'Living lab' pre-school at Temasek Poly to close down

Polytechnic hopes to find another operator to run a childcare centre on the premises

Play@TP adopts an inquiry-based approach so children can explore topics of their interest rather than fixed lessons.
Play@TP adopts an inquiry-based approach so children can explore topics of their interest rather than fixed lessons.PHOTO: GIN TAY FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

A pre-school for those studying early childhood at Temasek Polytechnic (TP) to observe and practise teaching will stop operating next year, to some parents' disappointment.

The Preschool Learning Academy, or Play@TP, will cease operations by the end of December next year, though the polytechnic hopes to find an operator to run a new childcare centre on the premises.

Play@TP currently has 69 children aged two to six.

Parents were told last month that TP had "made the difficult decision" to close its pre-school, as its early childhood studies diploma course will be transferred to the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC).

The new centralised training institute will open in 2019.

Some parents felt it was a pity to close Play@TP, which opened in 2010, as it is one of the few pre-schools which serve as "a living laboratory" for researchers, adopting an inquiry-based approach so children can explore topics of their interest rather than fixed lessons.

Poly student-interns are paired with a teacher-mentor to teach classes for 22 weeks, while other students take part in small-group teaching and observation.

The pre-school moved to bigger premises within TP in January last year and expanded to offer full-day childcare services in July this year.

The Ministry of Education told The Straits Times that there are no plans for NIEC to immediately operate a pre-school centre directly.

Its initial focus is "to quickly scale up its early childhood training capacity and capabilities to support the increased intake of early childhood courses to meet industry demand", the ministry said.

NIEC intends to partner different pre-schools in areas such as practicum stints and research, said a spokesman. Running a pre-school while linking up with many pre-school centres will detract from NIEC's core mission of early childhood training, she added.

TP said it will call for a tender early next year for an operator to run a new childcare centre at Play@TP's current premises from January 2019.

"TP will make every effort to select an operator who would be able to provide high quality pre-school education and care at reasonable prices," a spokesman said.

The outcome of the tender will be known by June next year.

TP is helping to find placements for affected children in other pre-schools, including Bright Juniors @ Temasek Polytechnic. Parents said they appreciated the school's efforts to help their children.

A 49-year-old lecturer whose two children, aged four and six, attended Play@TP, said: "Parents are satisfied with TP's proposal and felt that the management has done its best." But she still feels a "tinge of regret as Play@TP is one of a kind".

Researcher Le Thu Thao, 35, has a three-year-old son at Play@TP. Her older daughter, now in Primary 2, also attended the school.

"What the teachers taught was very much initiated by the kids, so they were all very involved and interested in going to school."

Social worker Lim Shaw Hui, 45, was very impressed by the teaching methods. Her son, six, is repeating Kindergarten 2 at Play@TP next year because of his special needs. Her older son, now eight, also attended the school.

"There was a lot of observation, experiments and documentation of the children. With good-quality teachers and the right mindsets in research, it's a good model for learning," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2017, with the headline ''Living lab' pre-school at Temasek Poly to close down'. Subscribe