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Important to raise quality of early childhood educators: Minister Chan

The government is committed to providing affordable, accessible and quality early childhood services, thus it is intent on raising the quality of professionals working in the sector.

SINGAPORE: The government is committed to providing affordable, accessible and quality early childhood services, thus it is intent on raising the quality of professionals working in the sector.

In order to increase the number of professionals in the sector, it will target new and mid-career entrants.

The government will also ensure those currently working in the sector continue to find their work meaningful and challenging.

Singapore's early childhood education sector is growing fast, thus there is a need not just for more educators, but quality manpower.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said: "In 2008, perhaps only one in six of our children in that age group required early childhood services.

“Today, we are at one in three, and in a few years’ time, we will probably reach one in two, and for some of the new estates it could be even higher than that.

“So obviously there is a tremendous need not just for numbers, but also quality manpower in the sector."

Mr Chan was speaking at the inaugural Early Childhood Career and Education Fair held at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre on Saturday.

The fair is not just a recruitment platform for preschool operators, but also a way for the public to find out more about the career opportunities and training that are available within the sector.

On Saturday, more than 500 positions were available for jobseekers.

A Traineeship Programme by the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) was also launched, which will give jobseekers a taste of what they can expect as an early childhood educator.

They will get on-the-job training for up to two weeks, a training allowance, and incentives of up to S$500 if they complete the programme and stay on in the sector.

Ng Cher Pong, WDA’s chief executive, said: "We think that this will benefit particularly economically inactive Singaporeans, such as back-to-work women who are thinking of rejoining the workforce. And this will facilitate their re-entry into the labour market.

“For employers, they are operating against a very tight labour market. This will enable them to draw in groups that would perhaps be a bit hesitant to join the workforce."

So far, 15 pre-school operators have joined the programme.

WDA said through the programme -- which is also supported by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) -- trainees get a better understanding of the position in a hands-on setting, while employers can better gauge whether the trainees are suitable before offering them jobs.

Judy Chan, a special education teacher, said: "I'm planning for my retirement, and for my retirement I would like to move on to help children of a younger age, so I came here to look for a workshop."

As for those already in the industry, Mr Chan said a minimum of four days a year should be set aside for them to train and upgrade their skills.

"This is the minimum we would hope to achieve. Over time we hope to do even more as we go along.

“At the same time, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) has started a registry to build our pool of relief teachers --no different from the primary school and the formal education system -- so that when our early childhood professionals go for training, we need not worry about the manpower issues in the centre," added Mr Chan.

Mr Chan also launched an ECDA Career Guide for those interested in a career in the early childhood sector.

The guide provides information about the sector, various entry pathways, as well as training opportunities and support available. 

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