In the next few decades, jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will become more important and in demand. This is because they will serve an ageing population while seeking ways to build more sustainable homes, as well as more accessible public transport network and health services.
To equip young children with the relevant skills, pre-school consultancy Preschool Market has launched initiatives to ensure that underprivileged children are not left behind when it comes to learning these subjects at a young age.
Says Mr James Wu, its head of business development: “Children from privileged families have the opportunities to learn and upgrade themselves quickly as their parents can afford to send them for enrichment and tuition.”
Giving access to meaningful play
Preschool Market was set up to support the early childhood industry, as well as educators, parents and children, through meaningful engagements and projects.
“We believe that every child should have equal opportunity in learning,” says Mr Wu. “We realised that some of our children from the underprivileged families may not have easy access to meaningful play.”
Other than developing a curriculum, training teachers and running events for its clients, Preschool Market helps and supports them in their corporate giving efforts by tapping into resources in the pre-school community.
“We believe in being good stewards of resources,” he says. “Strategic giving means doing good in the most efficient and impactful way to ensure that the company’s limited resources are put to the best use to benefit beneficiaries.
Mr Wu had the opportunity to be part of National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre’s (NVPC) Company of Good Fellowship where, over the course of five months, he was able to take part in learning sessions, networking and mentorship among like-minded leaders on corporate giving and nurturing a giving culture.
Even after completing the fellowship, he continues to receive support from his Company of Good Fellows.
“This is a community that feels like home and where I truly belong. Not everyone in the corporate world believes in doing good or shares the same values,” he says.
The Fellowship is a 12-day talent development programme which brings together like-minded future leaders from across different industries to learn, exchange ideas and partner on business transformation and collective impact.
Nurturing a giving culture
Recently, Preschool Market set up Playpod in collaboration with South East Community Development Council (CDC) as part of the Company of Good Fellowship programme run by NVPC.
Other Fellows from the same Fellowship cohort rallied and contributed to the cause of Playpod. For example, The Lego Group donated Lego sets as a reward to children who have done well and Splash Productions, a local SME, contributed time and expertise in producing videos for this initiative.
The space, which is free for children from underprivileged families, comes with learning stations related to STEM and science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) subjects. For instance, there are robotics and art stations where children are able to play as they learn more about computational thinking and accomplish tasks using various tech toys.
The initiative is in its early stages, but Mr Wu says that it is meant to be a hub and “safe space” where educators can contribute to the development of these children to keep them meaningfully occupied and learning.
“We want to make sure that they do not lag behind in important areas of learning such as robotics and STEAM. Playpod is a practical expression of that desire to fill that gap,” he adds.
“We wanted to create a place for underprivileged children to learn, have fun, and keep them occupied and out of trouble, in spite of their families’ financial challenges.”
Preschool Market is also a social enterprise, which is registered with the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE). It collaborates with selected social service agencies to offer subsidised or free education programmes to these children.
These include CreArTech, a class that teaches students to create art using technology; Robotic Tech Toy Playmaker programme that engages young learners to develop communication, collaborative, creative and critical thinking skills through the use of high-tech toys; and Sustainable Art, a workshop where children can learn to use environment-friendly materials to express their artistic talents.
“We launched CreArTech because we need to equip our students with the right tools and mindset to navigate a technologically advanced world and landscape, while the robotics programme aims to encourage them to be comfortable with digital tools,” explains Mr Wu. “As for Sustainable Art, we want to enable children to remain connected to the world.”
Click here for more information on the Company of Good Fellowship.