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Pre-schools must stay focused on child development and outcomes

I am heartened to note that pre-school education is an area of national concern (3 issues Singapore needs to tackle to thrive in the future: PM Lee; Aug 9).

To ensure consistent quality in pre-school education, we need to look into service and process quality, in terms of staff-child ratios and the quality of staff-child interactions.

Most importantly, we need to monitor the quality of child development and outcomes, in particular, foundational skills like motor skills, language and literacy, numeracy, learning disposition, critical thinking and self-help skills.

Pre-schools in Singapore seem to be in a competition of pushing out ad-hoc "innovative" programmes that showcase rather than connect with a deep understanding of how young children think and learn.

Quality pre-school education is dependent on quality leadership that is equipped with the full knowledge of child developmental psychology.

Such knowledge provides insight and discernment which help a leader to prioritise meaningful developmental programmes that capitalise on children's sensitive period of development.

Quality care and education is possible only when children form secure attachments under the consistent responsive care of familiar teachers, and effective and knowledgeable principalship.

This is a period where certain experiences have a greater impact on brain development and essential skills acquisition.

These experiences are best had during this period. If not, later learning and development will be compromised.

Quality care and education is possible only when children form secure attachments under the consistent responsive care of familiar teachers, and effective and knowledgeable principalship.

Children cannot thrive and develop merely in a physically well-equipped childcare centre with the most "innovative" programmes but with a high teacher and principal attrition rate.

To ensure quality care and education, more attention is needed to monitor child development and outcomes across all pre-schools in Singapore.

Rebecca Chan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 20, 2017, with the headline 'Pre-schools must stay focused on child development and outcomes'. Print Edition | Subscribe