This article was written in partnership with NTUC Enterprise. All views expressed in the article are the independent opinion of DollarsAndSense.sg
Singapore’ emphasis on education have always been well reflected in government policies as well as in the behaviour of Singaporean parents. Parents tend to (rightly) place a high priority on their children’s education, whether it is in the form of nagging or sending their kids to all manner of tuition and enrichment classes.
The Importance Of Pre-School Education
One area that should get equal, if not more, attention is the early childhood years (ages 3 to 6). Research has shown that the early childhood years are critical for a child’s future development. These formative years play an important role for a child’s emotional, physical and social development, forming the foundation for their lifelong education and success in life.
In his National Day Rally 2017 speech, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had stressed the importance of pre-school education, saying that pre-schools for children aged two months to six years are important in giving them “a good start and the best chance to succeed in life”.
He said, “We must do this because every child counts. If we get this right, we will foster social mobility, and sustain a fair and just society.” With that, the government will be investing a substantial amount of money to better support pre-school sector.
A child’s early years play an important role for a their emotional, physical and social development.
Debunking Common Misconceptions About Pre-School Education
Appreciating the importance of pre-school education would require us to challenge prevalent misconceptions on two opposite extremes. These extremes lead to the misconceptions that 1) parents choose to send their little ones to pre-school because it’s cheaper than having to hire a full-time nanny, or for one parent to stay at home and 2) the more expensive a pre-school is, the better it must be.
To avoid the first extreme, parents should not think of pre-schools as merely a childcare service where they send their little ones to when they have no other alternatives for people whom they trust to watch over their children during the day.
Even if there are grandparents or a domestic helper who can care for the child during the day, it should not be a reason not to send your child to pre-school and benefit from the carefully crafted curriculum and wide range of educational resources available. In fact, many parents who have such daycare options at home also choose to send their little ones to pre-school. This should debunk the myth that pre-school is merely a childcare service.
Interaction with other children of their age strengthens their interpersonal skills, which will be beneficial when they transition to Primary School.
Even if one of the parents is a homemaker, there is still immense value in allowing their child to attend pre-school to interact with other children of their age, strengthening their interpersonal skills among people who are not their parents. This exposure will come in handy as they continue to grow and transit to primary school.
The other extreme we need to avoid is thinking about pre-school as a “boot camp” where parents can “outsource” the education and learning of their children to, without having to do it themselves. This may even lead to the dangerous thinking that the more expensive a pre-school is, the better an education it provides.
Instead of leaving a child’s education solely to preschool, parents and educators are partners in the effort to foster a child’s development. Whatever lessons and activities the child has gone through during the day can be reinforced at home when parents take an active participation in their child’s education, giving positive encouragement to their child. This provides a holistic learning environment for the child, both at home and in school.
Having better pre-school outcomes then, isn’t a matter of just paying as much as parents can afford and leaving things in the hands of professionals, but for parents to play an active role in supplementing and complementing whatever is taught in school.
What To Look For In A Pre-School?
An example of a quality pre-school that looks at a child’s holistic development is NTUC My First Skool. With its network of more than 120 pre-schools all around the island, NTUC My First Skool has the potential to make a wider impact beyond its own pre-schools and raise the quality of the whole pre-school sector, which is made up of about 500 kindergartens.
Based on research conducted by their very own curriculum development teams, NTUC My First Skool implements a relationship-based curriculum that stems from their conviction that a strong, positive relationship between the educator and child is instrumental in fostering a child’s well-being and active involvement.
A strong, positive relationship between an educator and learner is key to foster a child’s well-being and interest to learn.
This is done through having a student-focused learning experience. For instance, it lets the child’s interest and curiosity determine what lessons or activities are carried out, rather than having a fixed syllabus that is forced on the child. The curriculum places an emphasis on the interaction between young children and their teachers. This child-initiated approach fosters learning based on interest, allowing children to make choices among carefully planned curriculum activities.
A student-focused approach means that the child’s interests dictate what lessons and activities are carried out.
This philosophy, combined with its PETAL framework, where a combination of Playing, Exploring, Thinking and Applied Learning provides a learning experience that maximises the potential of a child during their formative years. Many of the activities conducted during lessons are deliberately crafted to be relatable to daily life, so that children can continue to learn and be curious about the world around them, even while they are at home or out with their parents.
NTUC My First Skool implements the PETAL framework to provides a holistic learning experience that maximises the potential of each child.
By using everyday items in activities, NTUC My First Skool students can continue to learn and be curious about the world around them even when they are at home.
Pre-Schools For Every Child
A lot of effort has been put in to ensure that every pre-school in Singapore provides a quality education for every child, regardless of background.
Furthermore, individual pre-school operators like PCF Sparkletots , NTUC My First Skool and MOE Kindergartens have additional financial assistance for lower income parents. As a social enterprise, NTUC First Skool also aims to set aside at least 15% of its places for lower income households.
These aids are important to ensure that no parent is unable or discouraged from sending their child to a pre-school because of cost. As with education at all levels, nobody in Singapore should be denied an opportunity to learn if they choose to.
Early Experiences Matter
In line with the focus on parent partnership, NTUC My First Skool has published a book titled “Early Experiences Matter”. It contains ideas for activities that parents can do with their child at home, encouraging curiosity about the world and a love of learning while bonding as a family. Many of these activities contained in the book are also conducted in NTUC My First Skool outlets and have proven to be popular among children.
The “Early Experiences Matter” book is not for sale, but is distributed as part of the NTUC Good Start Bundle. The NTUC Good Start Bundle is an initiative by NTUC and its social enterprises to benefit parents and their newborns. This free bundle contains essentials and perks that will help give every child the good start they deserve.
One of these perks is Toddlers’ Thursdays, which gives complimentary access to eXplorerkid at Downtown East and AMK Hub for one child (3 years and below) and one adult, every first Thursday of the month. You and your child can also enjoy complimentary entry to The Little Skool-House Early Literacy Centre. Specially designed by early childhood education specialists, the centre features interactive learning zones that allow children to discover the wonders of languages and literacy.
You can visit the NTUC Good Start Bundle website for terms and conditions, and to sign-up today to start enjoying this thoughtful bundle that NTUC’s social enterprises have put together to support you and your growing child in this exciting phase of life.
The NTUC Good Start Bundle is part of NTUC’s continuing efforts to help Singaporeans in their everyday lives through providing affordable yet high products and services, through their network of social enterprises.