As part of the Government’s continuing efforts to give every child a good start, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) announced new initiatives to enhance inclusion and support for children with developmental needs. These initiatives are guided by the Inclusive Preschool Workgroup’s (IPWG) recommendations released today to enable children with developmental needs to learn, play, contribute and participate meaningfully, alongside their typically developing peers in preschools and the community. Typically developing children will also stand to benefit from these efforts, in areas such as the provision of differentiated instruction and development of prosocial behaviours.
Recommendations and Initiatives Arising from the IPWG
2. The IPWG is one of three workgroups set up under the Third Enabling Masterplan(EMP3) in 2019. The IPWG sought to study and develop recommendations to better support children with developmental needs in preschools. The cross-sectoral workgroup is co-chaired by Minister of State for Social and Family Development, andEducation, Sun Xueling, and Associate Dean (Education Research) of the NationalInstitute of Education, A/P Kenneth Poon, and comprises members from the health, education and social service sectors.
3. Over the past two years, the IPWG consulted and engaged about 60 participants over two focus group discussions and 900 participants from an online survey for parents. These engagement efforts are in line with the Singapore Together movement to more directly involve Singaporeans in the co-creation of policies and initiatives. The workgroup also conducted visits to local and overseas inclusive preschools to study their experiences with inclusion.
4. The IPWG has now completed its work and has put forth seven key recommendations to enhance support for children with developmental needs and move towards greater inclusion within preschools. The workgroup has mapped out a4-tier framework to enhance support for children with developmental needs. The tiered framework also signals that all preschools have a part to play in enhancing support and inclusion for children with developmental needs. A description of the tiered framework and the full list of recommendations and initiatives in response to the recommendations can be found in Annex A, while the IPWG’s report can be found in Annex B.
5. The Government supports the IPWG’s report and has begun implementing initiatives in response to the recommendations, several of which were earlier announced at the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s (MSF) Committee of Supply debates in March 2021.
Inclusive Support Programme
6. In line with one of the IPWG’s key recommendations, ECDA plans to pilot anew Inclusive Support Programme (InSP) at selected preschools for children requiring medium levels of early intervention support. To ensure that InSP pilot preschools are able to provide a better and more inclusive learning experience for both typically developing children and children with developmental needs, ECDA will be developing the pilot with the following key features
- a. Child - Supporting children's early intervention needs within the preschool
- i. InSP preschools will be resourced with full-time early intervention professionals and visiting allied health professionals, who will provide specialist support to children that require medium levels of early intervention support.
- ii. Children who require medium levels of early intervention support will be supported by an Individualised Programme Plan, which will be executed through a combination of in-class support and pull-out sessions depending on the child’s needs
and progress made.
- b. Class – Cultivating inclusive practices in the classroom
- i. Early intervention professionals and early childhood educators will work collaboratively towards co-planning and co-teaching classes. They will strive to employ differentiated teaching practices to ensure lessons are tailored to children’s
learning abilities, and embed early intervention support within daily preschool routines.
- c. Centre – Fostering an inclusive preschool ecosystem
- i. The majority of InSP preschools’ enrolment will continue to comprise typically developing children. This ensures classroom dynamics remain led by typically developing children, while catering to children with developmental needs.
- ii. InSP preschools will work towards cultivating an inclusive mindset by facilitating activities that encourage meaningful interactions among children. The preschool environment will also be modified where necessary and viable to improve accessibility
for children with developmental needs.
- d. Community – Families as core partners
- i. InSP preschools will foster family-centred partnerships, where parents and/or caregivers are actively and regularly involved in their child’s progress and development.
7. Further details on the InSP pilot providers and sites will be released later this year.
Enhancing Capabilities in Inclusive Education
8. To better equip early childhood educators with the skills to support children with developmental needs, ECDA has been working with the National Institute of EarlyChildhood Development (NIEC) to enhance pre-service training for students and continuing professional development for in-service professionals respectively. Aspart of these efforts, NIEC will launch a new 120-hour Certificate inInclusive Practice (CIP) in June 2021, to enable in-service early childhood educators to acquire inclusive strategies to support children with varying needs in preschools. Modules under the CIP can be taken individually or stackable towards a full Certificate. Educators may also choose to embark on the full 120-hour certificate. More details on the CIP can be found in Annex C.
