New Initiatives to Support Children and Early Childhood Sector
10 Oct 2021
Minister for Social and Family Development Mr Masagos Zulkifli announced new initiatives to support early childhood (EC) educators, preschool operators and children at the Early Childhood Conference today. These initiatives build on the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA)’s continuing efforts to improve the quality of preschools, strengthen the professional development of EC educators and enhance the provision of support and resources to give every child a good start.
Support for the Professional Development of Educators
Launch of the refreshed Skills Framework for Early Childhood
2. ECDA, in collaboration with SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), preschool representatives and stakeholders, has reviewed the Skills Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education that was introduced in 2016. Today, ECDA launched the refreshed Skills Framework for Early Childhood that spells out the career pathways and competencies required for various job roles in the EC sector. In the refreshed framework, the Infant and Early Years Educator career pathways have been expanded to reflect the potential progression and development pathways available for educators teaching children in the younger age groups (i.e. 2 months to 4 years old). The Leadership career pathway has also been expanded and senior educators can aspire towards new job roles such as the Lead Early Years Educator, Deputy Centre Leader, and Curriculum/Pedagogy Specialist.
3. ECDA also included new career tracks for Learning Support Educators (LSEds) and Early Intervention (EI) educators in the refreshed Skills Framework for Early Childhood. These additions seek to encourage greater porosity between the career pathways for Early Childhood and Early Intervention educators as part of our ongoing effort to advance inclusion in preschools.
4. In response to stakeholder feedback during the Skills Framework validation sessions, ECDA will standardize the nomenclature in preschools to “Educators” (e.g. Early Year Educators, Preschool Educators) for both “Educarers” (currently referring to those teaching children up to nursery level) and “Teachers” (currently referring to those teaching kindergarten levels) going forward. This reflects the equal importance of all early childhood educators, across the different age groups under their care. ECDA will work with operators to operationalize the changes by 1H2022.
5. In addition to the enhanced career map, the refreshed Skills Framework includes information on emerging trends, in-demand skills, and desired attributes of EC and EI educators. EC and EI educators can refer to the Skills Framework to plan for their skills upgrading and career development. Operators can use the framework to plan for their talent management and training/development strategies. Training providers can also progressively refresh their training programmes to align to the skills and competencies identified in the Skills Framework. The refreshed Skills Framework for Early Childhood will be available on the SSG website at www.skillsfuture.gov.sg/skills-framework/earlychildhood from 16 Oct 2021.
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Roadmap
6. With the launch of the refreshed Skills Framework for Early Childhood, ECDA will also be developing a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Roadmap, which lays out competencies that educators may wish to prioritise at different stages of their career and the professional development opportunities to develop those skillsets. The CPD Roadmap will also highlight focus areas for the EC sector that educators may wish to have more targeted training in. ECDA will be rolling out the roadmap for different job roles progressively from 2022, starting with 7 EC job roles and 6 focus areas. A similar roadmap would be developed for 9 EI job roles.
7. A Leadership Development Framework (LDF) and training roadmap targeted at future and existing EC leaders will also be developed and more details will be announced in 2022.
Support for Preschool Operators
Driving Digitalisation via the EC Industry Digital Plan (IDP)
8. At the MSF Committee of Supply (COS) Debates in Mar 2021, it was announced that ECDA is developing the early childhood IDP with IMDA, SSG and sector partners to guide preschools on the digital solutions they can adopt, along with recommended skills training, across three stages of growth1. Funding would also be provided to encourage preschools to adopt these solutions.
1Stage 1: Getting Ready for the Digital Economy – Adopt and Adapt. This stage calls for operators to adopt digital solutions such as e-enrolment and adapt centre processes for more efficient and digital-enabled work.
Stage 2: Growing in the Digital Economy – Analyse and Automate. This stage calls for preschools to adopt digital solutions such as data analytics that can help them analyse and automate operations and educator training for more data-driven operations and digital-enabled training.
Stage 3: Leaping Ahead – Advance Capabilities. This stage identifies solutions such as smart resource management and virtual training for preschool educators, so that operators can advance capabilities for smart centres and innovative learning.
