Debate on ministries' budgets

More pre-schools to offer Tamil and Malay classes

Tamil language teacher Aisha Banu with children at the My First Skool centre in Yishun. By 2022, about 350 pre-schools run by anchor operators will offer Tamil and Malay classes, up from about 200 now. More Ministry of Education kindergartens will al
Tamil language teacher Aisha Banu with children at the My First Skool centre in Yishun. By 2022, about 350 pre-schools run by anchor operators will offer Tamil and Malay classes, up from about 200 now. More Ministry of Education kindergartens will also offer the three main mother tongue languages.ST FILE PHOTO

More pre-schools will offer Tamil and Malay language classes to help children build a strong foundation for bilingual learning.

By 2022, about 350 pre-schools run by anchor operators will offer these classes, up from about 200 now. Such operators receive government grants in return for meeting certain quality criteria and not raising fees beyond a certain level.

There will also be more Ministry of Education kindergartens that offer the three main mother tongue languages (MTL) - Malay, Tamil and Chinese. By 2023, there will be 50 of these kindergartens, up from the existing 18.

The plans were announced yesterday by Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development, and Education.

"To support the sector's growth, we may need over 1,000 more MTL teachers by 2020," he said.

Dr Faishal said anchor operators are working with the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) to offer better career progression to attract more early childhood professionals, amid the growing demand for childcare services.

Another 3,000 more early childhood professionals are needed by 2020, bringing the number to 20,000, he added.

Dr Faishal noted that there is room for teachers to take on more senior roles, such as being mentors to junior teachers or school leaders managing a cluster of centres.

Over the next five years, the anchor operators will create some 1,000 more senior positions, double the current figure.

Meanwhile, salaries in the pre-school sector are set to rise. The median pay in the early childhood education sector has grown by about 15 per cent in the past three years, compared with a rise of about 8 per cent for jobs in general.

As the sector continues to expand, ECDA expects salary growth for pre-school educators to continue to outpace general market trends.

Educators interviewed said they welcome the move for more pre-schools to offer Tamil and Malay.

Ms Nabilah Abdul Fitrey, 25, who teaches Malay at PCF Sparkletots in Bukit Batok, said the centre's Malay programme helps children build a strong foundation and helps them appreciate the Malay culture.

Ms Yogeswari Raghavan, 40, executive principal of PCF Sparkletots in Sembawang and Admiralty, said many children do not often speak Tamil at home, but Sparkletots gives them a chance to do so.

She said the children have grown in confidence and "become less afraid of speaking Tamil".


Correction note: In an earlier version of this story, we said that there will be 50 additional MOE kindergartens by 2023 instead of 50 MOE kindergartens in total by 2023. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2018, with the headline 'More pre-schools to offer Tamil and Malay classes'. Print Edition | Subscribe