Pre-school arts education programme piloted at NTUC's My First Skool

SINGAPORE - A "high quality yet affordable" arts education programme in a pre-school setting has been created by NTUC's My First Skool (MFS) and the National Arts Council (NAC) to nurture creativity in children from a young age.

Named "Holistic Education through the ARTS" (heARTS), the programme offers children varied opportunities for learning through the arts, with arts content and lesson plans co-developed by teaching artists and pre-school teachers. It has been piloted since July last year at an MFS pre-school at Block 119, Edgefield Plains, in Punggol, which officially opened on Friday (May 5).

MFS said it initiated this partnership to advocate the impact and value of an arts education at pre-school level as it believes that quality arts experiences in the early years help to develop creative individuals from a young age.

NAC's support is in providing the pre-school teachers with skills and knowledge in planning and delivering quality arts-based lessons, working with artists as co-teachers to facilitate and guide children in class on various art forms, and engaging parents on the impact and value of arts education in their child's learning.

Mr Kenneth Kwok, NAC's director of arts and youth and strategic planning, said: "While NAC has been supporting various artist partnerships with schools and kindergartens, this is a very special project because the collaboration began even before the centre opened. This created the opportunity for artists and teachers to engage in more in-depth preparation and to build a truly meaningful learning experience for the children from the ground up."

The two-storey pre-school can take in 240 children and is sited on top of a multi-storey carpark. It was specially designed and equipped to facilitate teaching and learning in the arts. Key features include workshop spaces, courtyards in between classrooms and a gallery to showcase children's artworks. These aim to "create an inspiring environment for free thinking and creativity", said MFS and NAC in a joint statement.

There are also early childhood-trained teaching artists, selected by the NAC, who train and mentor teachers over a sustained period of time. Both the artists and teachers work together to develop arts content and lesson plans to enhance and support children's learning. To date, 24 teachers have been trained.

Meanwhile, children are exposed to various art genres appropriate for their age groups - such as singing, dancing, storytelling, art and music-making - while they explore various curriculum themes and academic subjects. Teachers and artists co-teach children and get them to experience the arts as part of their daily routine and classroom activities. So far, 150 children from the centre have benefited from the programme.

Ms Thian Ai Ling, deputy general manager of MFS, said: "As we become increasingly interconnected in a changing world, it is important to continually invest in arts and culture to the benefit of more open, inclusive and imaginative societies. Through this... partnership, our teachers become more confident and skilful, and our children in turn can be nurtured to showcase their innovation and creativity."

MFS and NAC said the pilot programme has garnered positive feedback from parents and teachers. Children were more engaged in class, and parents said their children enjoyed learning and were more expressive in their artworks.

Moving forward, there are plans for the Edgefield Plains pre-school to be a showcase centre for teachers' professional development in arts and to provide quality arts education for children in other MFS pre-schools.