Spark is the mark of quality at one in three pre-schools

Parliamentary Secretary for Education Low Yen Ling (far right) joining six-year-old Teo Cheng Wei as he plays with Kibo, a robot programmed to move according to action commands recorded by scanning the blocks.
Parliamentary Secretary for Education Low Yen Ling (far right) joining six-year-old Teo Cheng Wei as he plays with Kibo, a robot programmed to move according to action commands recorded by scanning the blocks.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

More centres have made the grade; accreditation system being adjusted

Parents may be glad to know that more pre-schools have got that "spark".

One in three pre-schools here has now earned the Singapore Pre-school Accreditation Framework (Spark) quality mark, up from one in four last year.

This was announced at the annual Early Childhood Conference held at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday.

At the event, 249 childcare centres and kindergartens received their Spark certificates, bringing the total number of pre-schools with the quality mark to 601. Spark is the Early Childhood Development Agency's (ECDA) national pre-school accreditation scheme.

Meanwhile, for pre-school operators, Spark re-certification will become less tedious.

HIGHER STANDARDS

We have observed that more Spark-certified centres are now able to achieve higher standards. Close to all Spark-certified centres have been successfully re-certified.

'' MS LOW YEN LING, Parliamentary Secretary for Education.

Quality certificates awarded from yesterday will be valid for six years instead of three - an announcement that drew long applause from about 1,500 teachers who attended the event.

The re-certification assessment at the end of the third year will be replaced with a "developmental visit" by ECDA officers.

Parliamentary Secretary for Education Low Yen Ling, guest of honour at the conference, said: "We have observed that more Spark-certified centres are now able to achieve higher standards. Nearly all Spark-certified centres have been successfully re-certified."

The improvements in quality led them to adjust the scheme, to place more focus on centres' development and self-appraisal, she said.

The assessment will also be adjusted to focus more on teaching and learning practices, instead of areas such as planning and administration. More details will be given next year.

Introduced in 2011, the Spark accreditation is voluntary, but serves as a guide for parents to identify good pre-schools. It evaluates education programmes for children aged four to six in childcare centres and kindergartens.

Ms Low said: "Even though Spark is a voluntary quality assurance framework, I am heartened that many centres recognise its value and have worked hard to be certified... We look forward to more centres joining the Spark family."

Ms Lurvin Lee, operations manager of pre-school chain Just Kids, welcomed the longer validity period. Half of its 10 centres are due for re-certification next year.

"We have internal audits each year and documenting our work is good for self-reflection," she said. "But some centres spend too much time on getting paperwork done that they may have compromised on other more important areas of quality teaching and care.

"The centre leaders must set the tone that improving quality is for the sake of the children, not just to chase the quality mark."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2016, with the headline 'Spark is the mark of quality at one in three pre-schools'. Print Edition | Subscribe