SINGAPORE - When Ms Shazadi Begum Mohamed Siddiqe, 32, started her career as a pre-school teacher fresh out of school in 2007, she found it tough going.
With little experience and no mentor to guide her, the Ngee Ann Polytechnic Early Childhood Education graduate struggled to manage the children and their parents.
"It was really challenging," she said.
"But I rolled my sleeves up and learnt through training and experience."
She signed on to a variety of development courses, and also somehow found time to earn a degree in early childhood education. All that helped move her up the ranks to where she is now - the principal of a My First Skool pre-school in Sembawang.
The Government is now committing $5 million over the next three years to two schemes to help early childhood educators like Ms Shazadi develop into quality leaders in the sector.
On Thursday (April 5), she joined 180 others in one of the schemes - the Professional Development Programme for Leaders.
They were selected by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) to be in the first batch of a three-year, 180-hour structured programme that caters to centre leaders who oversee the overall management of a pre-school.
The programme is also for senior teachers that typically drive the pre-school's teaching and learning approaches, and take on active roles in the mentoring of new teachers.
The programme includes compulsory modules, projects and an overseas study trip.
The ECDA said it supports senior early childhood professionals in their career progression and provides opportunities for them to "broaden their perspectives, deepen knowledge and hone competencies in areas of professional interest".
Participants will continue to work while enrolled in the programme but they will also receive $15,000 over the three years, as they complete each year and cross other milestones.
They also have to remain with their nominating organisation for six months after the end of each programme year in order to qualify for the funding. In Ms Shazadi's case, it is My First Skool.The other scheme is the ECDA Fellows Programme.
Experienced early childhood leaders, such as pre-school centre principals with exemplary leadership skills and expertise, are identified as ECDA Fellows and given opportunities to "drive quality improvements in the sector", said the agency.
On Thursday (April 5), 22 ECDA Fellows were appointed to the role, including all 14 ECDA Fellows from the pioneer batch in 2015. They will work with the ECDA to mentor the professional growth of leaders in the early childhood sector.
Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee had announced both schemes in Oct 2017.
At the appointment ceremony, Mr Lee spoke of the importance of developing competent leaders in the sector.
"Leaders bring out the best in others, rallying them around a clear vision and direction for the team or organisation," he said.
"Our work to build and strengthen the professional competencies of our leaders in the early childhood sector must continue, so that leaders can work with fellow teachers to provide a good start for every child."