Pre-school teachers may soon find themselves better equipped to teach mother tongue languages, with a new certification course being launched next year to sharpen their skills. Introduced by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and National Institute of Early Childhood Development, the new certification course will target only Malay and Tamil language teachers for a start.
An ECDA spokesman said this is because there are already courses for Chinese language teachers such as the Diploma in Chinese Studies offered by Ngee Ann Polytechnic, and that the agency will consider a similar Chinese course in time to come.
Singaporean or permanent resident teachers who complete the course over the next two years and go on to teach the language will get a training bonus of $2,000.
Announcing these moves yesterday at the annual Early Childhood Conference 2018 held at Suntec convention centre, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said: "The early years are a golden opportunity to plant the seeds of love for the mother tongue and to lay a strong foundation for bilingual learning."
Up to $3 million has been set aside for these training bonuses and also for developing teaching resources to address the shortage of local pre-school mother tongue teachers.
The Straits Times reported earlier this year that locals currently make up six in 10 of mother tongue language teachers in pre-schools.
Number of early childhood educators who specialise in teaching mother tongue language.
Training bonus for Singaporean or permanent resident teachers who complete the new certification course over the next two years and go on to teach the language.
Across the sector, there are about 5,700 early childhood educators who specialise in teaching mother tongue language, of whom 3,300 are locals.
Ms Kogilavani Shanmugam, 42, a Tamil language teacher at Khalsa Kindergarten, said: "I'm happy and excited about this course. We didn't have much of these kinds of opportunities before."
ECDA is also working with the Ministry of Education and early childhood practitioners to develop language resources in Chinese, Malay and Tamil.
These resources could include learning materials such as books and games in a Singaporean context. They will be piloted at selected pre-schools next year and extended to other pre-schools in 2020.
LAYING A STRONG FOUNDATION
The early years are a golden opportunity to plant the seeds of love for the mother tongue and to lay a strong foundation for bilingual learning.
MINISTER FOR SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT DESMOND LEE
Meanwhile, at the event, Mr Lee also presented awards to outstanding early childhood professionals and centres.
Ms Eunice Tay, 29, who won an ECDA Early Childhood Outstanding Teacher Award, is in her sixth year as a pre-school teacher.
A teacher at NTUC First Campus' My First Skool in Tampines, Ms Tay said she puts effort into the little things she does on a daily basis, such as lesson planning.
She said: "I plan activities for different types of learners, for example there are visual and kinesthetic learners.
"I try to tailor my lessons to their individual needs."
Little ones lend a helping hand
More than 39,000 children from some 670 pre-school centres spent about 1.2 million hours on community service projects this year.
They were taking part in the President's Challenge Start Small Dream Big movement, an initiative by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA).
The pre-schools raised more than $250,000 - the highest amount since the movement started in 2015 - for the President's Challenge beneficiaries and community organisations.
The children collected food items, clothing and footwear for the needy in Singapore and for victims of natural disasters and poverty.
Projects included visiting senior care homes and showing appreciation to cleaners through care packs and thank-you cards.
About 1,000 children who took part were at ECDA's Early Childhood Conference yesterday for a finale and appreciation ceremony attended by President Halimah Yacob.
Said Madam Halimah: "I am confident that the Start Small Dream Big initiative will continue to inspire kindness and generosity among Singaporeans, so that together we can build a more caring and inclusive society."