Temasek Polytechnic's kindergarten helps early childhood students gain hands-on experience

SINGAPORE - At Temasek Polytechnic, students can simultaneously do research into early childhood development and also teach pre-schoolers at an "experimental kindergarten".

The room, located in the East Wing of the polytechnic, is decked out like a typical kindergarten with toys and learning materials. However, it also has "technological toys", such as blocks with barcodes on them that the children can scan as part of their learning.

The children also play with LED light stickers and robotics. They decorate mini-lion robots that move in a way that mimics a lion-dance performance.

The Preschool Learning Academy, or Play@TP, has classes of up to 20 children. Each class is taught by two teachers. The kindergarten is open from 7am to 7pm, Mondays to Fridays.

Ms Fiona Yow, 31, the principal of the kindergarten, said: "Usually, pre-schools use a thematic approach, which is when teachers base their lessons around a chosen theme such as animals. But in Play, we use an inquiry-based approach where teachers see what the students are interested in and go from there."

The kindergarten does not just benefit the children, but the students at Temasek Polytechnic's Early Childhood Studies course too. One of the kindergarten teachers is Mr Danial Ayub Mansul, 19, a student-intern who is engaged in research for his final-year project.

"I learnt a lot here," he said. "It's very beneficial for us to apply our knowledge in our polytechnic courses in the kindergarten with children in real life." He is researching the use of technological toys in early childhood learning, by watching how the children interact with the robots they are given.

This is part of Temasek Polytechnic's customised curriculum, providing new opportunities for the 200 students who are enrolled per cohort in the early childhood education course.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who visited the polytechnic on Thursday (July 13), said that he was glad to see the changes in polytechnics that help broaden the students' education.

"Because of the changing nature of the workforce, the education for students needs to be more industry-specific and relevant to the workplace," he said.

Another notch for the polytechnic is its Temasek Advanced Learning, Nurturing and Testing Lab, which gives students the chance to simulate cyber attacks. Senior students studying cyber security and digital forensics have begun using the lab since the new academic year started in April 2017.

The lab was set up in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs. It offers training in cyber-crime detection, analysis, investigation and evidence preservation. It also gives students a safe and controlled environment to hone skills that will be needed in criminal investigations.

Dr Tan said: "There is a growing need in Singapore in the field of cyber security. It has been estimated that there will be 4,000 to 5,000 new jobs in the field in the coming years.

"We have seen or read about various types of attacks on companies, software and computers. The field keeps on advancing. We have to develop our own professionals who are capable."