Singapore could consider providing free preschool education, up to kindergarten 1 and 2, for children, a recent study done on the sector suggested.
Commissioned by the Lien Foundation, the study was led by a panel of 27 early childhood professionals and included suggestions to improve preschool education here.
Among others, the panel said the image of preschool teachers can be raised by developing a more formal pay structure and by setting a salary scale comparable to those of mainstream school teachers.
A coordinating ministry could also be formed to oversee and regulate the early childhood sector, the panel proposed.
In addition, the study highlighted challenges present in the early childhood education sector.
These include uneven quality, equity and affordability of education; difficulties faced by the preschool profession such as the high turnover rate of teaching staff; and the need for improved participation from parents as well as the Government.
The study added that one way to get more parents involved is to equip them with the right skills and information to care of their children, through conducting parental outreach programmes.
Such programmes can help parents to improve their children’s potential. This, in turn, will boost the overall quality of Singapore’s preschool education.
On the issue of quality and affordability of preschool education, the panel was concerned about the difference in programmes offered by public and private preschool providers. In particular, they feared children from lower-income families could be at a disadvantage, as school fees can range from S$100 to S$2,000.
To even out any inequality, the panelists called for the Government to recognise early childhood services as a necessary public good, and provide free preschool education for all children.
“The study provided compelling rationales for increased government investment and funding of the sector, in order to ensure that underlying causes such as the high attrition rate of the workforce, pay disparities, and inequities of the sector are addressed, said lead investigator Lynn Ang, who is a senior lecturer of early childhood from the University of East London.
The chief executive officer of the Lien Foundation, Lee Poh Wah said a child’s preschool education should always remain the responsibility of his or her parents.
He added, “The early years of a child’s life are so vital that preschool education should be a shared responsibility of both parents and the government. Any efforts by the government to step up its role in this area should be balanced by active parental involvement.”
An earlier study by the Economist Intelligent Unit, also commissioned by the Lien Foundation, saw Singapore's early childhood education environment ranked 29th out of 45 countries across the globe.
The results of that report were released in June.
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