Strengthening Screening & Referrals, and Parent Education
9. The IPWG has also recommended strengthening system-level support for more timely and systematic identification of developmental needs, and support for parents through parent education. MSF/ECDA and MOE, in consultation with experts from the education, health and social sectors, have released a set of professional practice guidelines for preschool-aged children in Feb 2021. The guidelines aim to improve support by professionals for children and their families, and ensure a smooth transition beyond preschool. The guidelines can be accessed at the following link. ECDA will also work toward publishing a parents’ version of the guide and work with SG Enable to enhance the Enabling Guide, to address parents’ feedback to curate resources that will deepen caregivers’ understanding of developmental needs and provide information on support resources/strategies.
Moving Towards A More Caring and Inclusive Society Together
10. The IPWG recommendations build on good efforts thus far to foster inclusivity in our community. MSF/ECDA is committed to continue working closely with partners to provide a good start for every child, and to build a stronger, caring society that benefits all.
11. Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State for Social and Family Development, and Education, said, “A large part of early years education is about developing socio-emotional competencies and instilling values such as kindness, respect and empathy. We hope to instil inclusive mindsets from the early years, benefiting both typically developing children and children with developmental needs, and lay the foundation for a more caring and inclusive society. The journey towards inclusion requires a whole-of-society effort involving preschools and early intervention providers, parents, and the wider community.”
EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT AGENCY (ECDA)
1 Apart from the IPWG, there were two other workgroups formed to review the areas of (a) Employment and (b) Independent Living for Persons with Disabilities. Their workgroup reports were released earlier this month.
2 Prior to Aug 2020, the workgroup was co-chaired by former-Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Social and Family Development, and Education) Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim.
3 Participants in the focus group discussions comprised early childhood educators, early intervention professionals, preschool operators, early intervention service providers, and parents of preschool-aged children. The focus group discussions were held in Nov 2019.
4 The online survey for parents was held from June to July 2020.
ANNEX A TIERED FRAMEWORK AND FULL LIST OF RECOMMENDATION
1. The IPWG has mapped out a four-tiered framework to enhance support for children with developmental needs, depending on the level of early intervention support (EI)required, as reflected in Figure 1 below. The tiered framework signals that all preschools have a part to play in enhancing support and inclusion for children with developmental needs.
Figure 1. Tiered Framework for an InclusivePreschool Sector
2. With reference to the tiered framework, the IPWG has put forth seven recommendations. The list of recommendations and MSF/ECDA’s plans are in Table 1 below.
|Table 1. Summary of IPWG Recommendations and MSF/ECDA’s Plans|
MSF/ ECDA will provide training for ICOs and work towards every preschool appointing one of its staff as an ICO, beginning in the second half of 2023.
Since its launch in 2012, the DS-LS programme has expanded from 22 preschools to 600 preschools which enroll over 40% of resident preschoolers aged 5 to 6.
MSF/ECDA aims to expand outreach of the DS-LS programme to more preschools, covering 60% of preschoolers by 2025, and 80% in steady-state. To support the expansion, MSF/ECDA will work with providers to train more Learning Support Educators (LSEds).
MSF/ECDA will also increase the number of children to be transited from the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) to the Development Support Plus (DS-Plus) programme over the longer term, so that more children can receive support in their preschools.
MSF/ECDA supports the InSP concept and will work towards piloting with selected preschool centres over the next few years.
In line with the IPWG’s recommendation, ECDA will be developing the pilot with changes at 4 levels - child, class, centre and community - to ensure that all children can benefit from a more inclusive setting.
The workgroup recognises there remains certain groups of children who require high levels of early intervention support and are better served by more intensive and specialised support at early intervention centres.
MSF/ECDA will work with early intervention centres and preschools to explore opportunities for purposeful interactions between these children and their peers.
MSF/ECDA is working with the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) to enhance the inclusive education component in existing early childhood pre-service training for students and continuing professional development for in-service professionals respectively.
