SPEECH BY MR DESMOND LEE, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT, AT ECDA SCHOLARSHIPS AND TRAINING AWARDS PRESENTATION CEREMONY ON 30 OCTOBER 2018, 3PM, SINGAPORE CHINESE CULTURAL CENTRE


30 October 2018​

Centre leaders and teachers, 
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Introduction

1. Good afternoon.
    • I am happy to join you at the ECDA Scholarships and Training Awards Presentation Ceremony 2018. 
    • To all our scholars and training award recipients, a very warm welcome to this fast growing sector. 

Joining a growing sector with strong prospects
2. ​Indeed, you are joining the early childhood profession at a very exciting time. This is because the Government has been growing the early childhood sector in a very big way over the last few years, and continuing to put in very significant investments in developing and nurturing our young children.  A very big part of the effort involves uplifting our early childhood educators. And this includes each and every one of you here today. 

3. ​In fact, you know about the ongoing debate about how we can address disparities in income, how we can make sure the mobility in our society 
continues to be alive and well. When families do well, they accumulate resources and are in a better position to pass these on to their children for extra support, training and nutrition. They all hope for their children to start off in a good position. I think that is a human instinct, whether a family is well to do or not. It’s a human instinct to want to endow your children with all opportunities than you had. 

4. ​How do we address this? One of the key approaches in Singapore must be to ensure that we invest very significantly in our young children, especially children from families who have the least. 
    • There is the Abecedarian method in investing in young children -  not just investing in young children from better-off families, but investing this new method
       in centres that serve children who come from families with the least. 

    • That is one important strategy and that is why all of you are so critical to the continued well-being of society, the continued mobility of young people.
      Because the moment they learn to be conscious, to learn, to speak, when you and their parents engage them, you give them the best starting shot in life. So
      I cannot begin to emphasise how important your role is as centre leaders, principals, teachers and young educators joining this programme. 

    • Of course, we will continue with our efforts in primary schools and the rest of the national school system, so that children who are most disadvantaged get
      the most resources because the state helps to level up what their families are unable to do in terms of inequality and resources. But the start is the early
      childhood sector from 0 to 6 years old. Science tells us so and indeed it must be so. 

5. ​So what is happening in the sector? 
    • One major development is the establishment of the National Institute of Early Childhood Development, or NIEC, which will start its operations next year.
      Those of you who are studying in the Polytechnics or ITE today will concurrently be identified as students of NIEC as well. Aside from foundational training at
      the certificate and diploma-levels, NIEC will also offer continuing professional development for teachers and leaders, including post-diploma courses for
      those who want specialised training. 

    • In addition, ECDA has been working closely with our early childhood centre operators to enhance professional development and career progression for
      you, our educators.  Anchor Operators will need 1,000 senior professional positions over the next five years, because they respond to our call, they’re going
      to expand dramatically to accommodate every parent who wants to put their children in childcare to have a good early childhood. Therefore, our anchor 
      operators will need a lot more good people to look after the centres, and most importantly, nurture the next generation. And so, as said earlier, they will need
      over 1,000 senior professionals, double the number today.  These positions include being a centre leader of larger capacity centres, managing a cluster of
      centres or being a mentor to junior teachers. What this means is that there will be significant runways for you, for career progression, to find meaning and
      value in the work that you do, in this sector. 

    • On this note, ECDA has just launched a three-year National Campaign for the Early Childhood sector to raise the profile of the early childhood
      profession and the work that you do
. From this month, you will start to see our educators, maybe some familiar colleagues, featured on social media and
      traditional media. I hope your family and friends will watch them, and understand the important work that you do – shaping our tomorrow through the values
      and life-skills you impart to these very impressionable young children, who will grow up with skills and instincts that you and their parents will imbue within
      them.

    • In tandem with these efforts, many more people are joining this profession in recent years. For example, the number of students joining the Polytechnic and
      ITE early childhood courses has doubled over the last two years to about 820. Now, the majority of our students are ECDA Training Award recipients, up
      from just one-fifth in 2016.

Leading and inspiring others from Day One 

6. ​The theme of today’s ceremony is “Inspire and Aspire”. Your personal motivations for joining the profession, or your continuous pursuit for competency and
     skillsets that you take to the children can help inspire many others in the EC sector. It is not just you teaching children and inspiring them, but you also
     teaching and inspiring the next batch who will come after you, as they come needing someone to guide them. You will eventually be that mentor to your
     younger peers. One example is Ms Koh Jing Wen.

