Pick up a degree and gain childcare experience

My First Skool kindergarten kids clearing rubbish. UniSIM students in the new full-time course will be required to do a six- month attachment at a childcare centre or kindergarten.
My First Skool kindergarten kids clearing rubbish. UniSIM students in the new full-time course will be required to do a six- month attachment at a childcare centre or kindergarten.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
My First Skool kindergarten kids clearing rubbish. UniSIM students in the new full-time course will be required to do a six- month attachment at a childcare centre or kindergarten.
KNOWING WHAT IT MEANS: We want them to get a first-hand feel of what the work entails, before they make the final commitment to take up the course. - DR SIRENE LIM, senior lecturer at SIM University who developed the programme, on why those shortlisted for the course will go on a two-week pre-school attachment.

UniSIM offers degree in childhood education with unique features as SIT focuses on science and tech

The Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), the only public university to offer a full-time degree in early childhood education, will stop doing so from next year as it focuses more on science and technology.

Those wanting to study the course can head to SIM University, which will introduce a full-time four-year degree course in early childhood education from August next year.

UniSIM, which has been offering a part-time early childhood education degree since 2010, will offer 60 places in its new full-time degree.

The unique feature of the UniSIM course will be the extensive field requirement for students, amounting to 52 weeks or one whole year.

Students will be required to do a six-month attachment at a kindergarten or childcare centre.

But for the other stints, they can be attached to places that offer children's programmes, such as museums, children's theatre groups and zoos.

Another requirement will be for students to offer a minor in another discipline. They can choose from a range of fields, including psychology, sociology, the languages, music education and physical education .

Dr Sirene Lim, senior lecturer at UniSIM who developed the programme, explained the emphasis on field experience.

"Teacher training programmes emphasise experiential education as it bridges theory and practice. It also allows student teachers to develop teaching competence," she said.

Students will also be required to head overseas on an immersion programme, she added.

Applications open in December, and both A-level school leavers and polytechnic diploma holders can apply.

They will have to go through the same four-step selection process that all other UniSIM applicants are put through, including a cognitive abilities test, a group interview and individual interview.

Those shortlisted will go on a two-week pre-school attachment.

"We want them to get a first-hand feel of what the work entails, before they make the final commitment to take up the course," said Dr Lim.

She noted that enrolment in UniSIM's part-time degree programme in early childhood education, which it runs with NTUC's Seed Institute, has increased from 410 in 2013 to 620 now.

She said graduates from the new course will have good job prospects, given the shortage of early childhood educators.

There are about 15,000 staff in the childcare sector, with a further 1,500 needed over the next two to three years.

The Early Childhood Development Agency, the government agency that oversees pre-school education, has several initiatives to attract and retain staff, such as career progression plans and incentivising teachers to go for training.

Currently, polytechnic diploma holders from the same field, enrolled in the early childhood education degree offered by Wheelock College from Boston at SIT, complete the degree in two years.

Dr Lim said that those with relevant diplomas will be given up to one year's exemption in UniSIM's four-year course.

Polytechnic students such as Teo Yi Tong, 20, are glad that there will still be an opportunity for them to pursue a degree at a local university, instead of having to head overseas or go to a private school.

The Ngee Ann Polytechnic final-year student said she does not mind the extra time she will have to put in because of UniSIM's field experience requirement.

"I feel practical experience is important for pre-school educators. It takes a lot of skill to handle children and that comes with experience chalked up in the classroom ."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 19, 2016, with the headline 'Pick up a degree and gain childcare experience'. Print Edition | Subscribe