Candidates who have the aptitude to work with children can apply early for full-time early childhood education courses offered by Ngee Ann (NP) and Temasek (TP) polytechnics.
They are offering more than 300 places in three such diploma programmes, in an Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) starting tomorrow.
The EAE, which began this year, allows students to secure a place in a diploma course of their choice even before they sit the O-level exams. It caters to students with abilities and interests in a specific course, as well as those with talent in other areas such as sports and community service.
Up to 12.5 per cent of the polytechnic intake can be admitted through this scheme, which replaces the Direct Polytechnic Admissions (DPA) exercise, and folds in the Joint Polytechnic Special Admissions Exercise (JPSAE).
To meet the demand for trained pre-school teachers, the polytechnics have been expanding their full-time early childhood education courses - taking in a record 590 students this year, a 74 per cent increase from last year.
Of these, 265 were admitted through the DPA or JPSAE. They plan to take up to 680 next year.
NP offers the Diploma in Early Childhood Education and the Diploma in Child Psychology and Early Education. TP offers the Diploma in Early Childhood Studies.
NP principal Clarence Ti said in a joint statement yesterday the polytechnics "hope to see more students who have the aptitude and interest in early childhood education be given priority in gaining admission to courses in this field" through the EAE.
Mr Ang Teck Hua, director of TP's Centre for Child Study, said: "In our selection process, applicants would have an opportunity to observe unobtrusively the working environment of TP's laboratory preschool."
This gives applicants a better appreciation of what the early childhood profession entails, he added.
Instead of one-to-one interviews, assessment of applicants will be based on their participation in group interviews and activities to gauge how suitable they are for working with children.
EAE applications will close next Wednesday and shortlisted candidates will be required to go for interviews from July 4 to Aug 16.
The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) is also supporting successful EAE applicants, who will automatically be offered a Training Award (TA).
Prior to last year, students had to apply separately for the award, which is worth up to $40,000 for a three-year course, and includes full sponsorship of tuition and an $800 monthly allowance.
ECDA has set aside more than $10 million over the next three years to sponsor the award, which can be taken up by students in any of their three years of study.
Each year of sponsorship comes with a corresponding year of service to the early childhood sector.
Mr Eugene Leong, ECDA's chief executive officer, said: "The early childhood sector has seen rapid expansion in recent years. This presents many rewarding and meaningful opportunities for students to play a direct role in giving every child a good start in life.
"ECDA is happy to collaborate with our polytechnics to support our TA recipients and help them prepare for successful careers as early childhood professionals."