“While there are no national figures on the number of children who go to two kindergartens, parents and principals of preschools interviewed say it is not unusual these days for tots like Timothy to attend two kindergartens a day” (1 Child, 2 Schools To Attend, Miss Jane Ng).
The news report “1 Child, 2 Schools To Attend” (July 8, 2012) by Miss Jane Ng, which reported Singaporeans parents sending their children to two nurseries or kindergartens simultaneously, would have raised many eyebrows. Opponents would be quick to highlight the immense pressures – in the form of co-curricular activities, multiple syllabuses and homework – that would be on the shoulders of the developing schoolchildren. Many have also noted the possible redundancy of these practices, since it is highly likely that there might be overlaps in the pedagogies, curriculum and school materials.
Cognisant of these concerns, and confident that most parents – with their children’s interests at heart – would be capable of managing overall expectations, I am of the opinion that the heightened focus on preschool education is generally a positive development. It is heartening to know that parents recognise the significance of formal preschool education or strategies, and how they could complement assorted methodologies employed at home. In the broader picture, if young individuals from low income households are empowered by constructive preschool education, social mobility through education can be enhanced.
The Way Forward
My worry is that instead of bridging inequalities inSingapore, the gulf in the standards of preschool education received by kids could accentuate teaching-learning differences instead. Even before the commencement of primary school – which is, presently, plagued by tuition concerns and external enrichment programmes – the playing field is skewed heavily in favour of those who have had access to premium or multiple preschool institutions. Moreover, the Starting Well Report recently released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) – which ranked Singapore29 out of 45 countries based on the availability, affordability and quality of preschool education – has proven that the room for improvement is tremendous.
Long-term solutions demand structural amendments. The Ministry of Education (MOE) has acknowledged that new policy recommendations need to be considered, and these changes will include quality accreditations, infrastructural renovations and the training of educators. Crucially, additional resources and manpower must be channelled to the centres.
In the meantime, two further measures can be contemplated. First, parents can be roped in to contribute at home, and to develop more meaningful relationships with their child’s teachers. Second, given the accessibility of the Internet as well as the proliferation of neighbourhood or community organisations, channels can be created for the sharing of materials for home-based teaching-learning. This can include book reading lists for different ages and different interests, publicity for free seminars and programmes to accommodate working parents, sharing of personal parenting tips et cetera. Interest groups may be proactively formed, and indirectly create social circles between parents and families.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.