More than 400 pre-schools to adopt package of IT solutions to streamline administrative work

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin visiting a Small Wonder pre-school in Yishun, one of more than 400 pre-schools taking part in the Smart Solutions initiative.
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin visiting a Small Wonder pre-school in Yishun, one of more than 400 pre-schools taking part in the Smart Solutions initiative.ST PHOTO: PRISCILLA GOY

SINGAPORE - Teachers at more than 400 pre-schools, or about a quarter of the early childhood sector, will soon benefit from an initiative which offers a package of information technology solutions to streamline daily processes and administrative duties, thus improving productivity.

With the Smart Solutions initiative, teachers will have a lighter administrative workload and be able to devote more time to enhancing the quality of care and education, said the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) in a statement on Thursday (June 29). Pre-schools can also better cope with manpower constraints, and parents will have greater peace of mind, the agency added.

The initiative is part of the Government's Early Childhood Manpower Plan, announced in September last year, to attract and retain pre-school professionals in the sector which has been rapidly expanding as demand for pre-school services rises.

The Smart Solutions can ease teachers' administrative duties in areas such as managing payments, staff deployment and training, children's attendance and temperature records, centre operations, parent-teacher communication and regulation compliance.

Teachers can also use some of the IT solutions to better document the activities and developmental progress of children, and share them more regularly with parents.

While IT solutions are currently available on the market, they are usually not offered as an integrated suite and are priced on an item-by-item basis, making it expensive for pre-schools to subscribe to, said ECDA. The Smart Solutions initiative offers a "more integrated package of IT solutions that better support the operations and management of pre-schools", said the agency.

The initiative is the result of a collaboration between the Association of Early Childhood and Training Services (Assets), ECDA and the Infocomm Media Development Authority. It is also an initiative under the Lean Enterprise Development Scheme, in collaboration with Workforce Singapore (WSG), to create a more supportive working environment and more productive work processes for early childhood educators.

After a call for proposals in August 2016, Assets, the early childhood industry and four selected infocomm media solution providers - CommonTown, Design Haven, LittleLives and Taidii - worked together to create the Smart Solutions. About 160 operators running more than 400 pre-schools have signed up since.In the coming year, Assets will work with partners to further raise awareness and take-up of these Smart Solutions in the early childhood sector.

Pre-school operators interested to adopt these solutions for their centres can tap on government grants, such as WSG's WorkPro Job Redesign grant to reduce the initial cost of adoption by up to 80 per cent. Interested operators can contact Assets at freddy@Assets.org.sg for more information on the Smart Solutions.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin on Thursday (June 29) visited Small Wonder Preschool in Yishun, which has been progressively using LittleLives mobile apps since January last year. It is also taking part in the Smart Solutions initiative and plans to tap on the available grants to defray costs.

Principal Salina Samsu said the use of IT has helped the pre-school reduce paper use by at least 80 per cent and time spent on work by more than 270 hours per month.

Pre-school teacher Chan Sheeyeen , 25, said: "Previously, I printed three photos of each child every three months for parents. It took me quite some time to print them out, cut and paste on paper. But with the new system, I just have to upload the photos and videos with a few clicks, type in the captions, and I've easily taken more than 150 photos of each child this year."

She also used to stay back for one to two hours after her work shift to do admin work, but with the LittleLives app, this is not necessary .

Parents have had to pay $9.65 per month for using LittleLives, but engineer Nicholas Scully, who has two children in the pre-school, thinks the cost is worth it.

He said: "I get instant notifications about what's happening, and that's convenient. I also get to view photos of the various school activities and this makes it easier for us to talk about what they did in school when they're back home."