New scheme to groom pre-school leaders

Participants in three-year programme can go on overseas study trips, get cash incentives

Pre-school principals and senior teachers will be able to go on overseas study trips and get cash incentives, when they are selected to take part in a new three-year scheme that aims to groom them.

The Professional Development Programme (PDP) for Leaders will equip participants to lead their centres in quality practices. They will be able to benefit from training, professional sharing with other pre-school leaders, local conferences and learning journeys. About 400 people are expected to take part over the next four years.

The programme was launched yesterday by Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee at the Early Childhood Conference, organised by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA). Over 1,200 pre-school educators attended the annual event held at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Mr Lee also announced other initiatives, such as a fresh call for people to join the ECDA Fellows programme, which recognises experienced pre-school leaders with exemplary leadership and expertise.

These are some of the latest developments in the Government's push to improve the career prospects for pre-school professionals and raise the quality of the sector.

"Our profession needs to grow and develop, so we can play our part in nurturing our future generation," Mr Lee told the audience at the conference. "As educators, you can certainly look forward to even stronger support at every stage of your career."

The PDP for Leaders caters to centre leaders who oversee the management of a pre-school, and "lead teachers" - senior teachers who typically drive the pre-school's teaching and learning approaches, and help mentor new teachers.

  • More pre-schools attain quality mark

  • Some 40 per cent of pre-schools have received a quality certification from the Government, up from 30 per cent last year.

    This means 770 pre-schools have the Singapore Pre-school Accreditation Framework (Spark) quality mark, up from 601.

    Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Low Yen Ling announced the figures at yesterday's annual Early Childhood Conference at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

    She said: "Although Spark is a voluntary quality assurance framework, more pre-schools are recognising the value of going through Spark."

    To get the certification, pre-schools go through a rigorous assessment by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) on whether they have the processes and systems in place to deliver positive development outcomes for their children.

    Last year, ECDA extended the validity of the certificate from three to six years, and introduced a mid-term "developmental visit" in the third year of a pre-school's certification, in place of a re-certification assessment.

    Ms Low said the visits have been well received. "(The visit) removes the 'heat' from an assessment, and provides an opportunity for the pre-school and the developmental visit officer to review the strengths and areas for improvement in the pre-school."

    Priscilla Goy

There are existing PDPs for other pre-school teachers and for educarers who work with younger children aged up to four.

Participants in the new programme for leaders will go on an ECDA-funded overseas study trip to learn international best practices. They will also receive cash incentives of up to $15,000 in total, with the completion of various milestones each year, such as attending training courses, and can continue to work at their centres and earn a salary. Candidates need to be nominated by their employers and assessed by ECDA to join.

Yesterday, Mr Lee announced the extension of the ECDA Fellows Programme for new applicants.

ECDA Fellows serve a three-year term and take on sector-level roles such as leading master classes and mentoring pre-school professionals from other centres. They receive $9,000 each year in recognition of their contributions.

The current batch of 14 ECDA Fellows, appointed in 2015, can be reappointed, and the next round of application is open till Oct 31.

Ms Thahirah Ibrahim, 28, principal of Iyad Perdaus Nurture Care, is keen to join the PDP for Leaders.

She has been in the pre-school sector for over 12 years and has been a principal since 2015. She said: "I want to upskill myself so that I can help my teachers grow to become leaders in their own capacity, or even leaders of their centres."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2017, with the headline 'New scheme to groom pre-school leaders'. Print Edition | Subscribe