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Welcome Remarks by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for Health, at ECDA Scholarships and Training Awards Presentation Ceremony on Tuesday, 11 October

Type: Official Speeches: Masagos Zulkifli

Topic(s): Children & Families


To our ECDA Scholarship and Training Award recipients, centre leaders, teachers, parents,and distinguished guests, a very good afternoon to all of you! I am happy to be here in person at this year’s ECDA Scholarships and Training Awards Presentation Ceremony.

Early childhood (EC) educators play a key role in providing a good start for every child. During the pandemic, we witnessed the fortitude and resilience of our educators. You provided essential preschool services to families despite many challenges. Supporting parents who are in essential and front-line roles, especially during Circuit Breaker. You also found innovative ways to continue providing quality care and education for our children despite the rapidly changing situation. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our educators for their exemplary efforts. You are role models to our aspiring EC educators.

In his Forward Singapore speech on the Care Pillar yesterday, DPM Wong reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to support families, which is a key pillar in our social compact. DPM noted that the Government has stepped up investments in the preschool sector and will increase its funding support to make childcare even more affordable for young families.

2. Educators are at the heart of quality preschool education for our children. Over the years, ECDA has rolled out a range of initiatives to improve the well-being of educators. For example, ECDA has been working closely with partners and operators, including the Health Promotion Board, and the Workplace Safety and Health Council to support educators’ well-being and improve HR practices and working conditions in our preschools. Many preschools are also leveraging the Industry Digital Plan and Early Childhood Digitalisation Grant launched by ECDA to streamline work processes and increase workplace productivity. As part of the Forward Singapore exercise, the Government will engage our EC partners, operators, and educators to explore further ways to improve our educators’ work environment.

Commitment towards a rewarding EC career

3. EC educators undergo extensive training before they join the EC sector. And continue to build up their skills and hone their expertise in working with children as EC professionals. The Government recognises that EC educators are now entrusted with larger responsibilities and possess deeper skillsets. We will do more to ensure salaries of educators are commensurate with your contributions, and professional skills. We have to remain competitive to attract and retain talent and have plans to enhance the salaries of preschool educators in government-supported preschools. We expect to complete this review by the end of this year and will announce details soon.

4. The Government will also continue to support your professional growth and career aspirations at every stage.

5. Our educators can aspire towards job roles within several progression pathways and work to deepen their competencies accordingly. These are the five career pathways in Infant, Early Years, Preschool, Learning Support and EarlyIntervention in the refreshed Skills Framework that was launched at the EarlyChildhood Conference in October last year.

6. The Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Roadmap lays out the opportunities for our educators to enhance their skills and competencies, strengthening their expertise and supporting their professional development. Our Institutions of Higher Learning (IHLs) such as the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC), National Institute of Education (NIE), and training partners offer a wide range of courses that cater to different roles and varying levels of experience.

7. We are also equipping leaders in the EC sector. The Leadership Development Framework (LDF) guides centre leaders and those with leadership potential, strengthening their competencies in areas, such as curriculum, pedagogy, and strategic and administrative leadership. ECDA has worked with NIEC to update the Advanced Diploma in Early Childhood Centre Leadership (ADECL), aligning it with the LDF. The first intake for this revised ADECL will take place in April 2023.

8. Our educators also need strong pedagogical skills. Through initiatives such as the Professional Development Programmes (PDP) and the new Early Childhood Learning Communities (ECLC), there are many opportunities for peer sharing of pedagogical knowledge and practices among our educators. And professional development.

Continuous journey of development and growth

9. The professional development journey for EC educators is a continuous one. I am glad that many recognise this and are committed to this journey. The field of early childhood development is ever-changing, and I encourage all of you to tap into the wide literature available to keep abreast of trends and make use of the research insights in your practices.

a. For example, local research studies like the Singapore Longitudinal Early Development Study, or SG LEADS, have demonstrated that the delay of gratification is an important predictor of the child’s developmental outcomes later in life. Many EC educators have implemented strategies to help children develop self-regulation skills in their classrooms, while working with parents to reinforce such routines at home. For example, family activities like cooking or baking teach our children to be patient and wait for the final result. Encouraging our children to save money to buy a favourite toy help them set goals and learn about budgeting.

b. Another study from the Growing Up in Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes, or GUSTO for short, found that poor eating behaviours in children’s early years, such as eating larger portions, eating faster, and eating in the absence of hunger, are associated with greater risk of childhood obesity. Educators can guide children in making healthier food choices and consuming their food more mindfully during mealtimes, as well as suggest ways for parents to reinforce such healthy eating habits in their children at home.

10. These are just two findings from two studies with very rich insights. I encourage preschools and educators to be open to useful research and to tap on them to support your professional development and the development of our children.

Supporting the career aspirations of our in-service and pre-service educators

11. The Scholarships and Training Awards are part of ECDA’s support for in-service and aspiring educators. Since 2015, we have endowed more than 180Scholarships and 2,700 Training Awards totalling $86 million.

12. Today, among us are 251 Training Award recipients, 14 ECDA Training Award CommendationAward recipients and 12 ECDA Scholarship recipients.Congratulations to all of you! These Awards are a recognition of your efforts. And to enable you to pursue excellence in the early childhood sector.

13. I am glad that many of our recipients continue to do well in the sector and have advanced professionally. One such recipient is our ECDA Scholar, Ms Nurlisha D/O Muhammed Ali.

14. Nurlisha started out in the IT sector, but soon found her calling in early childhood. She embarked on her EC journey in 2011 with an Advanced Diploma in Kindergarten Education. She is a passionate practitioner who seeks out and participates actively in CPD courses to deepen her skills and competencies in working with children, while preparing herself for larger job roles. In 12 years, she rose through the ranks and is now a vice-principal at her preschool. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education at SUSS, Nurlisha is working towards becoming a curriculum specialist and mentor to other EC educators.

15. Let me also share the journey of Ms Rachel Khoo, a two-time TA Commendation Award recipient.

16. Rachel completed her Diploma in Early Childhood Studies from NIEC-Temasek Poly and was awarded the Training Award in 2017. Thereafter Rachel took up a second Training Award for her Bachelor of Early Childhood Education at SUSS, where she graduated among the top 10% in 2021. An eager learner, Rachel immersed herself in different learning environments via relief teacher stints and community projects during her degree studies. These enabled her to interact with children of different ages and learn classroom management strategies specific to each group. Rachel aspires to become a senior teacher in the next few years.

Through these stories, I hope each of you will be inspired to put your best foot forward, be it during your studies or when you start out in the sector as a newly minted educator. As Nurlisha says, “They (the children) may forget what you said, but they will not forget how you made them feel. Every little thing we do as an educator will leave an impact in their life journey. Though our day might have a mix of challenges and joy, it is all worth it if it brings a smile on the child’s face.” To all our Scholarships and Training Awards recipients this year, may you develop professionally and soar to greater heights.

Conclusion

17. I would like to commend EC educators once again for your efforts in providing quality care and education for our children. Through your efforts, you support families, the bedrock of our society. When EC educators provide care and education for children, including children from more disadvantaged backgrounds, they help to uplift families. Through their efforts, working parents are assured that their children are well-taken care of. And when preschools partner with parents to support families and children amidst challenges that they face, they support the strengthening of families. Together – EC educators, parents, the community, and the Government – we build a Singapore that is Made for Families.

18. My heartiest congratulations to our Scholarship and Training Award recipients. I wish you the very best in your journey ahead!

19. Thank you.