. Building on the Skills Framework, it will lay out the competencies needed for educators to perform their job well. We will roll this out from early 2022, starting with 7 Early Childhood job roles and 6 focus areas, including “inclusive practice” which is related to our conference’s theme. We will also develop a similar roadmap for 9 Early Intervention job roles.

• With the CPD roadmaps in place, I encourage educators and preschool operators to work together to make full use of it to discuss your individual training plans.

Supporting our Preschools

[Children: “Wow! That’s great. Is there support for our preschools too?”]

Introduction of the Industry Digital Plan (IDP) Funding for the EC sector

• Yes! One way we are doing so is through what we call an Industry Digital Plan (or IDP). It sounds complicated, but it isn’t really so!

• Under the IDP, your preschools can find IT solutions that we have approved. These can help them reduce the time spent on routine tasks and even help them to update your parents more easily! Preschools can also look out for new solutions to help them e-enrol children and use data analytics to make our preschools run better.

• We also want to encourage preschools to take this up. So, the Government will set aside over $4 million under the Early Childhood Digitalisation Grant to defray costs.

Supporting Our Children

[Children: “What about the children? Are there any plans for us?”]

Supporting Diverse Children in our Classrooms

• Definitely! Everything that we do is so that we can give all our children the best start in life.

• Besides improving professional training and quality of preschools to benefit all children, we are making our preschools more inclusive and stepping up support for children with developmental needs. I will share three examples of how we are doing so:

o First, we plan to bring the DS-LS programme to more preschools – covering 60% of preschoolers by 2025 and 80% eventually.

o Second, we aim to appoint an Inclusion Coordinator (or “I-CO”) in every preschool starting in second half of 2023. We will launch the training for ICOs by end this year, and I encourage preschools to sign up early next year.

o Third, we will pilot a new Inclusive Support Programme at selected preschools for children requiring medium levels of early intervention support and will release more details shortly.

Launch of KidSTART CDA (Child Development Account) top-up

• We also want to enable every child to have the best chance to flourish in life. Regardless of their family background or resources.

• KidSTART is a key programme through which we provide additional support for children from low-income families. Over 2,000 children have participated to date, and this will go up to 5,000 by 2023. This could only have been possible with the strong partnerships between the Social Service Agencies, hospitals and preschools. Corporates have also played a part and contributed about $4 million to date.

• Recently, the Government also announced a $200 top-up in the Child Development Accounts (or CDA) of all Singaporean children aged six and below. This will benefit all families by helping to offset the costs of raising a child. But we will go further. We will provide more support for families and children who enrol and participate regularly in preschool and KidSTART activities through yearly CDA top-ups. This will be funded by the contributions of corporate and community partners, and on top of the one-off $200 top-up. We will also give larger top-ups to encourage families to enrol their children in preschool early.

• I am hopeful that with these new moves, we can better support children with diverse needs in our preschools, so that every child can shine and achieve their fullest potential.

Closing

[Children: “Thank you Mr Minister. It sounds like a lot is happening and a lot of hard work.”]

• Yes, it is a lot of hard work that all of us have to put in! But it’s worth it so that we can give every child the best possible start in life!

• And do you remember what our theme for ECC this year is?

[Children: “Embracing Diversity”; “Every Child Shines”, “Growing Stronger Together”]

• That’s right!

• To all our educators, I am confident that with these new initiatives, we can better support all our children and our educators! So they can be their best.

[Minister Masagos and all children: Goodbye!]

 

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