SINGAPORE: The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) on Wednesday (Jul 11) launched an initiative that aims to better support pre-schoolers from low-income families through cognitive and emotional development.
The three-year pilot - Temasek Foundation Cares-ABCD (Abecedarian-Based Child Development) Kids Programme - focuses on the use of language through intentional and meaningful interactions with adults.
In a press release, ECDA highlighted that research studies have proven such "high quality adult-child interactions" enable children from low-income backgrounds to improve their cognitive and socio-emotional development, and catch up with their peers.
Developed by American Professor Joseph Sparling and Professor Craig Ramey, the Abecedarian Approach is being used in countries like the United States, Denmark and China.
"We wanted to equalise the playing field and that is the reason we focused on them (children from low-income families) originally. We designed a programme that works especially well for them, but fortunately it also works for all children,” Professor Sparling said.
Mr Richard Magnus, chairman of Temasek Foundation Cares, said that through intentional and meaningful interactions with adults, children who naturally have a curiosity to explore, discover and learn will expand their cognitive, language and emotional abilities.
“Their parents will learn to reinforce the lessons and learning. This is a critical developmental pilot which we hope will be scaled up," he said.
Ms Raudhah Alias, 38, an infant care teacher at PCF Sparkletots@Kebun Baru, has already seen improvements since her centre implemented the Abecedarian Approach.
"The children are now more engaged. I can see they're interacting more with the teachers,” she said.
Speaking at the launch, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said this pilot programme provides additional support for the Government’s continued efforts to invest in quality, accessible and affordable pre-school education.
He added that we can “continue to build upon opportunities and avenue” to give the best possible start for every child in Singapore.
ECDA will work with four pre-school operators - NTUC My First Skool, PCF Sparkletots, Persatuan Pemudi Islam Singapore (PPIS) and Presbyterian Community Services - to train 60 teachers and identify 100 children across 16 pre-schools to participate in the programme.
Temasek Foundation Cares has committed S$1.6 million to fund the programme over the next three years.
The programme may be extended to more pre-schools if the pilot proves successful.