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Nationalising Pre-school education

date:Aug 22,2012 source:Singapore TODAY editorial staff:sky clicks:

From a loss of diversity in meeting the needs of different children to the possibility that curriculum could become too focused on academics, pre-school operators have voices concerns over the recent calls for the Government to take over the sector.

Restricting the range of teaching philosophies could be detrimental to children who may have different learning needs, said the operators TODAY spoke to, who were not invloved in the recent studies by the Lien Foundation on the pre-school sector.

The latest survey by Lien Foundation released last week found that seven in 10 in the 1400 parents involved felt that Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2 levels should be part of the public education system.

The foundation also earlier released two other studies, one of which involved pre-school leaders and experts who called for reforms including making pre-school education free and partially nationalising the sector to level the playing field.

Speaking with TODAY, the chief executive of Modern Montessori International Group, Dr T Chandroo, said that nationalising the sector could result a single-track programme that lacks diversity and suggested the Government introduce a national curriculum that pre-school operators could implement according to children's needs instead.

Chiltern House Principal Director Fiona Walker noted that children develop at different speeds.

If pre-school education becomes geared towards preparing for academic readiness, this could result in "long-term negative effects on a child's enjoyment and learning", she said.

Cherie Hearts Corporate General Manager (Operations) Edmund Phang cautioned that nationalisation of the pre-school sector could compromise the diversity of curricula and reduce the choices parents have of finding a good match for their child.

Nevertheless, industry players agreed that more could be done to enhance the quality of pre-school education here. Some suggested having better trained teachers and providing funding to private operators. To retain and attract good teachers, operators also felt there could be more public appreciation of their work and training opportunities.

On the Government's part, Mr Phang felt there should be a standardised teachers' training framework to ensure consistency across centres. He also proposed Government funding to all operators.

In turn, private operators could commit places to children from lower income households and enable disadvantaged families to have access to private centres, he said.

Ms Walker added that, with outdoor play and nature pertinent to early childhood education, the Government could provide operators with more access to suitable premises.

Dr Chandroo said other countries started developing their early childhood landscape years ago and Singapore would inevitably lag for now. "We've started a bit later and parents must have a little bit of patience. You give Singapore another five to 10 years, we'll be there," he said.

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