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Speech by Minister of State Sun Xueling at Early Childhood Celebrations and Conference 2023 (Day 2)

Type: Official Speeches: Sun Xueling, Official Speeches (All), All

Topic(s): Children & Families, Financial Assistance & Social Support, All


Good morning everyone,
Minister of State Gan Siow Huang,
Chief Executive of ECDA Tan Chee Wee, 
Colleagues,
Educators, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

  1. I am extremely happy to be here at the Early Childhood Celebrations and Conference. This bi-annual milestone event is one where the early childhood (EC) fraternity comes together, to learn from and be inspired from one another. I thank all our educators for your tireless efforts in teaching and caring for our children.
  1. I hope everyone has had a fruitful time learning from various keynote speeches and workshops yesterday. Today, we are gathered to celebrate your contributions and your achievements.  We are happy to present the ECDA Awards and SPARK certificates, and also commemorate the Start Small, Dream Big (SSDB) finale. 

Celebrating Progress of the Sector

  1. All of us know that our EC sector has made tremendous progress and all of this could not have happened without each and every one of you. As educators, you have done well, dedicating your time and energy every day in caring for our children and enabling them to thrive in a conducive learning environment. 
  1. We have significantly expanded access to affordable and quality preschools: 

    a. We have more than doubled the number of full-day places over the past decade. As a result of that, more children are attending preschool. 

    The proportion of Singaporean children aged 3 to 6 enrolled in preschool has increased significantly over the decade, from 85% in 2013 to almost 95% in 2022. 

    b. We have also improved affordability through fee caps at government-supported preschools and preschool subsidies. Despite the rising cost of preschool services, industry median fees for full-day childcare today have remained similar to those ten years ago in 2013.

    c. To improve the quality of our preschool programmes, ECDA and MOE have updated curriculum frameworks, such as the Nurturing Early Learners (NEL) framework in 2022, and the revised Early Years Development Framework (EYDF), which was launched yesterday. When you have the chance to visit the exhibition later, you can scan the QR codes and learn more about these frameworks.

    Over the years, we have also launched several initiatives to promote our educators’ professional development, such as the ECDA Training Awards to support studies in early childhood, and most recently, the Early Childhood Learning Community to support educators keen on becoming pedagogical leaders.
  1. We have also made good progress in uplifting children who require additional support.

    a. We had announced the Inclusive Support Programme which was piloted in 2021. 

    By end-2023, every preschool will appoint an Inclusion Coordinator (ICO) to identify children with potential developmental needs and to connect parents and teachers with appropriate Early Intervention (EI) support or resources. 

    b. For children from lower-income families, we have programmes such as KidSTART. Yesterday, DPM Lawrence Wong unveiled the Forward SG report. Uplifting, empowering and supporting lower-income families is a key pillar of the exercise and our efforts under KidSTART will support Forward SG initiatives. 

ECDA Awards / SPARK

  1. Today, we want to appreciate our educators who have walked this path together to achieve the milestones I had mentioned earlier. We will present SPARK Certification and Commendation Certificates to 127 centres who have met or surpassed quality standards in teaching and learning, administration and management processes. Since its inception, the SPARK certification programme has played a pivotal role in encouraging preschools to go beyond basic standards. Now with more than 50% of preschools attaining SPARK Certification, it is timely for our sector to strive for ever-greater heights and to take greater charge of its own quality journey. ECDA has embarked on a review of the SPARK framework, including the assessment approach and the Quality Rating Scale, to set the directions for the next bound. We will engage the sector in this review and more details will be shared next year. 
  1. Apart from SPARK certificates, we will also present the ECDA Awards to 24 exemplary educators, principals and centres that have excelled in teaching and learning, and in their innovative practices. I would like to congratulate today’s awardees. I know that all of us will be inspired by their passion and spirit of excellence.
  1. While only some of us may take the stage today and we are all gathered to celebrate their achievements, we know that each and every one of you have inspiring stories. You teach, educate, care and nurture very young students. But everything you do – the words you use, the hugs you give them, the little things you do for them, they remember them. Our little children remember these from a very young age. When they come back from school every day, they excitedly tell their parents about what they are learning and what their teacher said to them. You are making a difference in the lives of our little children every single day. So we thank you for your commitment, selflessness and professionalism. Over the past decade, our EC workforce has more than doubled, and we know that we have to support you as you continue with your commitment and dedication to teach and care for our children. So, what are some of the initiatives we have from ECDA to better support our educators? 

    a. For example, we have been raising the professional image of our EC educators and the attractiveness of the sector so that more members of the public know about the wonderful opportunities in the early childhood sector, and we hope to attract more to join us in this journey. We also have initiatives such as the “Shape Our Tomorrow” campaign.

    b. To recognise the more complex demands on educators, salaries of EC educators and leaders in AOP preschools have increased by 20-30% on average since 2018. We had announced further salary enhancements at our celebrations last year.

    c. As part of our review of our EC educators’ working conditions, we have announced the removal of the requirement for centres to operate Saturday childcare services in 2025. At yesterday’s session, Minister Masagos had made further announcements to give more protected time for educators, for your development and your well-being!
  1. Let us continue to take care of one another, because when we take care of one another, we are better able to take care of the children under our charge.

Start Small Dream Big

  1. Along with our educators, we also wish to recognise other important partners who have contributed to our progress as a sector. The “Start Small Dream Big” (SSDB) movement exemplifies the spirit that no one is too young to contribute to the community. It is a great reminder that “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” 
  1. Under the SSDB movement, we have 1,130 preschools who have designed and implemented community service projects for 77,000 children this year. Every one of these children have made a difference to the families that they touched, and also made a difference to their own families by bringing their families to join these community initiatives. This is also a more than nine-fold increase from SSDB’s first edition in 2015.
  1. I have been very inspired by the projects under SSDB. One such project is the “By families, for families” project by Iyad Perdaus (Hougang), in collaboration with KidSTART Singapore. For example, the children and educators made delicious baked goods, for a bake drive open to the residents of the neighbourhood. The bake drive raised over $1,500 for KidSTART. Let us give a round of applause to our partner!
  1. SSDB is indeed a worthy and wonderful movement. I hear that next year will be its 10th anniversary, and we look forward to even more great years ahead. 

Conclusion

  1. In conclusion, the early childhood experience is just the beginning of a wonderful story, impacting and setting the stage for our children’s future. I thank all educators for the extraordinary work that you are doing every day and that you have done. The Government is committed to supporting you as you partner with families and the community to give every child a good start in life.
  1. I look forward to celebrating our successes and partnerships together. Congratulations once again to all ECDA Awards recipients and SPARK centres. And now, let the celebration begin!