SINGAPORE: More support will be given to early childhood educators to teach children about body safety awareness and seeking help from trusted adults when they feel unsafe, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on Friday (Jan 7).
Through age-appropriate programmes, children will be "equipped with knowledge and skills" to respect body boundaries - both theirs and others, differentiate between "good and bad touches", as well as tell trusted adults if they are touched inappropriately or feel unsafe.
Pre-school teachers will be encouraged to teach children aged four to six appropriate behaviours that promote self and group safety, as part of the Ministry of Education's (MOE) review of the Nurturing Early Learners framework.
"These include body safety awareness, how to talk about feelings, and to seek help from adults when they feel hurt or unsafe," said MSF.
The revised framework will be launched at the end of 2022, with training planned for pre-schools on key enhancements arising from the revised framework.
IMPROVED TRAINING FOR NEW EDUCATORS
Training for new educators joining the early childhood sector will be improved, said MSF.
Currently, pre-service certificate and diploma programmes offered by the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) and private training agencies incorporate concepts of child abuse and neglect, which include signs, symptoms and what educators should do in such situations.
"The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) is working closely with private training agencies to enhance the content to include concepts of body safety and improve the delivery of these programmes," said the ministry.
This also includes train-the-trainer workshops for almost 80 trainers from the agencies. NIEC has also worked with the Singapore Children's Society (SCS) to incorporate concepts of body safety in its training programmes.
"With these enhancements in pre-service training, new educators joining the (early childhood) sector will know what to look out for and be better equipped to teach the children how to protect themselves," said MSF.
With these enhancements in pre-service training, new educators joining the EC sector will know what to look out for and be better equipped to teach the children how to protect themselves.
For educators in the sector, ECDA will be encouraging them to attend a course on children's body safety skills offered by SCS.
The course will help educators better understand child sexual abuse issues, as well as pick up "appropriate strategies" to handle disclosure of such incidents.
They will be equipped to conduct the KidzLive: I Can Protect Myself programme, which enables children to learn body safety skills, along with follow-up activities to enforce children's learning.
FAMILY VIOLENCE AWARENESS TRAINING
MSF and its community partners have also reached out to pre-schools such as E-Bridge Pre-School and EtonHouse Pre-School to organise family awareness training for about 189 early childhood educators, staff and volunteers.
The ministry has also been training grassroots volunteers to recognise symptoms of family violence and abuse, and will be scaling up its outreach and training.
The training has been enhanced to equip participants with identifying and responding appropriately to the Signal for Help hand sign - which is done by first holding up one hand with the thumb tucked into the palm, and then folding four fingers over the thumb.
This sign can be used by anyone, including children, who have been exposed to family violence but are not able to verbalise their need for help, said MSF.
The signal is being promoted as part of the ministry's refreshed Break the Silence campaign, which was launched in November 2021.
There have also been ongoing efforts to train pre-school centre leaders in the Sector-Specific Screening Guide and the Child Abuse Reporting Guide. These are evidence-based tools that guide professionals on managing reports of suspected child abuse, and the follow-up after to ensure the safety and well-being of the children.
"MSF will continue to expand outreach efforts to more preschools in 2022," said the ministry.
IMPORTANT TO EQUIP EDUCATORS WITH RIGHT SKILLS
Minister of State for Social and Family Development and Education Sun Xueling said it is important to equip early childhood educators with the right skills to engage pre-school children on body safety.
"Our educators will then be better able to help pre-schoolers protect themselves as well as to play a role in early detection of family violence and sexual abuse," said Ms Sun.
Ms Sun visited PCF Sparkletots @ Sengkang Central Block 208 on Friday morning, where she observed a body safety lesson carried out with a Kindergarten 2 class.
Children learned about their body, what constitutes as good and bad touches, as well as how to protect themselves through videos, songs and age-appropriate discussions.
Ms Sun said knowledge of body safety is essential in preventing sexual abuse and domestic violence.
"It is important to teach our children about body safety from a young age so that children can protect themselves when others touch them inappropriately.
"Children are also taught to speak up and report to trusted adults when they feel unsafe," she added.