9. Today, ECDA launched the Early Childhood Digitalisation Grant (ECDG) to support adoption of the IDP by preschools. Over $4 million will be available over the next 3 years, to help preschools defray the cost of adopting pre-approved digital solutions. Operators can now submit their grant applications through the Business Grants Portal (BGP).
10. ECDA and IMDA have pre-approved solutions that will assist preschools in their operations at different stages of digital readiness. These solutions are supported by certified vendors and have been curated to facilitate simple and quick adoption by preschools. Apart from preschool management, operators and educators can look forward to new solutions for e-enrolment and data analytics for centre operations from early November. More pre-approved solutions will be added progressively.
Support for Young Children and Children in Preschools
Supporting Diverse Children in our Classrooms
11. At the MSF COS Debates in Mar 2021, it was announced that ECDA would work towards every preschool appointing one of its staff as an Inclusion Coordinator (ICO), beginning in the second half of 2023. The ICO will partner early childhood educators to identify children with potential developmental needs for early assessment. They will also connect educators and parents with relevant early intervention resources and services. Today, it was announced that preschools can look forward to pre-appointment training for ICOs from end-2021.
12. ECDA will also work closely with preschools to expand the Development Support – Learning Support (DS-LS) programme to more preschools, covering 60% of preschoolers aged 5 to 6 by 2025 and 80% in the long term. This will enable children who require low levels of early intervention support to access such services at their preschools.
Launch of KidSTART CDA (Child Development Account) top-up
13. KidSTART provides upstream support to parents and children aged 0 to 6 from low-income families. KidSTART supports parents with the knowledge and skills to nurture their children’s early development, including their physical and socio-emotional health and well-being, and works with community and corporate partners to support families holistically. The programme has benefitted over 2,000 children since its inception in 2016 and aims to reach 5,000 children by around 2023.
14. In tandem with the scale up of KidSTART by Government, the ‘Growing Together with KidSTART’ initiative was launched in 2019 to raise community support for KidSTART families. The initiative has garnered $4 million in cash donations and in-kind sponsorship items from corporates and individuals. As part of the ‘Growing Together with KidSTART’ initiative, yearly top-ups2 to the Child Development Accounts will be introduced to encourage families towards early enrolment and regular attendance in KidSTART programmes and preschool. A larger top-up amount would be given to families who enroll their children in preschool earlier, between ages 3 to 4.
2This is on top of the recently announced $200 top-up to the Child Development Accounts (or CDA) for all Singaporean children aged six and below.
Celebrating the achievements of ‘Start Small Dream Big’
15. A virtual finale for the ‘Start Small Dream Big’ movement was held in conjunction with the Early Childhood Conference 2021 to celebrate the achievements of over 71,000 participants from 1,050 preschools and 25 partners. Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, the preschoolers collectively dedicated 2.1 million hours to community service projects this year, the highest since the movement started. They have also raised some $200,000 for various charitable causes, on top of in-kind donations.
16. With the theme “Stay Connected, Make A Difference” this year, ‘Start Small Dream Big’ encouraged children to maintain social connections with the community and find meaningful ways to reach out and do good amidst COVID-19. Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development said, “COVID-19 has changed the way we champion causes that we care about. However, the need to help those who are vulnerable in our society is more critical than ever. I would like to thank our preschool educators, partners and parents for remaining steadfast to the cause during this challenging period, and continuing to inculcate the ‘Start Small Dream Big’ values in our children.”
Refreshed Skills Framework for Early Childhood
1. ECDA, together with SSG, has completed the review of the Skills Framework for Early Childhood, in consultation with close to 350 sector representatives, comprising employers, in-service educators, training providers, and industry associations.
