When it begins operating in 2019, the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) will cater to about 60 per cent of trainee pre-school teachers, making it a major player in offering such training.
This is because the new institute will consolidate the early childhood programmes now offered by the Institute of Technical Education, Ngee Ann and Temasek polytechnics, and the Seed Institute.
Newly-appointed director Loke- Yeo Teck Yong, 50, said bringing the four training institutes under one umbrella will create critical mass that can allow it to respond quickly to the sector's needs.
"With this consolidation of the faculty, there is more scope (for) specialisation," said Mrs Loke, who is currently the Ministry of Education's divisional director of education services. For example, training in niche areas, such as special education needs and mother tongue languages, could be strengthened.
Courses will continue to be run at the four institutes when NIEC accepts its first intake, expected to exceed 2,000. But students from the different locations will be brought together regularly.
In his address at the National Day Rally on Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke about the need to raise salaries and attract more talent to the sector. The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) said last year that about 4,000 more pre-school educators are needed by 2020, to add to the current pool of 16,000.
While the Singapore University of Social Sciences offers a degree programme in early childhood education, NIEC will offer certificate and diploma-level training courses for post-secondary students, and continuing education and training courses for those who made mid-career switches and pre-school educators.
Diploma holders make up the majority of the 4,000 educators needed, said the ECDA.
NIEC trainees can also take up a training award, which will cover their school fees and provide an allowance in exchange for them serving a bond of one to three years in the early childhood sector.
Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng told reporters yesterday that much work needs to be done on career pathways for teachers and improving their salaries, and it is a crucial first step to raise standards in professional development and the quality of early childhood education training.
Mrs Loke noted that the current training system, which includes three other ECDA-accredited training providers besides those under NIEC, provides for an adequate number of trained professionals. But setting up the NIEC will make it more nimble and responsive to change.