I remember when I thought of preschool as just another childcare centre.
I hate starting any conversation with the words “back in the day”; it implies that I’m old. However, back in the day, preschools were a very different thing from what they are today. For a start, technology wasn’t as advanced.
These days, the education system in Singapore heavily incorporates technology into its curriculum. It’s impossible to ignore the fact that smart gadgets are a basic in today’s society. Kids aren’t spared that, and even my five-year-old niece operates an iPad like a champion.
Technology is however, just but one pillar that encompasses the foundation for children before they ship off to primary school.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his recent 2017 National Day Rally, spoke about the importance of Early Childhood education and how it’s a cornerstone of modern society. Primary schools can no longer be the first phase of education for young Singaporeans.
I’m no expert on children or educating them, so I picked the brain of those in the industry to get their takes on how excited they are about the future of early childhood education in Singapore.
In the past, early childhood educators weren’t given as much emphasis as they are now. Preschools of the past were basically just institutions where parents could leave their children for the day, knowing that their kids won’t die.
If you were born in the 90s or earlier, you’d probably remember your time in a preschool as one of play, nap times, weird food and ABCs. I also vividly remember that everyone (for some reason) learnt Mandarin, whether it was their mother tongue or not.
These days, however, minority languages are catered at most preschools across the nation. Children no longer just play – playtime has been structured into an entire curriculum of its own.
Despite the changes and added structure, industry veterans believe that there isn’t any added stress on the children. There are after all no exams to streamline or limit them to resources. There’s also no competition.
Most early childhood educators of this day and age aren’t just glorified babysitters. They understand that early development is crucial for the development of a brain. A child needs holistic development to prepare them for primary education.
Finland is probably the most trendy of places when it comes to society and living. Those Scandinavians have somehow discovered how to get along and be better humans. They’ve also discovered the importance of early childhood development.
In fact, they were one of the first few to do so. They’ve been at it since the early 2000s and believe in holistic education, such as learning about one’s environment. In doing so, kids learn about nature and get to play with mud too, perfect.
In Singapore, we haven’t yet gotten that balance perfectly right, and it’s going to be a long time yet before any parent allows their children to go play with mud. After all, school fees aren’t cheap, and parents are expecting a lot more in return than just wet soil.
Fees aren’t cheap because trained teachers cost more. And with the introduction of the National Training Institute for Early Childhood Educators (NIEC), it sure looks like prices won’t be dropping – ever.
It’s a good thing however, as it’s a way forward for Early Childhood teachers. They now have a solid career path charted out and it means more people would have professional qualifications to nurture our children.
It also means that it opens up new opportunities for young people who really like children – and I mean that in the best way possible.
Sorry kids, but it looks like you’re actually going to start having to make an effort in preschool. Don’t worry though, you’ll thank the system when you realise that mud wouldn’t have helped you in your PSLE.