1. The future of Singapore lies in the hands of the next generation, which is why giving each child a head start in life has always been a national priority. This has seen, over the years, a steady growth in the quality, accessibility and affordability of early childhood (EC) services, with more choices and options for parents and children to tap on.
2. The Ministry of Education (MOE) embarked on a pilot of MOE Kindergartens (MKs) in 2014. There are 15 MKs today, with three more to be opened in Punggol in 2018. Moving forward, MOE will increase the number of MOE Kindergartens to 50 by 2023 to provide more high-quality and affordable pre-school places.
3. MOE also recognises the importance of developing a fraternity of passionate and capable EC professionals, who are instrumental in providing quality pre-school education. Today, while there are many training providers, the EC training landscape is fragmented with no single national institute overseeing EC training and professional development. To transform the EC training ecosystem, MOE will set up the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) under the ambit of the National Institute of Education (NIE).
4. On MOE’s efforts to strengthen preschool education, Ms Lai Wei Lin, Deputy Secretary (Policy), MOE said: “With more MOE Kindergartens opening across Singapore in the next 5 years, parents will have greater choice and access to quality and affordable pre-school services. MOE is also committed to invest in the quality and professionalism of our early childhood professionals as we grow the capabilities in early childhood training under a new National Institute of Early Childhood Development. Parents can be more assured that their children will be well taken care of in their early childhood years."
5. These are part of the Government’s ongoing efforts to lay a stronger foundation for our children and provide better support for families with young children in the next five years. Details of the initiatives are in the following sections.
I. Expansion of MKs
6. MOE will open more MKs in phases, to expand from the current 181 to 50 MKs by 2023, to serve about 20% of children aged five to six years. 13 new MKs will open in 2019 and 2020, in areas of demand. Please refer to Annex A for their locations. The locations of new MKs beyond 2020 will be announced at a later date.
7. All new MKs will be co-located with primary schools. Through the MK pilot experience, MOE has found that co-location enables closer collaborations between MKs and primary schools on programmes and joint activities, which enrich the learning experience of pre-school children and support their smoother transition to Primary 1.
8. To allow more MK children to benefit from the synergies of being co-located with a primary school, the three existing community-based MKs will be progressively relocated to nearby primary schools as the new MKs open. MK@Fernvale Link will be first to relocate to Fern Green Primary School in 2019, followed by MK@Yishun to Huamin Primary School in 2020. Please refer to Annex B for details.
9. By 20202, we will have 29 MKs. MOE will be releasing more information to parents with children in the community-based MKs to be relocated, and to prospective parents who wish to enrol their children in the MKs.
Scaling Up of MKs’ Collaboration with Anchor Operators’ (AOP) Early Years Centres (EYCs)
10. As announced in February 2017, the two largest AOPs - PCF Sparkletots and NTUC My First Skool - are setting up new EYCs that specially cater to children aged two months to four years old in Punggol. Under the MK-EYC pilot, all eligible Singapore Citizen and Permanent Resident Nursery 2 (N2) children who are enrolled in these EYCs will be guaranteed a Kindergarten 1 (K1) place in a nearby MK.
11. Moving forward, PCF Sparkletots will take the lead to open more EYCs. Commenting on the collaboration, Mr Victor Bay, Chief Executive Officer of PAP Community Foundation said, “Our collaboration with MOE is a strategic move in line with the nation’s commitment to provide more pre-school places and raise pre-school standards. With PCF’s extensive footprint, we are well placed to partner MOE in expanding MK services across schools. By focusing on the early years, PCF will be able to make a bigger impact on children’s development and educational outcomes in the most critical phase of their development, from 0 to 4. This is very much aligned with our social mission to give all children, regardless of their socio-economic background, easy access to affordable and quality pre-school education.”
12. All new MKs opening in 2019 and 2020 will also collaborate with AOPs as part of the MK-EYC pilot to provide a continuum of quality and affordable pre-school services for children aged two months to six years old. MOE and the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) have sited the new MKs in estates with higher demand for pre-school places, and identified nearby AOP centres for collaboration. The MK-EYC pilot will now be expanded to include the 13 new MKs and an existing MK – MK@Sengkang Green3.
13. At the start of the N2 year, parents of eligible children in the EYCs may choose to accept the guaranteed place at a partner MK. MOE will work with the respective AOPs to ensure a smooth transition for children from the EYCs to the MKs. There will also be places in the MKs available for children who are not from the EYCs. The first batch of children from the EYCs will enrol in their partner MKs for K1 in 2019.
II. Setting up of the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC)
14. MOE will set up the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC), under the ambit of NIE, to focus on EC professional training and development.
Consolidation and building on existing capabilities
15. NIEC will bring together the EC training capabilities and expertise of the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), Temasek Polytechnic (TP), and NTUC’s SEED Institute, to become a major player in the EC training landscape. With the formation of NIEC, there will be greater scale and mandate to build on existing capabilities and go further to achieve what individual providers cannot do on their own. NIEC will centralise and drive all strategic and professional aspects of EC training, such as curriculum design and development, academic governance and faculty development. With its close affiliation to NIE, NIEC will also benefit from NIE’s expertise in curriculum, pedagogy, and teacher training to strengthen the nexus between research, training, and practice.
16. NIEC will offer Certificate-level and Diploma-level Pre-Employment Training (PET) courses for post-secondary students interested in joining the pre-school sector. In addition, it will offer Continuous Education and Training (CET) courses for mid-careerists, and in-service upgrading and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses to further develop the competencies of in-service teachers and leaders. Details of these EC offerings are in Annex C. Over time, NIEC will expand and regularly update its offerings to ensure that its programmes are responsive to the sector’s needs.
Benefits to EC students and in-service EC professionals
17. After NIEC is formed, all EC students in ITE, NP, TP and 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. NIEC will also leverage NIE’s expertise to ensure that the curriculum and programmes are of high quality. Upon graduation, students will be awarded NIEC qualifications4 that would be a recognised endorsement of the quality and rigour of the programme.
18. NIEC courses will continue to be conducted at ITE, the polytechnics or SEED Institute, but NIEC will bring students across the different locations together regularly, to develop a stronger sense of fraternity and belonging to the EC profession.
19. With greater scale, NIEC will be able to build on the existing strengths of each institution to deepen capabilities excellence in niche areas like Special Educational Needs or Mother Tongue Languages. Students will be able to benefit from these more specialised modules regardless of where they are offered.
20. In-service EC professionals can further develop their competencies as teachers and leaders with enhanced CPD courses at NIEC. NIEC will take a systematic approach towards in-service professional development, to better support ECDA’s initiatives to strengthen career ladders and progression.
Benefits to EC faculty
21. The establishment of NIEC will bring all EC faculty under one organisation. There will be more emphasis on professional development, curriculum development, research, and more opportunities for the faculty to specialise. In addition, professional development will be enhanced by strengthening the training-research nexus through NIEC’s collaboration with NIE’s Centre for Research in Child Development (CRCD).
Timeline and Set up
22. MOE will set up a Pro-Tem Board of Directors to oversee the formation of NIEC, chaired by MOE and comprising representatives from NIE, NP, TP, ITE and SEED Institute. MOE has also appointed Mrs Loke-Yeo Teck Yong, Divisional Director, Education Services, Ministry of Education, to be the first Director of NIEC. Mrs Loke will concurrently take on the appointment of Director, NIEC (Designate) from now till end of the year, and she will be officially appointed as Director, NIEC with effect from 1 Jan 2018. Please refer to Annex D for background information on Mrs Loke.
23. NIEC will be fully operational from January 2019. The first intake of NIEC students will be in 2019. More details will be released later.