Working together for needy children

The news from the recent parliamentary sessions on helping children receive a high-quality education and gain access to a holistic way of learning is most welcome ("Bringing arts and culture to more pre-schoolers"; last Friday).

It is well known that a high-quality early education for children forms the building blocks of their success in the future.

It is also heartening to read of the pilot projects which will provide help to vulnerable children ("Disadvantaged kids to get help in $20m programme"; last Wednesday).

The support will be drawn from across agencies and 1,000 children will have access to health and developmental support. Their parents will be included in family support programmes.

We see these initiatives as timely and necessary. The Government's long-term vision for children is cool. We are aligned with this enlightened approach.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, it might be in the best interests of children if the policymakers consider our request to work with them in implementing these policies.

We have learnt valuable lessons from using various approaches and methods for the past 17 years in Child at Street 11, a not-for-profit organisation and childcare centre that looks after the emotional, educational, health, psychological and nutritional needs of disadvantaged children aged 18 months to six years.

The centre also keeps its links with its alumni of about 120, and they return to the centre's annual dinners and events.

The pedagogical focus in the centre is long term and holistic, and prepares children to do well in school and life.

The lessons learnt from our 17-year journey have been many.

In the early years, we rushed into the project believing that providing pre-school education alone was enough to see a child and his family through tough times.

We learnt the painful way that long-term results that significantly alter the future of children and families are linked to intensive teacher training, parent education, and a well-integrated and coordinated plan with strong community partners that include the corporate sectors, schools, hospitals and grassroots organisations.

The centre's trained staff have helped children develop what the Education Ministry has termed "21st-century competencies" - children are confident, self-directed learners who are concerned citizens and active contributors in society.

By working together, we can make an even bigger difference to children in Singapore in the next 50 years.

M. Nirmala (Ms)

Chief Executive

Child at Street 11

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2016, with the headline 'Working together for needy children'. Print Edition | Subscribe