Pre-school education in the arts piloted at My First Skool

Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng with pre-schoolers and their parents and teachers at a music and movement session, as Ms Lavina Chong (in front of the minister, with ukulele), a training artist selected by NAC, leads them in a song.
Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng with pre-schoolers and their parents and teachers at a music and movement session, as Ms Lavina Chong (in front of the minister, with ukulele), a training artist selected by NAC, leads them in a song.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

'High-quality yet affordable' programme created by NTUC pre-school and NAC

Arts education need not be limited to enrichment activities, but can be integrated into the pre-school curriculum.

For instance, children can learn about shapes and sizes while arranging recycled materials to form letters of the alphabet, instead of merely relying on pattern blocks.

To offer children more opportunities for learning through the arts, a new "high-quality yet affordable" arts education programme has been created by NTUC's My First Skool (MFS) and the National Arts Council (NAC).

Named "Holistic Education through the ARTS" (heARTS), the programme has been piloted since July last year at an MFS pre-school at Block 119, Edgefield Plains in Punggol, which was officially opened by Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng yesterday.

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

Mr Kenneth Kwok, NAC's director of arts & 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.

  • 240
     

    Number of children the two-storey centre, built on the rooftop of a multi-storey carpark, can accommodate.

"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 centre, built on the rooftop of a multi-storey carpark, can accommodate 240 children. It was specially designed to "create an inspiring environment for free thinking and creativity", with features such as workshop space, courtyards between classrooms and a gallery.

Children are exposed to various genres - such as singing, dancing, storytelling, art and music-making - while they explore different themes and academic subjects.

About 150 children aged three and up have taken part in the heARTS programme so far, and 24 teachers have been trained in the arts-based approach.

MFS deputy general manager Thian Ai Ling 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."

Mr Kwok added: "(The arts) helps kids exercise their imagination, in a way that's fun and all about expression, colour and enjoyment."

Ms Thian said the pilot programme will likely run for three to five years, before MFS and NAC decide whether to roll out the scheme to other MFS pre-schools.

Teachers said the children have become more engaged in class, while parents said their children enjoyed learning and were more expressive in their art work.

Sales coordinator Elise Yeo, 36, said her daughter, six, used to have difficulty expressing her feelings to people, including her mother. But this changed after about a month in the programme.

Ms Yeo, a divorcee, said her daughter throws tantrums less often, expresses her feelings through drawings of faces, and even uses drawings to cheer others up.

"Once, when she saw I was feeling down, she returned from school with a drawing the next day. There was a sun, clouds, my dad, my mum, me and her. She said she loves me. I thought that was fantastic."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2017, with the headline 'Pre-school education in the arts piloted at My First Skool'. Print Edition | Subscribe