Time to improve pre-school teachers' wages, benefits

Pre-schools are often misinterpreted as "day care" or even "babysitting".

I, too, had this misconception until I went on internship and had the opportunity to talk to pre-school teachers and gain more insight into the pre-school environment.

One teacher told me she works from 8.30am to around 6pm each day.

The daily routine includes two shifts of lessons - one in the morning and another in the afternoon.

The syllabus is more complicated and detailed than I thought it would be. They are clustered in themes, with clear learning objectives.

The lessons are highly interactive, requiring teachers to crack their heads during their free time to think of how to deliver them, and come back on Saturdays to prepare materials.

The teacher I spoke to had eight years of experience in the industry, yet her salary is not more than $3,000.

This is one reason why many pre-school teachers are female and foreign - the salary is not sufficient for a male teacher to support a family, and the foreign teachers are not sole breadwinners.

We need to put more emphasis on pre-school teachers, especially their benefits, so as to ensure we continue to have high-quality and educated individuals to teach our future generation.

Thankfully, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced at last year's National Day Rally that the Government would double its annual spending on the pre-school sector to $1.7 billion a year in 2022.

I hope this can be done as soon as possible so as to encourage more locals who are interested in pre-school education to take up the challenge.

Lim Guohao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2018, with the headline 'Time to improve pre-school teachers' wages, benefits'. Print Edition | Subscribe