Mr Dennis Tan Lip FongNon-Constituency Member of Parliament
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what are the specific steps that the Government is taking to recruit 3,000 pre-school teachers by 2020; and (b) considering that less than 1 per cent of pre-school educators are men, whether there are plans put in place to recruit more men into this sector.
1. The Government has been investing in the early childhood sector to provide families with access to affordable and quality preschool. To support the expansion of the preschool sector, we have put in place measures to attract more people, both men and women, to join this sector. At present, there are around 18,000 preschool educators in the sector. We will closely monitor our efforts to grow the sector as we aim to meet our targets.
2. To attract more post-secondary students, the newly established National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) plans to admit about 700 students to their new Diploma in Early Childhood Development and Education programme for Academic Year 2019, which is double the intake in 2015. The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) also offers Training Awards to encourage students to pursue Early Childhood courses at the NIEC and the Singapore University of Social Sciences. These Awards provide students with full sponsorship of their course fees, learning resource grants, professional development grant, monthly study allowances and professional networking opportunities, and that is pre-employment efforts. Now I move on to mid-career transitions.
3. To attract more mid-career entrants, we have rolled out the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Preschool Teachers and the Place-and-Train Programme (PnT) for Educarers. People who are looking to switch careers or re-enter the workforce can apply for these programmes, and can earn a salary while undergoing a mix of on-the-job coaching and classroom-based teaching or training. To facilitate their entry to the sector, the Government provides subsidies for the training courses and salaries. I move on to skills pathways.
4. To provide greater clarity on the career pathways and opportunities for Early Childhood professionals, ECDA, with industry partners, had introduced the Skills Framework for the Early Childhood Sector. This is supported by moves to retain and support in-service professionals to deepen their skill competencies, such as Professional Development Programmes (PDPs) and the ECDA Fellows Programme. ECDA has also been working with Anchor Operators to enhance the career prospects for their educators by creating 1,000 more senior professional positions by 2022.
5. Apart from manpower programmes, we have been working with industry partners to streamline work processes and reduce educators' administrative workload under the Industry Transformation Map (ITM).
6. More recently, ECDA rolled out a National Campaign for the Early Childhood Sector to create greater awareness of the sector and career opportunities, and to foster greater respect and recognition of the profession.
7. Through these efforts, we have seen more people, including men, who are interested to join the sector today.
8. Over the last five years, the intake of mid-career entrants enrolled in professional early childhood certificate or diploma courses have increased by more than 70 per cent. The intake sizes of Pre-Employment Training students for similar courses have also increased by two times, with the proportion of men enrolled in the diploma courses doubling.
9. In tandem with the expansion of the sector, salaries for early childhood professionals have been rising steadily. Based on ECDA's 2016 survey, basic salaries for educarers with a professional Certificate range from about $1,800 to $2,100 per month, salaries for teachers with a professional teaching Diploma range from $2,200 to $3,000, and salaries for principals with a professional leadership Diploma range from $3,100 to $6,000. These salaries have increased by about 15 per cent since the previous survey in 2013, outpacing that of the general market for similar job sizes which grew by about 8 per cent over the same period. Also, based on the 2017 Polytechnic Graduate Employment Survey, the starting salaries of full-time early childhood Diploma fresh graduates have increased by about 20 per cent to $2,300 since 2013. ECDA expects salary growth for early childhood educators to continue to outpace that of the general market.
10. ECDA will continue to work with NIEC and other partners to create more progression opportunities and areas of specialisation, such as in Mother Tongue Language teaching, Learning Support and Early Intervention, and Outdoor Learning. Some of these areas, such as Outdoor Learning, provide scope to attract more men to the sector, which at this point in time is a very low proportion.
11. Together with its partners, ECDA will press on to uplift the early childhood profession, and ensure that the preschool sector provides rewarding and meaningful careers.