Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. I am delighted to be here today to launch the NTUC First Campus’ Development Support Specialist Programme.
I am heartened to see that NTUC First Campus shares our vision to give every child a good start in life, and thus, we see that NTUC First Campus has initiated the Development Support Specialist Programme. This is at various My First Skool centres to provide additional support for children with developmental needs within a mainstream classroom environment.
One unique feature of NTUC First Campus’ programme is to have Development Support Specialists, who are early childhood trained and have the necessary qualifications, work closely with other early childhood educators to help children with developmental needs integrate with others in the classroom. We see children with developmental needs learning and playing alongside other children in the classroom. The early childhood educators will be continuously upskilled through a series of social emotional behavioural training modules to provide children with developmental needs and their parents with the appropriate support.
We know that children learn many of their life lessons early in their life journeys. Our children in our early childhood centres – they learn how to treat each other with respect, with dignity, regardless of how they may be differently abled. Obviously, our early childhood educators play a very important role in this process. What the teachers say and how the teachers guide the students, all these have extremely important, long-term impact on how the children view their peers.
Thus far, 60 children and 50 educators have participated in the pilot programme, and the results have been encouraging. We currently have about 500 children in this centre, of which 16 children are under the Development Support Specialist Programme. I would like to cite one particular example. We have the Development Support Specialist from this My First Skool centre working closely with an educator to support a four-year-old N2 child since January this year. We will be meeting the child later. She had difficulty with walking and maintaining an upright position due to developmental delay in her motor skills. Today, the child is observed to be growing in her fine motor skills and able to understand short instructions. Her educator is also more confident and equipped to support her development in class.
Every child matters. I’m sure that all of us in this centre, in this room – when we hear of a child growing up strong and independent under the support of the peers around her, I think we are immensely gratified to hear such examples.
Besides supporting children with developmental needs, this programme creates opportunities for typically developing children to build their social skills as well as foster mutual understanding, acceptance of diversity and empathy towards others from a young age.
I have been to many early childhood centres. It is extremely heartening to see how our children, from a young age, learn to help each other. Our children are kind by nature. Sometimes, they just need to be reminded. When they are at play, sometimes they want to compete with each other. They forget that children around them may be differently abled.
This is where educators come in to remind them and unleash the goodness in every child. All these lessons will be embedded deep in their memories. When they become adults, they will remember that ‘this is what I was taught in class, and this is what I will continue to do as an adult in our society.’
The Development Support Specialist programme will complement ECDA’s efforts to make our preschools more inclusive and better support children with developmental needs in the preschool setting. Over the next 2 years, we will be adding 1,400 more places to support children with developmental needs. We will serve 80% of children with developmental needs requiring medium to high levels of early intervention support by 2027, up from 60% today.
ECDA will also be implementing the Inclusive Support Programme in more preschools from 2026 and continue the expansion of the Development Support - Learning Support programme to cover 80% of preschoolers aged 5 to 6.
Allow me to conclude, by congratulating NTUC First Campus on the launch of this programme. I am confident that this will enable better learning outcomes for all our children. Together, let us make our preschools more inclusive and take the important steps towards making our society kinder, more gracious, and more inclusive.