Workload relief soon for pre-school teachers

An iPad recording a K2 class to document the activities and developmental progress of children, so that the information can be shared with parents. This is part of the suite of IT solutions offered by the Smart Solutions initiative which will help ra
An iPad recording a K2 class to document the activities and developmental progress of children, so that the information can be shared with parents. This is part of the suite of IT solutions offered by the Smart Solutions initiative which will help raise productivity in pre-schools.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

The Smart Solutions IT initiative will cut down their administrative duties, giving them more time to teach

Teachers at over 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.

This is expected to raise productivity at pre-schools.

With the Smart Solutions initiative, teachers will have less administrative work to handle and can devote more time to enhancing the quality of care and education, said the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) yesterday.

Pre-schools can also better cope with manpower constraints and parents will have greater peace of mind, it said.

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The initiative is part of the Government's Early Childhood Manpower Plan, announced 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, parent-teacher communication, and producing reports for renewal of licences.

They also help teachers better document activities and developmental progress of children, and share them more regularly with parents.

While IT solutions are 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. It said the Smart Solutions initiative offers a "more integrated package of IT solutions that better support the operations and management of pre-schools".

The initiative is the result of a partnership between the Association of Early Childhood and Training Services (Assets), ECDA and the Infocomm Media Development Authority.

After a call for proposals last August, four IT solution providers - CommonTown, Design Haven, LittleLives and Taidii - were selected out of 15, and they worked with Assets and pre-school industry players to create Smart Solutions.

Some 160 operators running over 400 pre-schools have signed up since.

Operators keen to adopt these solutions can tap government grants, such as Workforce Singapore's WorkPro Job Redesign grant to reduce the initial cost of adoption by up to 80 per cent.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday 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 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, cut and paste them on paper.

"But now, I can upload the photos and videos with a few clicks, and type in the captions. I've easily taken more than 150 photos of each child this year."

Parents pay $9.65 per month for using LittleLives, but engineer Nicholas Scully, 41, who has two children in Small Wonder Preschool, thinks the cost is worth it.

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2017, with the headline 'Workload relief soon for pre-school teachers'. Print Edition | Subscribe