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Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at Early Childhood Conference 2018

Centre leaders and teachers

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

1   Good morning.

2   I am delighted to join you once again in this annual Conference to chart our progress, learn from one another, celebrate your achievements with each other and with your children and parents, and look towards the future together. Let me take this opportunity to first share some key developments with you.

Significant investments in the EC sector; steady progress in building strong foundations

3   In 2017, Prime Minister Lee highlighted the Government's significant investments and priorities for the early childhood sector. There were two key areas: one, expanding the provision of affordable and quality early childhood services, and two, uplifting the early childhood profession. We have made progress in both.

4   In the past year, over 10,000 new preschool places were opened by various operators in multiple settings to cater to different needs:

5   We have developed about 50 more centres in HDB developments over the past year, and increased these centres to an average capacity of 200 each, to meet the growing childcare demand from young families.

6   Preschool places are also available in Large Child Care Centres, as well as centres in workplaces, commercial developments and near transport nodes, for the convenience of our parents. Over the past year alone, four Large Child Care Centres started operations, and I've had the pleasure of visiting some of them personally. We have also set up Early Years Centres in partnership with MOE Kindergartens.

7   We are working steadily towards adding over 40,000 new full-day preschool places by 2023 to meet the growing needs of families with young children.

8   Because of our push to increase the capacity of childcare places, we also need to grow our fraternity of educators like yourselves. And I am glad that many more people have joined our profession in recent years.

9   For example, the number of students joining the Polytechnic early childhood courses has doubled over the last two years to about 700. Also, more than 50 per cent of the expected graduates next year are ECDA Training Award recipients, up from about 20 per cent in 2016.

10   We are also strengthening the career prospects of existing educators for professional growth and development.

11   I am happy to note that employers are doing the same, supporting their educators for ongoing professional development. This year, we have 45 per cent more educarers and teachers on the Professional Development Programme, or PDP, as compared to last year. We also appointed our first batch of 180 principals and lead teachers under the PDP for Leaders in April.

12   Last year, PM spoke about the establishment of the National Institute of Early Childhood Development, or NIEC. Like you, I am looking forward to NIEC commencing operations with its first batch of students in 2019.

13   NIEC brings together the diverse expertise and training capabilities of the Institute of Technical Education, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic, and NTUC's SEED Institute, to provide unified foundational training at the certificate and diploma-levels for the early childhood sector. NIEC will also offer continuing professional development for teachers and leaders, including post-diploma courses for those who want specialised training.

14   Given the diverse and dynamic nature of our sector, NIEC will work closely with you to provide industry-relevant training and student development activities. Many of you will be host organisations and mentors to future batches of NIEC students, when they serve their internships and attachments. These practical attachments are invaluable in providing our students with some insight into the work of the sector. Let us work closely to strengthen the link between training and practice, and build up a strong fraternity of early childhood educators.

National Early Childhood Campaign to uplift the profession and grow the fraternity

15   Apart from training, we will also continue with other efforts to uplift the early childhood profession. This includes building greater respect and recognition for the early childhood profession. Today, early childhood educators receive recognition for the work you do.

16   We have seen strong support from employers, community partners and parents, for all early childhood educators to have a day off for Teachers' Day.

17   The ECDA Awards for Excellence in Early Childhood Development also recognises educators who have excelled in teaching and learning, as well as in their innovative practices.

18   And more can be done. From this month, you will start to see our profession, maybe even some familiar colleagues, featured on social media and traditional media. This is part of our three-year national campaign to raise the profile of the early childhood profession, and attract more people to join us.

19    As one of the first teachers in a child's life, early childhood educators like yourselves help children to enjoy a good start in life. You spark their curiosity for learning, give them the courage to explore their world, and set them on the path of learning and growth.

20   The campaign tagline "Shape Our Tomorrow" captures the essence of why the work you do is so important. The life skills and values imparted by early childhood educators have life-long impact, and in turn, shape the future of our families, communities and nation.

21   I am pleased to launch the national campaign today with this preview of the television commercial that will be screened from next week onwards. We will also share this on social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, in cinemas, as well as other major advertising platforms like MRT stations and buses.

22   I hope you enjoyed the commercial as much as I did.This involved testing the message, speaking with many of you in Focus Group Discussions before we got it right. A lot of effort was put in by my colleagues to make sure that it resonates with the teachers we spoke to. If you still have any views, please give it to us, because we want to make sure that you are proud of this, and we want this to represent you.

23   All of you are our strongest advocates in driving this change to uplift the profession.

24   We hope that the campaign will spark conversations around the work that you do, so that there is greater understanding, respect and recognition of the early childhood profession.

25   I also invite all preschools, teachers, industry associations and partners like Association for Early Childhood Educators (AECES), Association of Early Childhood and Training Services (ASSETS) and Education Services Union (ESU) to join us in this endeavour, including sharing this commercial with your friends, families, and parents of your preschool children.

Enhanced training and resources to deepen specialised expertise

26   In March this year, we shared that we will support educators to deepen their expertise. One such area is the Mother Tongue Language, or MTL teaching.

