Pre-school teachers' career paths to be reviewed, more support for outdoor learning for children

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 in 2019. PHOTO: BUSY BEES SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - 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, there will also be a stronger emphasis on educators' and pupils' social and emotional well-being, the agency said on Saturday (Oct 10).

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 initiatives at the first virtual Early Childhood Conference on Saturday, Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli 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, who began helming the Ministry of Social and Family Development in August, added: "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 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 included the creation of more outdoor learning spaces in Housing Board estates and parks.

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli announcing in his open address at the Early Childhood Conference 2020 that more support will be given to help teachers' and childrens' social-emotional wellbeing. PHOTO: EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT AGENCY

Chief executive of childcare centre Maple Bear Patricia Koh 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 their physicality without being overprotective.

"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 said.

Mrs Koh wants to see more public spaces demarcated for children's play.

Meanwhile, lower-income families will also 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 of age who are 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 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 Saturday'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."

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