Dedicated scheme for trainees

St James' Church Kindergarten teacher Stephanie Soo guiding her Nursery 2 pupils in basic pronunciation during an English lesson. The 21-year-old, who benefited from the dedicated practicum programme for trainee pre-school teachers and joined the kin
St James' Church Kindergarten teacher Stephanie Soo guiding her Nursery 2 pupils in basic pronunciation during an English lesson. The 21-year-old, who benefited from the dedicated practicum programme for trainee pre-school teachers and joined the kindergarten full time last June, said the mentoring was "very focused and detailed".ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

When it comes to the practical training of pre-school teachers, one problem is that trainees often do not get the attention they need at busy pre-schools.

To plug the gap, a dedicated practicum programme - which provides practical training and has staff whose main role is to guide trainee pre-school teachers - has been expanded to more locations.

The programme was launched by St James' Church Kindergarten (SJCK) and philanthropic house Lien Foundation in 2014, and is offered at the kindergarten's Harding Road campus. The specialised staff are called "mentor supervisors", and there are now three of them. The programme was extended to SJCK's Gilstead Road campus last year, and will be rolled out at its Leedon Road campus next year.

So far, more than 120 trainee teachers, mostly diploma students, have been through the programme.

Mentor supervisor Nancy Choon, who assessed trainee teachers during their practicum at other pre-schools from 2013 to 2015, said: "Some trainees felt their practicum experiences were quite hurried. Usually, their mentors are principals or educators who are held up with administrative work and day- to-day operations."

At the SJCK centre, about 60 per cent of a trainee's practicum experience involves teaching or assisting teachers. The rest of the time is spent on activities such as sessions in which mentor supervisors observe lessons with trainees, and discussions on practicum assignments or topics like classroom management.

Dr Sirene Lim, the academic lead of the early childhood education programme at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, said: "This structure is better than having educators who have a heavy workload and still need to multi-task and find time to speak with student teachers."

Ms Stephanie Soo, 21, benefited from the practicum scheme and joined SJCK full time last June. She said: "The mentoring was very focused and detailed. If I had questions, I wasn't afraid to ask as I was confident that my mentor supervisors had the time to help me."

Priscilla Goy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2017, with the headline 'Dedicated scheme for trainees'. Print Edition | Subscribe