Develop effective strategy to retain pre-school teachers

Children playing at a pre-school in Singapore.
Children playing at a pre-school in Singapore.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

The increase in mid-career entrants in the pre-school sector is good news (Pre-school sector draws more mid-career entrants, Feb 19).

We need to understand the entry motivations of these mid-career entrants in order to ensure retention of employees and the long-term sustainability of the pre-school sector.

Enrolling in a diploma programme is just the beginning of a journey.

Mid-career entrants bring with them prior work knowledge and experience that may add value to a child's classroom experience.

Of course, they should also demonstrate professionalism, show the right attitude as well as skill when caring for children and always have children's best interests at heart.

Educating and caring for children require more than just possessing the necessary qualifications. One must commit "heart, mind and hand" too.

Children need teachers with heart to engage them.

Teachers need the mind to observe, reflect and document children's development with the intention to plan, extend and challenge their learning and development.

And creative and resourceful hands will serve to create purposeful activities and tasks for children as part of a regular stimulating learning environment.

I also believe that the misconception that a pre-school teacher is merely "a nanny or a caregiver" is not the only point of contention keeping people from entering the pre-school sector.

Other potential issues include salary, staff to child ratio, work environment, workload and the appropriate recognition and classification of pre-school teachers as professionals equivalent to primary school teachers, instead of classifying them under a skills-based category.

And while men are in the minority when it comes to primary school teachers or nurses, how is it that the disparity is so huge in the pre-school sector, where less than 1 per cent of teachers are male?

Could it be the effects of stigma and scrutiny, as well as the lack of professional satisfaction in managing young children?

We should carry out a survey to find out more.

Ultimately, attracting new entrants is only the beginning of a journey to develop working strategies for the effective long-term retention of pre-school teachers.

Rebecca Chan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2019, with the headline 'Develop effective strategy to retain pre-school teachers'. Subscribe