27    The early years are a golden opportunity to plant the seeds of love for the mother tongue and to lay a strong foundation for bilingual learning.

28   You have heard Dr Gigi Luk, the keynote speaker this morning, who shared how diverse language experiences can shape young children's brain development and learning.

29   ECDA aims to provide early exposure to and foster a love for MTL in children during their preschool years. We will embark on two key initiatives over the next year to strengthen MTL teaching capabilities:

30   First, enhanced training to build specialised expertise in MTL teaching. In response to feedback and desire from MTL teachers to deepen their skills, ECDA is partnering NIEC to launch the Certificate in Preschool Mother Tongue Language Teaching.

31   This certificate course aims to equip teachers with language-specific pedagogical skills as well as creative strategies to nurture an interest in mother tongue learning in our children.

32   For a start, we will launch the course in Malay Language and Tamil Language in 2019. NIEC will share details on the courses soon.

33   To incentivise and recognise the upskilling efforts, ECDA will provide a training bonus of $2,000 for in-service teachers who take up MTL teaching and complete the course, over the next two years.

34   We hope to encourage more early childhood educators who are interested to explore MTL teaching to take up the training and become MTL teachers.

35    The course can also be considered towards fulfilling part of the requirements for the Professional Development Programme. This is aligned with our efforts to modularise training courses, so as to encourage continuous development among our teachers.

36   Ms Nurhidayah Binte Dorahman, a Malay Language teacher at PCF Sparkletots, is one such MTL teacher who will benefit from the Preschool Malay Language Teaching certificate course.

37   Ms Nurhidayah joined the preschool sector as an English language teacher in 2016. Early this year, she was encouraged by her Centre principal to become a Malay Language teacher and has not looked back since.

38   As a Malay Language teacher, she helps young children to appreciate the beauty of the mother tongue through songs and story-telling. She also engages children in activities where they can experience the rich Malay culture and heritage.

39   She looks forward to picking up a variety of pedagogical approaches through the certificate course, to make the learning of Malay Language fun and exciting for her children.

40   She is also keen to learn from and collaborate with other Malay Language teachers across the sector. ECDA will continue to provide such platforms for Mother Tongue Language teachers to come together as a professional learning community.

41   I encourage preschools to send their MTL teachers and those who aspire to become one, for the MTL certificate courses.

42   Second, we will develop more resources in Chinese, Malay and Tamil to support quality MTL teaching for the Early Years.

43   Today, there are resources available for MTL teaching for K1 and K2 children, as part of MOE's Nurturing Early Learners Framework.

44   To supplement the resources, ECDA will be collaborating with MOE to develop Early Years resources for N1 and N2 children in all 3 MTLs, to cater to the unique learning needs of the younger ages.

45   This will be a collaborative effort with early childhood practitioners.

46   In August, we conducted Focus Group Discussions with about 40 early childhood professionals including ECDA Fellows, centre leaders, curriculum specialists and MTL teachers.

47   Many participants welcomed this move and shared their teaching experiences. We will incorporate their feedback into the development of the Early Years resources which will be ready in 2020.

48   Ms Kogilavani was one of our Tamil Language Focus Group Discussions participants. She has been a Tamil language teacher at Khalsa Kindergarten for close to 10 years. Ms Kogilavani shared that it has been challenging to obtain local Tamil Language resources for young children. While some materials may be available from overseas markets, most are not tailored to our local context.

49   To make the language come alive in a fun way, she developed a series of interesting Tamil Language activities such as bringing in traditional Indian cooking utensils and games, and getting the children to role play characters from the past. She is excited to hear that there will be locally relevant resources that she can tap on soon.

50   It is encouraging to see the passion and dedication of our MTL teachers. And we want to continue to support the important work that you do.

51   We have set aside up to $3 million over the next two years to support the MTL training bonus and the development of the Early Years MTL resources. We hope that the additional resources will support MTL teachers to enhance your teaching of MTL and build a strong foundation for bilingual learning during the early years.

52   We also recognise MTL teachers with the annual Outstanding Preschool Mother Tongue Language Teacher Award. This is presented at the Mother Tongue Languages Symposium, which is jointly organised by MOE and the Mother Tongue Languages Learning and Promotion Committees.

Conclusion

53   Strengthening Mother Tongue Language teaching is only the beginning. Going forward, we want to build a community of early childhood leaders of varied expertise, and broaden the leadership pathways to include specialists who aspire to contribute in a particular area of expertise.

54   I would like to thank our sector partners for walking this journey with us. Your support for the on-going effort to develop our teachers and leaders will enable our profession to grow from strength to strength. This is an exciting time to be part of the early childhood profession.

55   I look forward to working with you, to nurture young minds and build strong foundations to provide the best possible start for every child - and every teacher!

56   I wish everyone a fruitful conference and Happy Children's Day. Thank you.

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Published On Fri, Oct 5, 2018
Last Reviewed On Wed, Oct 10, 2018

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