Saving our children’s future
A local study was conducted recently by philanthropic group the Lien Foundation in a bid to improve the overall quality of Singapore’s preschool education
The study drew upon the views of 27 top professionals from a range of disciplines in the preschool sector and examined the key challenges facing the sector and provides a ground-up perspective of solutions for improvements.
Their recommendations include:
- Recognizing preschool education as an essential part of Singapore’s public education and possibly providing free preschool education for children, at least up to Kindergarten 1 and 2
- Raising the status of preschool teachers by creating better career prospects and establishing a national pay scale that will match those of mainstream teacher
- Forming a lead government ministry with the sole focus of overseeing and regulating the preschool sector
The recommendations come a month after a global survey released by the same organisation ranked Singapore’s preschool sector 29th out of 45 countries on its overall quality of early education.
Should preschool education be free?
71% of the participants felt there should be free preschool education for all children, at least for those in Kindergarten 1 and 2.
Dr Lynn Ang, Senior Lecturer, Early Childhood University of East London, shared that it is during these formative years, from birth to preschool age that the foundations are laid for children’s subsequent success and achievement, and yet the preschool sector is not supported by the government.
The preschool sector here is 100-per-cent privatised and the fees ranges from $100 to $2000, which means that parents who are financially able can purchase better quality education, while those with lower income are left with fewer choices.
Dr Ang added, “There is overwhelming evidence shown from a global research conducted recently that quality preschool experience can make a positive difference to a child’s overall well-being especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds such as low-income families.”
To address the concern of uneven quality, equity and affordability currently present in the sector, the government needs to look at early childhood services as a “necessary public good,” and increase funding for the sector to level the gaps and achieve an inclusive society.
By doing so, it will provide all young children in Singapore the best possible chance in life to grow up into happy, healthy, confident and successful individuals.
As Lien Foundation's CEO, Lee Poh Wah puts it, “Education system is the only way to generate a future for a country so quality schools including preschools are the real engines to transport us to the future.”
Preschool teachers are not second class teachers
60% of the participants considered the quality and well-being of teachers in the industry as a top concern. High turnover rate, low pay and the low status of the profession are major bugbears plaguing the sector. Mr Lee shared the salaries pulled in by preschool teachers:
"According to the Ministry of Manpower labour report, the median pay for preschool teachers last year is S$1,840, and those at the 75 percentile earn S$2,040 - which means to say, 75 per cent of them earn S$2,040 or less.”
"The increment from median to 75 percentile is only S$200. That gives you a view in terms of the dismal pay progression."
One of the recommendations given to address this concern was to explore ways to progressively raise the salaries of preschool teachers and establish a national pay scale that will match those of mainstream teachers.
How can parents play a part?
Parents are children’s first and life-long teachers and thus there is a need to include parents and families as an integral part of preschool education. Providing various parental outreach programmes can bolster the outcomes of early childhood education. When parents are well supported and equipped with the right skills and information to care for their children, they can better help them achieve their potential.