2. The refreshed Skills Framework for Early Childhood will feature an expanded career map to reflect the career opportunities within and across the Early Childhood (EC) and Early Intervention (EI) tracks. Specifically, we have
a. Expanded the Infant and Early Years Educator pathways to provide greater clarity on expanded progression and development pathways in the early years;
b. Expanded the leadership pathway through the introduction of the Lead Early Years Educator, Deputy Centre Leader, and Curriculum/Pedagogy Specialist to reflect career opportunities in the larger preschool operators that will cater to different aspirations of the early childhood workforce;
c. Included a new Learning Support track and ported over the Early Intervention track (from the Skills Framework for Social Services) to signal the porosity between Early Childhood (EC) and Early Intervention (EI) job roles; and
d. Standardised the nomenclature in preschools to Educator” for both “Educarer” and “Teacher” to recognise the equal importance of early childhood educators, regardless of the age of the children under their charge. The implementation details will be communicated to the EC operators separately.
3. The enhanced career map of the refreshed Skills Framework is appended in Figure 1 for reference. The document can be accessed via the SSG website from today.
Figure 1: Refreshed Skills Framework for Early Childhood Career Map
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Roadmap
1. ECDA is developing a CPD roadmap to guide operators, educators, and training providers in the professional development required for the different job roles. The CPD Roadmap will be regularly updated to address emerging skills gaps and keep relevance with the evolving EC landscape.
2. The CPD Roadmap will complement the refreshed Skills Framework for Early Childhood in laying out the progression of the Technical Skills and Competencies (TSCs) from the beginning to senior roles of each EC pathway listed in the Skills Framework (Infant Educator, Early Years Educator, Preschool Educator). The first phase of the CPD Roadmap will identify the prioritised TSCs for 7 key job levels/roles3, which mark important milestones in the educator’s career. The CPD Roadmap will show a list of recommended professional development opportunities that could help EC educators develop the prioritised TSCs for their respective roles. Subsequent iterations of the CPD Roadmap will include the prioritised TSCs and relevant training for the remaining job roles.
3The 7 key job roles refer to (i) Beginning Infant Educator (ii) Senior Infant Educator (iii) Beginning Early Years Educator (iv) Senior Early Years Educator (v) Beginning Preschool Educator (vi) Senior Preschool Educator and (vii) Centre Leader
3. The CPD Roadmap will also set out 6 focus areas that are of priority for the EC sector. Within each focus area, there would be courses offered at different skills levels (e.g. level 101, 201) to enable educators to progress from lower to higher level skills where applicable. The 6 focus areas are:
a. Classroom management
b. Early Years (Birth to 3)
c. Inclusive practice
d. Outdoor learning
e. Parent engagement
f. Social emotional development
Early Childhood Industry Digital Plan
Need for Digitalisation in Early Childhood Industry
1. As demand for quality early childhood (EC) services grows, digital technology can help preschools improve productivity and manage operating costs, enhance processes and service quality for parents, as well as uplift the image of early childhood educators by improving job attractiveness and supporting professional development.
Early Childhood Industry Digital Plan (IDP)
2. Developed in partnership with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and EC industry partners4, the Early Childhood Industry Digital Plan (IDP) provides a structured framework to guide preschools on their digital transformation efforts5. It is aligned with the Early Childhood Industry Transformation Map6 launched in 2018.
4Association of Early Childhood and Training Services (ASSETS), and Association or Early Childhood Educators (AECES)
5For more information on the IDP, please visit ECDA’s website.
6The Early Childhood Industry Transformation Map (ITM) was developed by ECDA in partnership with the sector, unions and other government agencies. The Early Childhood ITM aims to drive sustainable and quality EC services with initiatives to help transform the sector through skills, innovation and technology. Adoption of digital technology plays an important role in helping the sector deliver high quality services. More details are available on https://www.mti.gov.sg/te-IN/ITMs/Essential-Domestic-Services/Education .
3. The three-stage IDP digital roadmap (below) charts out the digital solutions they can adopt at each stage of their growth:
4. Under the EC IDP, preschool operators can look forward to support in the following ways:
a. Pre-approved digital solutions. To make it easy for operators to adopt digital solutions recommended in the EC IDP, ECDA and IMDA will progressively curate pre-approved solutions that have been assessed to be market-proven, cost-effective and supported by reliable vendors. Preschool operators will save on the time and effort required to search for solutions and benefit from the convenience of quickly adopting these pre-approved solutions. Apart from Preschool Management System solutions7, two new pre-approved solution categories will be available for adoption from early November 2021:
i) e-Enrolment forms – which will enable parents to submit enrolment forms online with digital signature(s); and
ii) Digital analytics for centre operations – which will enable operators to better plan, manage and improve preschool operations and environment and service quality.
