Muis, Mendaki looking into sprucing up mosque-based kindergartens

Associate Professor Dr Yaacob Ibrahim (seated centre), Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, reading a story book to some kindergarten children from Al-Muttaqin Mosque on June 30, 2016. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

SINGAPORE - The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and self-help group Yayasan Mendaki are looking into professionalising kindergartens based in mosques, said Dr Yaacob Ibrahim on Saturday (April 29).

The Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs was responding to concerns from the audience during a panel discussion on early childhood education, at an education symposium organised by Mendaki.

Several thought that mosque-based pre-schools faced many challenges in terms of resources and uneven curricula.

One audience member suggested that there be a department within Mendaki or Muis overseeing the quality of such pre-schools.

There are 71 mosques in Singapore. Not all have a kindergarten.

Dr Yaacob, who is also the Minister for Communications and Information, replied: "We want retain our mosque-based kindergartens. We need to ask whether we should morph them into a childcare centre, and I think that's the right way to go, and how we can professionalise them."

Addressing the childcare professionals in the audience, he added: "We will keep the centres. My second assurance is that we'll make sure that you're up to scratch to run it properly."

Dr Yaacob, who is Mendaki's chairman, also said Muis and Mendaki would look into how the kindergartens can meet the requirements set out by the Early Childhood Development Agency (Ecda), the government body that oversees the pre-school sector.

This would enable the centres to get the Singapore Pre-school Accreditation Framework (Spark) quality mark.

"When it will happen? Soon," said Dr Yaacob, without giving further details.

He also said later that mosque-based kindergartens are still relevant and there is potential for them to be professionalised.

Mendaki and Muis will share more details later.

About 400 early childcare professionals, parents and policymakers attended the one-day symposium, part of a series of events to commemorate Mendaki's 35th anniversary.

In a short speech, Dr Yaacob gave an overview of Mendaki's programmes to helping Malay-Muslim children do well in school and beyond.

He also said that Mendaki could and would do more to help children aged six and below be ready for school.

"From experience and research, we know that in order to do well, children need to have strong foundation skills that begin at home. Parents are their children's first teachers. It is imperative to start early," he added.

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