SINGAPORE - For the first time and in a mark of greater inclusivity, a childcare centre has been co-located with an early intervention centre for special needs children.
The two centres at Fernvale Link in Sengkang, which were officially opened by Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin on Monday (July 10), are the largest of their kind for the organisations which run them.
The pre-school run by NTUC First Campus' My First Skool can admit 520 children; the early intervention centre by charity Awwa can serve up to 300 children aged six months to six years.
In another first, My First Skool and KidsSTOP - Science Centre Singapore's attraction for children - yesterday signed a three-year memorandum of understanding to collaborate on a "high quality yet affordable" science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) learning programme for 300 pre-schoolers from the childcare centre.
Said My First Skool deputy general manager Thian Ai Ling: "My First Skool believes in constantly looking out for new and innovative learning opportunities for both our educators and the children under our care. Working with partners is one key way to make this happen."
My First Skool and Awwa said their centres will meet the growing needs of families and children in Sengkang, which has one of the highest populations of young children.
They said the co-location also allows for the flexibility of planning collaborative activities where children from both sides have opportunities to learn and play together.
Research has shown that playful interaction between children with and without special needs allows them to learn to accept one another's differences and learn to have comfortable social interactions with one another. For a start, children from both centres recently came together to celebrate Hari Raya Puasa.
Awwa director of education and development J. R. Karthikeyan said: "Through this co-location, we hope to enhance learning opportunities, not just for children from both centres, but also for teachers and educators."
Currently, the pre-school and early intervention centre have enrolled about 400 and 140 children respectively.
Meanwhile, the partnership between My First Skool and KidsSTOP will give pre-school teachers opportunities to upgrade their skills as they work with science educators from KidsSTOP to design Stem-based learning programmes. On-site learning at KidsSTOP and Science Centre exhibition galleries will also complement themed programmes at the childcare centre.
KidsSTOP's deputy director Dr Lee Song Choon said: "KidsSTOP hopes to encourage and inspire these young minds to explore their environment in a more in-depth manner."
While Stem-based learning is offered at the pre-school, children from the Awwa Early Intervention Centre nearby can also benefit through co-learning opportunities such as the sharing of learning resources and Stem-related events.
My First Skool and Awwa said they will continue to explore possibilities to leverage on the co-location of both centres in Fernvale to benefit the children.