Children attend kindergarten
SINGAPORE: Pre—schools which need help to achieve certification under the Singapore Pre—School Accreditation Framework (SPARK) can get help to do so under a new scheme launched by the Ministry of Education (MOE).
The Quality Assurance Consultancy scheme helps pre—schools review and enhance their centre structures, processes and teaching in preparation for SPARK assessment.
It’s one of the ministry’s initiatives to beef up the pre—school sector.
Pre—schools will be coached by experienced early childhood experts who will guide them in refining their processes to help them prepare for assessment.
The Quality Assurance Consultancy scheme costs S$1,250, of which 80 per cent is subsidised by MOE.
The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports also has a similar programme for operators of childcare centres.
Minister of State for Education Lawrence Wong said: "We encourage them to do it even if they are good kindergartens and have achieved all these standards. It would be useful to benchmark themselves and know where their gaps are. We therefore encourage all pre—school centres to go through this process. We will provide this Quality Assurance coaching programme for the weaker ones who need more resources and help."
Apart from curriculum, other aspects like fire safety and hygiene are equally important.
These are some areas that assessors of the framework look out for.
SPARK was launched in November 2010 to encourage pre—schools to strive for excellence.
Currently, only 69 out of about 1,500 pre—schools and childcare centres have been certified.
Mr Wong said: "We do not have such a high take up partly because of (the lack of) information. People may not be aware partly because if they’re doing well, they may not think it’s necessary to do this extra step of benchmarking. I think there are a range of pre—schools in different situations. Some may think that it’s a big hurdle to cross because they may feel that they’re not well—prepared, and some may be prepared, but they just need a little bit of pushing to do the SPARK certification process."
Capstone Kindergarten is among the first batch of pre—schools to be certified under the framework last July.
Capstone Kindergarten principal Jessica Chong said: "The accreditation exercise has flagged areas for improvement and we are definitely building and strengthening our curriculum. We want an external tool to validate our efforts and contributions in Capstone."
The ministry is also beefing up the pre—school sector by raising the quality of teachers.
MOE will offer 450 awards and scholarships for educators in kindergartens.
These include 100 new teaching awards for certificate courses, such as the Teaching of Music and Movement course conducted by Republic Polytechnic.
There will also be 40 scholarships for the new Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education degree programme offered by the Singapore Institute of Technology in collaboration with Wheelock College.
And to retain more teachers, MOE is drafting a guide on career development for kindergarten teachers. The guide is based on their strengths, interests and aspirations and teachers can focus on areas such as Teaching, Mentoring, Specialist and Leadership.
Mr Wong said: "This will be a useful guide for teachers or for anyone who is embarking on a career in the pre—school sector to better understand the career progression pathways that they can pursue within the sector. And more importantly, (to better understand) what are the different programmes and training modules that they can take up in order to pursue their aspirations along a particular pathway."
MOE is gathering feedback on the guide and is expecting to release it at the end of the year.
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