Plans to boost pre-school teachers' career paths, workplace well-being

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said during the virtual Early Childhood Conference yesterday that "the priority is to help all teachers deepen their expertise and develop fulfilling careers in the sector".
Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said during the virtual Early Childhood Conference yesterday that "the priority is to help all teachers deepen their expertise and develop fulfilling careers in the sector". PHOTO: EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT AGENCY

Pre-school teachers can look forward to better and clearer career paths, with the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) conducting a review of how their professional development is structured.

In the context of the coronavirus crisis, there will also be a stronger emphasis on educators' and pupils' social and emotional well-being, the agency said yesterday.

Even as more outdoor learning is in the works for pupils, an occupational health and safety assessment to improve teachers' well-being at their workplace is under way.

More details of the various initiatives will be announced next year.

Speaking on the announcements at the first virtual Early Childhood Conference yesterday, Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli, who took over the portfolio in August, said: "The priority is to help all teachers deepen their expertise and develop fulfilling careers in the sector.

"This will ultimately benefit both teachers and children."

Mr Masagos was in the Ministry of Education in 2006, and had then visited several countries to study their pre-school systems.

He said that despite the changes and advancements made over the years, "our goal has not changed - we want to give every child a good start in life".

ECDA said one key factor in the social-emotional development of children is outdoor learning and, with Temasek Foundation's support, the agency is launching more courses so that teachers can be better equipped to facilitate this.

A fund will be set up early next year to help more centres introduce outdoor learning programmes, building on the agency's efforts that began last year, which include the creation of more outdoor learning spaces in Housing Board estates and parks.

Mrs Patricia Koh, chief executive of childcare centre Maple Bear, said the outdoors is very important for building children's confidence.

She recalls her time in Australia when she saw children climbing trees and their parents encouraging them to explore nature without being overprotective of them.

"It helps them be sure of themselves without worrying about failing, especially as teachers are not giving them scores in the outdoors. If they fall, they will be tended to, and they will get up."

She hopes to see more public spaces demarcated for children's play.

Meanwhile, lower-income families will receive more support in areas such as nutrition through the expansion of KidStart, a government pilot programme started in 2016 to help children up to six years old from such families.

While it has helped about 1,000 children to date, the plan is for the scheme to help another 5,000 children over the next three years, beginning next year with those living in Yishun, Sembawang and Ang Mo Kio, Mr Masagos said.

The coronavirus crisis has increased the stress levels of teachers and forced pre-schools to come up with creative ways to ensure pupils adhere to safe distancing and keep their masks on from 7am to 7pm.

Ms Jamie Ang, chief executive of ECDA, told pre-school teachers at yesterday's event: "The work you do is vitally important but not easy. Do take care of yourself first so that you can continue in this calling of helping others."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 11, 2020, with the headline 'Plans to boost pre-school teachers' career paths, workplace well-being'. Print Edition | Subscribe