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Kindergarten Curriculum Framework

In February 2013, the Ministry of Education launched the newly revised Kindergarten Curriculum Framework, a more detailed guideline on pre-school education. The move by the government reflects a growing concern for the effectiveness of pre-school education. Hence, the new guideline has received favorable response from the public and education professionals alike. What sets the refreshed Kindergarten Curriculum Framework distinct from its predecessor introduced in 2003 is its more specific goal setting in schooling of young children, outlining what are the concrete results to be achieved at different stages of kindergarten education.

Kindergarten Curriculum Framework

Kindergarten Curriculum Framework

Below is the diagram depicting the refreshed kindergarten Curriculum Framework for pre-schoolers taken from MOE website.

As one reads through the guideline, one line may strike him as unusual. The guideline regards children as ‘curious, active and competent learners’. This attitude may go against conventional wisdom that regards children as less capable of independent learning and in constant need of guidance and help. However, according to professional research on which the Framework is based, children are fully capable of taking charge of their own learning, as long as appropriate environment is provided. Hence, the Framework has set a right tone and philosophy for kindergarten education where teachers are no long authoritarian, but acting as facilitators. It’s been said that all policies are fundamentally a bundle of assumptions held by the government towards the governed. In this case, the assumption held for children is progressive and beneficial. And perhaps more importantly, assumptions are usually self-fulfilling. By encouraging children to think through the numerical relationship between two figures, or by letting them build their own castles to enhance their motor skills, teachers are actually making children ‘curious and competent’ in learning, even though some of them may not start off being so in the first place. Hence, we can foresee the success of the Framework from its basic philosophy.

As mentioned in the introduction, the new Framework spells out more specific goals to be achieved. This may not be intuitively appealing to some people who think that the purpose of kindergarten is to provide a conducive environment

Kindergarten Curriculum Framework

Kindergarten Curriculum Framework

for children to play as they learn. Indeed, play being a medium for learning is one of the principles of the Framework, but that does not mean specific educational goals, as also being introduced in higher institutions, are not necessary. Given the increasingly competitive global environment, children nowadays face more challenges, as the workplace demands greater qualities from them. Young children, being most malleable, are receptive to shaping of characters and abilities. For example, one critical aspect of pre-school education is social skills. We need to ensure that children by the end of P2 have reasonable control over their emotion and are able to respect and get along with their peers. Hence we should make the best use of the pre-school period to achieve results that form the basis of further education. It is regrettable if we let children indulge in play, without a clear goal in mind about what we want them to get out of their pre-schooling experience.

While outlining clear goals of education helps increase education standard, the policy also reduces over-teaching. Singapore has become an affluent nation and it is commonplace to see rich or elite kindergartens around the island. They usually promise many of the benefits to children, while charging fees many of the families cannot afford. However, when the government introduces the Framework to all kindergartens and make it be known by the public as well, parents will have a clear idea what is sufficient for their children to achieve at the end of the day. The availability of such information based on credible early childhood research has two desirable consequences. First, it helps cool down the frenzy ‘kiasu’ parents face when selecting kindergartens. Second, it helps reduce the anxiety of parents who cannot give an expensive pre-school education to their children, as they are assured of the quality and outcome of education in normal schools that follow the MOE standard. Ultimately, the whole family stands to benefit from the policy.

However, even with an improved guideline, we should not neglect another critical aspect of pre-school education: quality of professional teachers. A great plan will not produce great results unless it is executed by great people. We definitely need great teachers in kindergartens, no less great than what we demand of teachers in primary or secondary schools. However, the early education career has been plagued with problems such as low pay and low social regard. The erroneous perception of pre-school teachers being ‘nannies’ still exists. Such perception, coupled with low pay, makes it difficult for us to attract motivate individuals to enter the industry and benefit the children. We should respect pre-school teachers as professionals and the working conditions should be in accordance with such respect. Only when we have ensured the existence of generally qualified kindergarten teachers can we fully entrust the Kindergarten Curriculum Framework into their good hands.

It is heartening to see the rising social awareness for the importance of pre-school education and the gradual shift of the industry to more professional standard, with specific and uniform practices informed by scientific research. We as citizens should pay more attention to this area that used to be neglected as less important in education scene. Quite on the contrary, it is perhaps even more important than many of the subsequent education periods, as it is the start of everything.

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