SINGAPORE: Minister of State for Education, Lawrence Wong, said the ministry is looking into recommendations on how to improve the pre—school sector in Singapore.
The recommendations were made recently by a group of experts.
The report was commissioned by philanthropic organisation Lien Foundation.
It’s the first time the Pacific Early Childhood Education Research Association is holding its annual forum in Singapore.
Attended by nearly 500 participants from 17 countries, the forum is a platform for educators and researchers to discuss ways to improve early childhood education.
Mr Wong said the ministry is doing more to raise the quality of pre—school especially since it is attended by almost 99 per cent of Primary 1 going children.
"As we go about doing so, we are very mindful that pre—school should not be an extension of formalised schooling for our young children. A quality pre—school education is not about cramming maximum knowledge into a young child’s mind.
"It is also not about enrolling into multiple kindergartens as some have reported in the newspapers recently.
"Rather, it is about instilling in our children a sense of curiosity and creativity — abilities that are even more important for learning in the long term."
But according to most educators, the greatest challenge in improving pre—school education is in getting good quality teachers.
The Lien Foundation report has proposed improving the image of pre—school teachers by raising their salary.
But there could be other concerns.
Dr Nirmala Karuppiah, lecturer, Early Childhood & Special Needs Education, said: "There’s always this comparison between pre—school teachers and mainstream teachers so I believe we need to look at that and respond to that. But because the early childhood teachers come from the private sector, it’s a little tricky, and I think we need to look at how we can do this without increasing the fees for early childhood services."
Providing free pre—school education is another recommendation.
While many educators agree with the principle of doing so, they cite possible challenges.
Magdaline Kang, principal, PAP Community Foundation Tanjong Pagar—Tiong Bahru Education Centre, said: "If you just give them free (education), some of them may say, just register in a kindergarten, and then they don’t attend, and then the fund will be misused."
The relevant ministries will consider feedback from stakeholders for their review to finetune the policies and programmes for the pre—school sector.
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