7The Preschool Management System solutions are technologies that preschools can adopt that cover areas such as centre operations, finance management, child management, school web portal and staff and training management.
b. Funding support. To encourage preschool operators to start adopting the EC IDP, ECDA has introduced a new sectoral funding scheme, the Early Childhood Digitalisation Grant (ECDG) that eligible preschool operators may apply for to defray some of the costs of adopting pre-approved digital solutions recommended in the IDP. ECDG is part of the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) and will support up to 70% of the implementation cost. Applications will open from 16 October 2021 on the Business Grant Portal (BGP). More information on funding eligibility, application and claim process can be accessed here.
For more details on the EC IDP and the PSG, preschool operators can visit ECDA’s website.
Background Information on KidSTART
1. KidSTART provides upstream support to eligible children up to 6 years old and their families. The programme seeks to give children a good start in life by empowering low-income families to build strong foundations for their children and fostering positive child development outcomes.
2. KidSTART provides support for child development, coordinates and strengthens holistic services for families where needed, and monitors the developmental progress of children from birth onwards. Parents journeying with KidSTART are guided with skills and knowledge so their children can benefit from warm and nurturing relationships, achieve age-appropriate and holistic child development, and have a safe and secure home environment to grow up in.
3. KidSTART has supported over 2,000 children since 2016, and has expanded to support more children and families. A dedicated agency set up by ECDA, KidSTART Singapore Ltd works closely with partners, including an anchor Social Service Agency (SSA) in each region, to support coordinated outreach to families and implementation of KidSTART programmes. Click here for more information on KidSTART.
About Growing Together with KidSTART
4. In 2019, the “Growing Together with KidSTART” initiative was launched to invite corporates and individuals to partner KidSTART through regular volunteering and/or contributions.
5. Building sustained partnerships with the community play a big part in bringing about better outcomes for KidSTART children and our families. More than 1,000 individuals have volunteered with KidSTART since its inception in 2016. This includes corporate volunteers, tertiary students, working professionals and even parents who have graduated from KidSTART. Corporates and individuals have stepped forward to contribute about $4 million in cash donations and in-kind sponsorship of items such as connectivity devices, books and toys. Donations will go towards providing families with essential items such as milk and diapers, learning resources and Child Development Account (CDA) top-ups. Click here for more information on Growing Together with KidSTART.
‘START SMALL DREAM BIG’ 2021 FINALE
1. Over 71,000 children from 1,050 pre-schools celebrated the completion of this year’s ‘Start Small Dream Big’ projects in a virtual Finale event, in conjunction with the Early Childhood Conference 2021 held on 16 October, Saturday. Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, the preschoolers collectively dedicated 2.1 million hours to community service projects this year, under this President’s Challenge movement initiated by the Early Childhood Development Agency since 2015. This year’s participating pre-schools also raised some $200,000 in cash donations for various charitable causes, on top of in-kind donations such as food and other essential items.
2. The movement’s theme this year, “Stay Connected, Make A Difference”, encouraged children to continue to maintain social connections with the community, despite the current COVID-19 situation, and find meaningful ways to reach out and do good. It was aligned with this year’s President’s Challenge focus on supporting the digital inclusion of vulnerable groups.
3. The virtual Finale featured 2 preschools, PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Kembangan Chai Chee Blk 341 and Little Atlas Preschool, whose ‘Start Small Dream Big’ projects focused on befriending seniors and raising awareness on persons with disabilities respectively. Both pre-schools leveraged technology to connect with the community. The Finale event also showed appreciation to the 25 partner organisations who provided support to pre-schools in their community projects. Beyond providing physical resources for the children, they worked with participating preschools to conduct meaningful engagements and activities, such as virtual visits and learning journeys. Some of our partners’ collaborations with participating pre-schools are featured in the ECC 2021 E-Exhibition Booth. The public can also read stories contributed by participating centres on the children’s projects at http://www.startsmalldreambig.sg.