New MSF workgroup will look to make pre-schools more inclusive

(From right) Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee interacts with pupil Raoul S/O Selvanathan and Learning Support Educator, Jean Toh at My First Skool.
(From right) Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee interacts with pupil Raoul S/O Selvanathan and Learning Support Educator, Jean Toh at My First Skool.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Learning Support Educator, Veronica Tang interacts with pupil, Elijah Wong at My First Skool.
Learning Support Educator, Veronica Tang interacts with pupil, Elijah Wong at My First Skool.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - A workgroup will be set up by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to look at how to better integrate children with learning needs into pre-schools.

The group will be made up of representatives from community groups, voluntary welfare organisations, as well as the government, academic and private sectors, and study ways to strengthen support for children with moderate to severe developmental needs within pre-schools, and extend good practices to more centres.

It will be co-chaired by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and National Institute of Education Associate Dean (Education Research) Kenneth Poon.

The group was announced by Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development, during a visit to a My First Skool pre-school on Wednesday (April 10).

He said that some pilot schemes integrating children with learning needs have been carried out in recent years by pre-schools such as Canossaville Preschool and Kindle Garden.

Mr Lee also announced that from July, early intervention programmes will be transferred from MSF's Disability Office to the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) in stages. By the end of 2020, all early intervention services will come under ECDA.

The rationale for the shift, he added, is so that the agency will have better oversight of developmental needs of all children under the age of seven, given that more early intervention is being delivered through pre-schools.

 
 
 

"Starting early, getting all our children, our young Singaporeans to interact with children of all backgrounds and all needs and all developmental pathways, is a good start," he said.

"We think it's important to take the next step, which is to bring together the planning, development, operationalisation and regulation of both early childhood as well as early intervention to make it one continuum.

"The children and parents should see better integration of services across early childhood and early intervention."

In January, the MSF announced plans to make early intervention more affordable and better customise support for children.

Mrs Phoon Chew Ping, group child support officer for NTUC First Campus, supports the transfer of early intervention services to ECDA, saying: "Putting all the programmes under one roof means that all the information about each child's needs will rest with one agency. We are looking at the children's needs as a whole, and centring the programmes around the children.

"This will also help the early intervention scene to be a bigger part of the mainstream pre-school setting, so that support will be strengthened and more seamless."