    • A Year 2 student with the Singapore University of Social Sciences, or SUSS, Jing Wen vividly remembers the feeling of being cared for in preschool, and
      looking forward to going to school every day as a child. This sense of security and love, as well as other teachers she met in her education journey, inspired
      Jing Wen to pursue an Early Childhood Degree after her A Levels. 

    • Besides imparting skills and knowledge to children, Jing Wen aspires to create a safe and enjoyable learning environment for them, instilling in them the
      passion for learning since early childhood.

7. ​Another example of a passionate and committed recipient of the ECDA Training Award is Ms Nivetha D/O Loganathan. 
    • Nivetha first discovered her interest in the EC sector when she worked at a childcare centre for 3 months, while waiting for her O Level results. Inspired by
       her experience with a nurturing preschool teacher, Nivetha hoped to become an EC educator to nurture our children to become future leaders.

    • Nivetha continued to pursue her passion by taking up the Higher Nitec in Early Childhood Education at ITE College Central. Today, Nivetha is studying for
      her Diploma in Tamil Studies in Early Education at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, pursuing both her passion for children and Tamil language at the same time. 

    • ECDA will continue to support Mother Tongue Language educators like Nivetha through the provision of training and better resources.

8. In fact, you do not need to wait until you have completed your studies and started work to inspire your peers. 
    • You have just seen the video created by six ECDA TA Commendation Award recipients. They are outstanding TA recipients who has demonstrated
       exemplary qualities. 

9. Allow me to share the story of one of them, Ms Noor Rashikin Binte Mohamed Rashid. 
    • After graduating from secondary school more than five years ago, Shikin was determined to do well and achieve her goals.

    • Not only did she work extremely hard on her coursework, Shikin also took on the role of a class representative at ITE and helped her classmates with
       schoolwork. She actively encouraged her classmates to offer assistance to anyone in need. At the same time, Shikin was active in community work. She
       volunteered at many Mendaki events, including Mendaki’s 35th Anniversary celebrations and parenting talks, where she interacted with the children.

    • Shikin’s hard work paid off and she graduated top of her course at ITE. Today, Shikin is pursuing her EC training at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Well done, Shikin!

10. I believe that regardless of your varying backgrounds, many of you have similar stories to tell.
    • Your own hopes and dreams for the EC sector can inspire fellow members of the EC community to give their best to our children.

Developing and upskilling oneself in a continuing journey 
11. Your initial professional training will provide you with a good start. But the journey is a continuous one and lifelong learning can stand you in better stead along the years. I am glad that many recognise this and are committed to this journey.

    • To support early childhood educators in your professional development, over the past few years, ECDA has developed several professional programmes.
       This is not just pre-employment training, but life-long training programmes. These range from the Professional Development Programme for Educarers,
       Teachers and Leaders; the SkillsFuture Study Award for the Early Childhood Sector; to the ECDA Fellows programme. All these programmes are there for
       you. Seize them in the course of your development, so that you can continue to grow, not just as an educator, but a peer, a mentor and as a person. We
       hope this will encourage you to take on more leadership roles, in your organisations and the sector.

    • In addition, ECDA offers the ECDA Scholarships to support outstanding EC educators if you wish to pursue further studies and keep up to date of
      developments in the field.

12. Ms Janice Ong is a good example of someone who is committed to continuing professional development and upskilling herself. 
    • Inspired by her mother who has been in the Early Childhood sector for 27 years, Janice decided to pursue her passion and join the sector as well. Despite
      facing challenges, Janice persevered and gained valuable teaching experience. Today, she is a Senior Teacher at Ascension Kindergarten, managing the
      Nursery 1 department and leading 12 teachers.

    •
 ​Having benefitted from the mentorship of her current school principal, Janice hopes to pay it forward to build and strengthen networks among EC educators,
      where ideas could be shared and good practices scaled. 

    •
 A proud recipient of the ECDA Scholarship, Janice is now pursuing a Master of Education with the National Institute of Education, to complement her
      practical experience, gain better insight into pedagogy and research, and further develop her ability as a mentor and leader.  

Conclusion
13. In conclusion, I would like to draw us back to the opening performance and video we have just seen as well as the stories of Jing Wen, Nivetha, Shikin and
      Janice. There is a certain underlying theme - of the motivations of our early childhood educators, your talents and your collective mission. Indeed, the role of
      the early childhood educator is noble and significant. And I am confident that our early childhood educators are professionals with in-depth knowledge, skills
      and dispositions to give every child a good start. 

    • I wish you all the best in your journey ahead.

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