First national study on parenting of young kids

The findings of the Early Childhood Development Agency study will be used to develop its public education and outreach initiatives and help equip pre-school operators with resources to help them in their work with parents. -- TNP FILE PHOTO
The findings of the Early Childhood Development Agency study will be used to develop its public education and outreach initiatives and help equip pre-school operators with resources to help them in their work with parents. -- TNP FILE PHOTO

Interviews with 3,000 parents to help fine-tune early education initiatives

Mums and dads, your views are wanted.

Officers looking into early childhood development will begin quizzing more than 3,000 parents from today, in the first national study on the parenting of children aged eight and below.

Through the study, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), which oversees the pre-school sector, hopes to improve its understanding of parenting skills here.

The agency hopes the project will help it fine-tune its education initiatives and help pre-school operators in their work.

It will cover four main areas: parents' knowledge of their children's development; their attitudes to and beliefs about parenting; their strategies in caring for children; and their use of parenting resources.

The agency told The Straits Times it aims to learn how parents' attitudes and knowledge shape the way they care for children, and the challenges they face at different stages of a child's development.

It also wants to know the resources that parents need and which information sources they turn to.

The findings will be used to develop the agency's public education and outreach initiatives and equip pre-school operators with resources to help them in their work with parents.

Parents with kids in Primary 1 and 2 will also be surveyed so that the agency can "better understand issues faced by parents and children as the children transit to formal schooling", an agency spokesman said.

Many parents have expressed anxiety over whether their children can cope with the workload and the more structured learning environment in primary school.

An earlier phase of the study started in February and was completed this month. It involved focus group discussions with 15 parents, as well as those who work closely with parents, including staff from Focus on the Family, Singapore Children's Society and KK Women's and Children's Hospital.

The discussions highlighted the main concerns and issues which parents faced, and helped in setting the questions for the interviews in the second phase.

The second and final phase, which begins today, comprises face-to-face interviews with parents who have been randomly selected. It is expected to be completed by May next year, with findings to be released around the end of next year.

Civil servant Goh Kai Hui, 32, who plans to enrol his two-month-old son in infant care next year, welcomed the study.

"It's good for the authorities to not just speak to the pre-schools, but also to the parents and really understand the ground issues," he said. "But implementation is key - how the study findings translate to better engagement between pre-schools and parents, and whether parents have the time to use the resources available."

Pre-school expert Christine Chen said a better understanding of issues faced by both teachers and parents ultimately benefits the child.

"Teachers have to work closely with parents - a child's first and lifelong 'teachers' - to make a difference in a child's life," said Dr Chen, who is the president of the Association for Early Childhood Educators (Singapore).

"This is a timely study because research has shown that parental involvement is essential in promoting a child's development and more parents are also becoming aware of this," she added.

Meanwhile, the ECDA is organising the first Early Childhood Parenting Conference on Nov 23.

It will cover topics such as helping a child make a smooth transition from pre-school to Primary 1 and getting children to love reading. For more information, visit www.ecpc.sg

goyshiyi@sph.com.sg

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