The most critical period for a child’s brain development will be during the child’s early years from infanthood to three years old. Although guidance at that age is crucial, preschool in the past may not have been too mindful of this fact and only took care of the children’s basic necessities.
However, times have changed today. With increased research and awareness, preschool have stepped up their game to cater to children’s holistic development. Mr Chan Tee Seng said That in the next three years, NTUC First Campus will be focusing $3 million on the development of children three years old and younger.
In the past five years, NTUC First Campus had already invested $3 million into initiatives focusing on children up to 3 years old. The new funds will go into aiding teachers in honing their craft of teaching and for research on early childhood. Moreover, part of the funds will also go into the production of parent resources to guide their children.
Children three ears or under make up three-quarters of the preschool’ intake for 2019. The number of children in this age group, enrolling into the preschool, has been increasing over the years. While it was only at 4,000 in 2012, the number of intakes increased to 8,000 in 2018. The number is projected to reach 16,000 in 2025.
Since quality educators are required to maintain the high standards of preschool education in Singapore, the preschool aims to employ at least one staff member with a diploma in early childhood education in their infant care centres from next year onwards.
Thus far, infant carers are qualified for the job with an advanced certificate in early years, certificate in infant/toddler care and development, and higher certificate in infant care.
This shift in employing more qualified teachers stems from the understanding that infant care does not stop at custodial care, but it also includes planning and observation. This extra mental work requires the appropriate higher training and qualification.
But better-quality staff would mean that the enrolment fees would increase and infant care is already the most expensive among the NTUC First Campus programmes due to the low staff-to-child ratio of one to five.
To add, NTUC First Campus’ researchers have partnered with Australia’s Deakin University to study 150 infants across My First Skool centres. The study, which started this year, will track the infants over three years to observe their well-being, cognitive development and their engagement in school.
On another venture starting next year, NTUC First Campus is beginning a programme focusing on health and nutrition resource development for children coming from low-income households. The preschool has 15 per cent of their enrolled children coming from families with a gross monthly household income of $3,500 or less.
NTUC First Campus will also be working on laying the foundation for mother tongue languages among infants by exposing them to Chinese, Malay or Tamil for half an hour a day. Moreover, older classes will have increased access to mother tongue classes with more preschool centres offering Malay and Tamil. From 2020, a total of 57 centres will be incorporating Malay classes and 12 centres will be having Tamil classes.
Apart from enhancing the quality of edu-carers and the curriculum, parents will also need aid in bettering their children’s early childhood development.
Since 2016, training branch of NTUC First Campus, Seed Institute, has been organising a series of parenting workshops under an initiative called Parents College.
These public workshops cover topics related to parent-child relationships, pre-literacy skills and engaging children in mother tongue languages. They have also created an app, KidzMatters, for parents with pre-schoolers to engage with age-appropriate books and activities for children and discover more on parent well-being.