SINGAPORE: A centralised training institute for pre-school teachers will take in its first batch of students in 2019, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said on Wednesday (Aug 23).
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the new National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday. Mr Lee said it will be similar to the existing National Institute of Education (NIE), but for pre-school teachers and carers.
The NIEC, which will be set up under the ambit of NIE, will bring together the various pre-school teacher training programmes offered in institutions like Temasek Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and the SEED Institute.
Giving more details on the new institute, MOE said the NIEC will offer certificate-level and diploma-level training courses for post-secondary students interested in joining the pre-school sector.
It will also offer continuous education and training courses for mid-career professionals, and upgrading and professional development courses for teachers and leaders in service.
After NIEC is formed, all early childhood education students in the polytechnics, ITE and the SEED Institute will be identified as NIEC students. They will undergo a "more unified” foundational training designed, developed and delivered by NIEC and its faculty.
MOE added that while NIEC courses will continue to be conducted at ITE, the polytechnics and SEED Institute, it will bring students together regularly to “develop a stronger sense of fraternity and belonging to the profession".
Upon graduation, students will be awarded NIEC qualifications, MOE said. Students in NIEC's Professional Education and Training courses will graduate with qualifications awarded by NIEC, in collaboration with the respective polytechnics or ITE, while those in the continuous education and training programmes will get NIEC qualifications.
With the establishment of NIEC, all early childhood faculty members will be brought together under one organisation. MOE said there will be more emphasis on professional development, curriculum development, research and more opportunities for the faculty to specialise.
MOE's existing divisional director of Education Services, Loke-Yeo Teck Yong, will be the first director of NIEC.
Speaking to reporters she described NIEC as a “milestone in the development of the early childhood training landscape".
“The NIEC will rally the fraternity of early childhood professionals, strengthening the collective professional capabilities and their networks,” she said. “This is something that I think will be very welcomed by early childhood professionals.”
MOE also announced on Wednesday that it will open 13 new kindergartens in 2019 and 2020.
NIEC WILL ENSURE UNIFORM MINIMUM STANDARD: EARLY CHILDHOOD PROFESSIONALS
Those in the industry welcomed news of NIEC, noting that it will uplift the early childhood sector as a whole.
“What the Government is doing is basically ensuring that there is a minimum standard that is uniform,” said Charmaine Teo, vice-president of the Association of Early Childhood Educators (Singapore)’s executive committee.
She explained that as there are different service providers in terms of certification, many new teachers come in with different backgrounds.
For example, one service provider may have included theories of childhood education in its programme, while another may have focused on the practical application of teaching and caring for children. “So one teacher may be pretty knowledgeable in how to teach something or engage a child on a certain theory, but another teacher might not have had that exposure at all,” she said.
“I think if there’s one central space like NIEC, they can funnel these new teachers in and ensure they receive basic requisite training first, before they go on to decide if they want to study some more, or specialise in different teaching areas.”
Centre head of the MOE kindergarten at Riverside Primary School, Serena Park, noted that the NIEC would help give teachers some experience dealing with the local context.
“Some of our Mother Tongue teachers have certification from China, and they come over and do a localised study to transfer that learning,” she said. “So a uniform platform would really help, to know what modules have been covered, and what the practices that they have gone through are.”
She added that having more local research would also be very helpful. “A lot of the information that is in the private centres are based on research that happens overseas,” she said.
“So with NIEC, research and practices can all be done in the local context, and that would really help to bring about a more mutual understanding about the practices that parents are comfortable with, and that educators are comfortable with in the Singapore context.”
Additional reporting by Rachelle Lee