MSF/ECDA is also developing a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) roadmap for early childhood educators with ‘inclusive practice’ as one of the focal areas. New programmes, such as the 120-hr Certificate in Inclusive Practice (CIP) and other short courses, will be introduced to help educators acquire inclusive strategies to support children with varying needs within preschools.
ECDA will also integrate the skills and career pathways for LSEds and early intervention teachers in the revised Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Skills Framework. This addition underscores the importance of strong partnership and collaborative teaming between early childhood educators and early intervention professionals, and encourages greater porosity across the pathways.
To increase take-up of Childhood Developmental Screening, MOH has extended subsidies to eligible Singapore Citizens to receive Childhood Developmental Screening at all Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) General Practitioner (GP) clinics and polyclinics.
MSF/ECDA and MOE have released a set of professional practice guidelines in Feb 2021, to consolidate information on early intervention programmes and practice guidelines, to standardise and streamline assessments and referrals.
SG Enable launched the Enabling Guide in July 2019 to provide information and advice on schemes, services, support and resources related to disability in Singapore.
ECDA will work with SG Enable to curate additional support resources and strategies for parents/caregivers, to be uploaded on the Enabling Guide. ECDA and SG Enable will also collectively explore ways to raise awareness of the Enabling Guide among parents/caregivers.
ECDA will also develop a version of the ‘Professional Practice Guidelines’ for parents.
ANNEX C CERTIFICATE IN INCLUSIVE PRACTICE (CIP)
1. The CIP aims to build on what early childhood educators learn in their pre-service training and help them acquire the skills to apply inclusive strategies to support children with varying needs in preschools. It is targeted at early childhood educators in preschools, prioritising those in preschools offering InSP and other early intervention services (i.e. DS-LS and DS-Plus programmes). The CIP will be open to all L2-certified early childhood educators who have been practicing for at least one year.
2. The 120-hour course is organised into 3 clusters with a total of 7 modules. Early childhood educators may choose to embark on the whole programme, in clusters of modules, or individual modules. Early childhood educators will have to complete the modules in the first cluster in order to embark on modules in the subsequent clusters. The early childhood educator will receive a Statement of Results (SOR) for the completion of each module, and a certificate (with transcript) on completion of all 7 modules. Taken consecutively, the educator can complete the certificate within6 to 8 months. If preferred, an educator can choose to take the modules individually over a longer period, it is still stackable towards the full Certificate.
3. The 7 modules cover 3 core areas
- Understanding learning differences in children and how to create a suitable learning environment for inclusive practice;
- Skillsets in differentiated learning as well as classroom and behaviour management; and
- Collaborating with the family and professionals as well as shaping an inclusive practice in the preschool.
ANNEX D COMPOSITION OF IPWG
|Ms Sun Xueling||Minister of State, Ministry of Social and Family Development & Education|
|A/P Kenneth Poon||Associate Dean (Education Research), National Institute of Education (NIE)|
|A/P Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim||Former-Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Social and Family Development & Education|
|Ms Ng Mie Ling||Assistant Chief Executive, ECDA|
|Ms Lim Yi Jia||Director, Disability Office, MSF|
|Ms Lynn Koh||Director, Early Intervention, ECDA|
|Ms Cynthia Leow||Director, Policy & Sector Funding 1, ECDA|
|Ms Vivienne Ng||Chief Psychologist, MSF|
|Dr Mariam Aljunied||Principal Educational Psychologist, MOE|
|Ms Geraldine See||Director, Preschool Education, MOE|
|Mrs Loke-Yeo Teck Yong||Director, NIEC|
|Dr Mary Daniel||Head, Department of Child Development, KKH|
|Preschool Sector and Early Intervention Sector Partners|
|Mr J.R. Karthikeyan||CEO, AWWA|
|Sr Theresa Seow|
ANNEX E: ABOUT SINGAPORE TOGETHER
Singapore Together is about the Government working with Singaporeans, and Singaporeans working with one another, to build our future Singapore. The Government will open up more partnership opportunities for Singaporeans to participate. The Government also hopes to support more citizen-led efforts. Whatever our background or interests, we can each step forward to contribute in areas that we care about. By working together, we can turn diversity into strength and transform challenges into opportunities, to build a Singapore that present and future generations of Singaporeans will be proud of. For more information, visit www.singaporetogether.gov.sg.