Commentary: In pre-school boost, parents are the missing critical players

Commentary: In pre-school boost, parents are the missing critical players

Singapore is doubling down on pre-school education and building up a core of pre-school teachers. NIE’s Nirmala Karuppiah argues that parents are also key to their children’s learning and development at this critical early stage.

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced during his National Day Rally speech on Sunday (Aug 20) that a National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) will be set up under the ambit of the existing National Institute of Education (NIE).

The new NIEC will consolidate the early childhood education training programmes conducted by the Institute of Technical Education, Ngee Ann and Temasek Polytechnics and SEED Institute for teachers, and develop new curricula for pre-schools including kindergartens and childcare centres.

In his speech, Mr Lee drew a comparison with how primary, secondary and junior college teachers are trained in NIE. He said:

Because teachers are trained well, paid well and have good career prospects, good people take up teaching and we have a good education system.

"We will take the same approach with pre-school teachers: Train them well, reward them well and attract good, passionate people,” he added.

Mr Lee also announced that the Government, through the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), will provide training awards for students of the new NIEC. “The awards will cover fees plus an allowance, so pre-school teachers can make a strong start to their careers,” he said.

Just yesterday, the Ministry of Education announced that the NIEC will take in its first batch of aspiring pre-school teachers in 2019


These moves are timely and crucial in improving and enhancing the quality of pre-school education in Singapore, through building a community of well-trained pre-school teachers.

NIE has raised cohorts of passionate and competent teachers who have in turn, ignited a love for learning in many of their students in primary and secondary schools, and junior colleges. Hence, the move to do the same with the pre-school sector is a welcome one. 

In the new NIEC, pre-school teachers can learn how to impart a love for learning among young children through designing quality pre-school programmes based on strong research, theory and practice.

There are indicators that determine quality programmes which result in positive learning outcomes for young children, though there is no one definition of quality in early childhood education. These include teacher-child ratios, group size, the planning of learning activities, teacher-child interactions, in addition to the qualifications, training and experience as well as cultural background, beliefs and values of teachers.

However, research indicates that the continuity between the home and pre-school as well as strong relationships between teachers and parents are just as important in supporting the care, learning and development of young children.

Warm, sensitive and responsive teacher-child interactions and teacher-parent relationships play a major role in determining the quality of care and education of young children.

MOE kindergarten
A teacher interacting with students at an MOE Kindergarten. (Photo: Ministry of Education)


A child’s education will not be complete or effective without parent support and engagement in the pre-school. There is much scholarly work which shows the importance of parental involvement in helping young children learn and develop better in pre-school. 

The fact is, parents are involved parties once they enroll their child in a pre-school. 

There are many easy ways parents can get involved in their child’s education. For example, parents can attend various activities conducted by the pre-school such as talks, workshops, parent-teacher conferences, open house events or concerts.

Parents can also be actively engaged in and help with various activities in the pre-school as volunteers. For example, parents can read or tell stories, accompany children on field trips, prepare concert outfits and props, take care of the nature corner, or raise funds for needy children in or outside the pre-school.

Parents can also invite children and teachers to their workplaces so that children can learn about occupations and see for themselves what they entail.

In fact, parents can also provide support for each other. For example, parents can share their own stories and experiences with other parents, and assist new children and their parents with settling into the pre-school. Parents can also help those who are unable to communicate in English or understand changes in policies relevant to families and children.

Back to school 2016 - Kindergarten 1
Parents dropping their kids off at a kindergarten. (Photo: Sherlyn Goh)

So depending on their expertise, experience and availability, parents can take advantage of opportunities to participate in various ways to support each other, teachers and their children in pre-school.


When children observe that their parents are involved in activities at their pre-school, they develop a sense of pride, self-identity and security.

When they observe their parents supporting their pre-school teachers, they develop respect and trust for their teachers. When they observe their parents and teachers working together, they view their own education as a continuous process from home to pre-school and vice-versa.

Teachers need parents to support pre-school programmes which focus on the holistic development of their children. Teachers also need parents to respect and trust them, and their professional judgement and wisdom of practice to provide the best care and education for their children.  

Hence, a child’s education will not be complete or effective without teachers and parents working closely together to build a strong relationship based on care, respect and trust.

This relationship is crucial in ensuring that a young child's love for learning continues beyond the pre-school and has a lasting impact on his or her future – including the rest of their school journey, work and life.

Dr Nirmala Karuppiah is a senior lecturer at the National Institute of Education’s Early Childhood and Special Needs Education Academic Group.

This is the fifth commentary in Channel NewsAsia’s series on learning and education. 

  • Read the first commentary on whether Singapore schools should adopt digital textbooks here.
  • Read the second commentary on how Singapore teachers should manage issues on race in the classroom here.
  • Read the third commentary on whether our young need expensive enrichment classes here.
  • Read the fourth commentary on the struggle parents face in choosing a good school for their child here.
Source: CNA/sl