Better training, career progression for early childhood educators among new initiatives to boost pre-school quality

Career pathways have been expanded to reflect the potential progression and development available for educators teaching young children.
Career pathways have been expanded to reflect the potential progression and development available for educators teaching young children.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Efforts to lift the quality of pre-schools here will get a boost as improvements to training and career progression opportunities for early childhood educators were announced on Saturday (Oct 16).

There will also be more support for kids from low-income families to encourage early pre-school enrolment and regular attendance.

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli announced the new initiatives at the Early Childhood Conference 2021 on Saturday and encouraged educators and pre-school operators to work together in training and development.

He also launched the Skills Framework for Early Childhood following a review of the original 2016 version.

The review was done by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), in collaboration with SkillsFuture Singapore, pre-school representatives and stakeholders.

The new framework spells out the career pathways and competencies required for various job roles in the early childhood education sector.

In particular, the career pathways have been expanded to reflect the potential progression and development available for educators teaching children in the younger age groups of two months to four years old, and the leadership career pathway now has new job roles such as deputy centre leader and pedagogy specialist.

Said Mr Masagos: "This provides greater clarity on the progression and development pathways for educators in the early years, as well as new leadership roles that educators can aspire towards."

There are also new career pathways for learning support educators and early intervention educators, reflecting ECDA's continued efforts in advancing inclusion in pre-schools.

The framework can help interested individuals assess their career suitability and identify the required training for entry into the sector, said ECDA, adding that opportunities for professional development and career progression are important factors for retention.

It said: "As the sector adopts the refreshed skills framework and puts in place the expanded career pathways, we expect the salary of early childhood educators to grow in tandem with the improved skills, larger responsibilities and more complex job roles required."

A Continuing Professional Development Roadmap will also be rolled out progressively from 2022, it added.

Mr Masagos announced that from December, families under the KidStart programme will get yearly top-ups to the Child Development Accounts. This is funded by contributions from corporate and community partners.

KidStart supports parents by helping to provide them with the knowledge and skills to nurture their children's early development and over 2,000 children have participated to date. It runs programmes for children and parents.

Children who are aged four or younger when they enrol in pre-school will receive $200 in the first year and subsequently $100 for each year of regular attendance till age six. Those above age four at enrolment will receive $100 yearly.

"We want to enable every child to have the best chance to flourish in life, regardless of their family background or resources," said Mr Masagos.

ECDA said the move is meant to encourage families to enrol their children in pre-school early and have regular attendance in KidStart programmes and at school.

The money given is on top of the Government's recent announcement of a one-off $200 top-up for all Singaporean children aged six and below.

Mr Masagos also announced that pre-appointment training for inclusion coordinators in pre-schools will begin from end-2021.

It was announced earlier this year that every pre-school would have to appoint one staff member as an inclusion coordinator from the second half of 2023.

ECDA has been pushing for more inclusion in pre-schools in recent years and pre-schools have followed suit.

For example, Presbyterian Community Services has partnered the philanthropic organisation Chua Foundation to increase capacity and care for children with special needs through a new programme.

Presbyterian Community Services, which runs 11 pre-schools islandwide, aims to increase the number of places for these children from the current 50 to 220 by 2025.

On Saturday, Mr Masagos also launched the Early Childhood Digitalisation Grant to support the adoption of digital solutions by pre-schools.

More than $4 million will be available over the next three years to help pre-schools defray the cost of adopting pre-approved digital solutions.

"Pre-schools can also look out for new solutions to help them e-enrol children and use data analytics to make our pre-schools run better," he said.