SINGAPORE: Early childhood educators will soon be able to sign up for a career development programme and track their professional development online, under two new initiatives announced by Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin on Friday (Sep 25) at the Early Childhood Conference and Carnival.
They are part of ongoing efforts to support and develop pre-school teachers at every stage of their careers.
The three-year Professional Development Programme (PDP) is one of two initiatives introduced by the Early Childhood and Development Agency (ECDA). It aims to nurture pre-school teachers who have the potential to take up larger roles in their organisations.
Under it, they will be able to hone their competencies through a combination of modular courses and projects. They will have to meet certain conditions before they can enrol.
The modular courses are skills-based courses run by institutions including polytechnics and universities. In all, they have to clock in 180 hours throughout the three years to complete the programme. These include being nominated by employers, and having at least three years of relevant teaching experience as well as being currently employed in a pre-school registered or licensed with ECDA.
Nominations for the first batch of participants will open soon, from Oct 1 to Dec 31, with the programme scheduled to begin next year.
Even as they undergo the programme, educators can continue to work in their organisations, with flexible work arrangements to be worked out with their employers, and earn their usual monthly income.
They can also receive a cash incentive of up to S$12,000 when they have completed the programme. For instance, after the first year, they are able to receive S$3,000, and this will be increased to S$5,000 after they have completed the third year.
However, to qualify for this incentive, they must remain employed in their organisations for at least six months after the end of each PDP year.
Under the second initiative, pre-school teachers will be able to track their professional development, including the number of training hours they have clocked. They can do this using an online platform called ONE@ECDA, which will be launched at the end of the year.
It will also allow pre-school teachers to sign up for courses and receive updates from ECDA on work-related resources. For operators, the platform will simplify the teacher registration process and make it more convenient to track the teachers' professional development to support human resource management and training frameworks.
Mr Tan said these initiatives were developed based on feedback from the industry. It is also a recognition that the roles played by early childhood educators are important.
He said: “This is something that we have put in place that will benefit them, those who are already in service. But they will also attract those coming onboard, because they see themselves as not only taking up a job but a profession which is recognised, a profession that will allow them to continue to develop not just from the onset but throughout their careers as well.”
Employers also said that this move provides a boost to both pre-school teachers and the industry. “All along, we do know the importance of pre-school years, so it would definitely be an encouragement and an affirmation to them for the value that is now tagged to it with the PDP in place,” said Ms Chels Chung, head of operations at MY World Preschool.
Pre-school teachers said the initiatives will identify and develop their strengths as educators. Some also hoped that a mentoring process could be put place.
Ms Debbie Ong, a pre-school teacher at MY World Preschool, said: “Apart from pedagogy and teaching skills, I think it would be mentoring as well, because a lot of new teachers are coming into the industry, and it is very important to have good mentors to lead them to the right direction and hone better teachers.”
Currently, there are more than 14,000 early childhood educators in Singapore.