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A Central Agency to Oversee Pre-School Education Ministry Of Education (MOE)
1. The PSW studied into several foreign educational models and found that Sweden and Germany have established a central administrative authority to oversee the public school system for children, young people and adults, as well as for preschool activities and child care for school children. The PSW suggested a similar educational model be established in Singapore’s context and MOE could be the single lead agency to oversee the pre-school education. Recognising the different needs of families and hence the different options available for early childhood education and care, two Government ministries have oversight over operators – MOE for kindergartens and MCYS for childcare centres. MOE and MCYS collaborate closely to set standards for key areas to ensure a baseline of quality. Such an arrangement allows for uniformity in common areas (such as setting minimum qualifications for teachers) while affording customisation to regulate each sector according to its different circumstances and requirements (e.g. space requirements for the childcare sector are different from kindergartens).

Formalising Pre-School Education
2. The PSW believes that by providing our young population with a quality early start, our human capital is developed to its maximum potential. The PSW proposes the alignment of pre-school education with the formal school structure, with the long-term direction of progressively lowering the starting age of compulsory education from seven to five. MOE’s position is that the aim of PSE is to lay a strong foundation for young children to become life-long learners. This involves a holistic development of children, arousing their curiosity about the world around them, teaching them social skills such as learning to work and relate with others, expressing their thoughts and ideas, and building confidence. PSE programmes before Primary 1 should remain flexible and adaptable to the needs of pre-school children and should not become mere extensions of formal school systems. Moving towards “school-readiness” at too early an age with an over-emphasis on academic instruction and normal classroom routines could be harmful to children motivation and interest in learning.

MOE’s approach is in line with international best practices. In most developed countries, formal education starts from Primary One, and PSE is not compulsory. There are also differing views on the starting age for formal primary school.

a. In Finland, which topped the OECD (PISA) in 2006, children start formal education at age seven. Sweden’s formal school system offers a pre-school class which is not compulsory because there are different views on what the school entry age should be.

b. In the US, while formal public education incorporates a pre-school year, the K year is not mandatory for all children across all states. Currently, mandatory attendance is required in only 17 out of 50 states.

c. In New Zealand, PSE is not compulsory and most providers are private/community providers.

d. In East Asia, PSE in Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan is not part of the universal and compulsory education system. Like Singapore, the operation of kindergartens in Hong Kong is largely undertaken by private enterprises or voluntary organisations.
Attracting and retaining talents in the pre-school sector
3. The PSW agreed with the feedback by members of public that pre-school educators are not enjoying the remuneration that their counterparts in primary and secondary schools are getting. The pre-school teachers, who are poorly paid at $1,000-1,500 per month, have higher attrition rates as compared to other teachers.

MOE could regulate and progressively raise the qualification and salary of pre-school teachers and administrators, so as to attract and retain more talents into the sector.
In terms of attracting and retaining more talents into the sector, MOE set the minimum academic and professional qualifications of pre-school teachers in 2001, which were subsequently raised from January 2009/2013 for new/existing teachers respectively. With these new requirements, both kindergartens and childcare centres will be recruiting better qualified people and paying them market rates.
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