Working Together on a Good Start for Every Child
13 Sep 2019
1 At the Early Childhood Conference 2019, the Minister for Social and Family Development Mr Desmond Lee announced new initiatives, in collaboration with partners, to support outdoor learning by children in preschools, and to enhance support for children and families under KidSTART.
2 These initiatives build on efforts to improve preschool quality, affordability and accessibility, as outlined by Prime Minister Lee in this year’s National Day Rally with greater support going toward low-income families
Enhanced outdoor learning experiences in collaboration with the sector
3 Outdoor learning and playing outdoors improves the health, learning and developmental outcomes of children. To enhance the quality of preschool experiences, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) came together with early childhood (EC) professionals,
preschool operators and various government agencies to explore ways to enhance outdoor learning opportunities for children in preschools. These agencies formed the Outdoor Learning Committee in 2018 (details in Annex A)
and have, since been developing initiatives to enhance outdoor spaces, to better equip EC educators in conducting more outdoor learning activities.
More outdoor learning spaces in housing estates, preschools and parks
4 Two new prototypes will be launched in Bukit Batok and Jurong West, to test how existing preschools in HDB estates can tap on the environment outside their centres for outdoor learning. Led by ECDA and the Housing Development Board (HDB), these prototypes were conceived after engaging preschools, educators and parents. The prototype at Jurong West will introduce ways to allow easier access from preschool classrooms to open spaces immediately outside their centres. The other prototype at Bukit Batok will explore ways to make simple changes to existing neighbourhood environments to create outdoor learning trails for children. The amenities developed for testing will be shared by both the preschools and community.
5 The prototypes will be developed and refined based on the feedback from the preschools and communities involved. This initiative will complement ECDA and HDB’s work in developing preschools with age-appropriate playgrounds or community gardens
nearby, as well as the National Parks Board’s (NParks) efforts in developing nature playgardens and evidence-based design guidelines to aid preschools, agencies and developers design and build such playgardens across Singapore.
New training and support for EC educators on outdoor learning
6 To better equip educators on how to provide children with meaningful outdoor learning experiences, ECDA, the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) have developed resources and training opportunities for EC professionals. These include a guiding document, “Outdoor Learning, A National Guide for Early Childhood Educators”, and an online repository of activity ideas, known as “Outdoor Learning Experiences”, as well as continuing professional development (CPD) courses by NIEC.
7 The educators’ Guide and Learning Experiences will be available online to all EC professionals and the public on ECDA’s website. They provide practical tips and guidance to help educators identify and seize opportunities for safe and interesting learning experiences in the outdoors. For a start, educators can browse through 50 Learning Experiences in the online repository. The Experiences have been curated by an evaluation panel consisting of local and overseas outdoor learning practitioners, experts, and EC educators. NIEC and ECDA will continue to grow the repository over time to include ground practices and ideas from the EC fraternity.
8 To support EC educators at all levels, NIEC will also be introducing new CPD courses on outdoor learning in 2020. These will build up EC educators’ skills in designing and facilitating developmentally appropriate outdoor learning experiences
for children of different age groups – from infants to six year-olds. These courses will be available in both English and Chinese. NIEC will also offer training for centre leaders on how to support their teachers in carrying out outdoor
Greater support and deeper partnerships for KidSTART
More families to benefit from support under KidSTART
9 The KidSTART programme supports parents with child development, monitors the developmental progress of children, and coordinates and strengthens holistic services for families where needed. KidSTART has been piloted since July 2016, and currently benefits 1,000 children from low-income families living in the pilot regions of Kreta Ayer/Bukit Merah, Taman Jurong/Boon Lay and Geylang Serai.
10 ECDA will expand KidSTART to reach another 5,000 children over the next three years. Starting from April 2020, ECDA will expand KidSTART to more regions, so that more families can benefit from the programme. Priority will be given to regions where the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) supports families in rental blocks through the Community Link (ComLink) initiative, such as Kembangan-Chai Chee and Marsiling. Together, ComLink and KidSTART will provide stronger social support to these families and their children. ECDA will also raise the monthly household income ceiling for KidSTART eligibility from $1,900 today to $2,500, so that more children can be eligible.
11 As good antenatal care is critical for child development, ECDA will bring more pregnant mothers onto KidSTART at the antenatal stage by extending our partnership beyond KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital to also include the National
University Hospital on the KidSTART Home Visitation Programme. ECDA will also strengthen KidSTART’s network of support for children and their parents in the community and in preschools by working with more social service agencies and preschools.
With the support of Temasek Foundation, ECDA is partnering the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) to develop training spanning the early childhood, health and social work fields so as equip more professionals with knowledge required
to better support KidSTART children and parents.
GROWING TOGETHER with KidSTART
12 Even as the Government steps up support for children from low-income families, there is active community interest to support these children. MSF, in collaboration with the Community Chest (ComChest), will hence introduce ‘GROWING TOGETHER with KidSTART’, to nurture this spirit of giving and caring in the community. Under this new initiative, corporates and individuals can join the Government in supporting children with a better start in life, through opportunities such as donating or volunteering to support a specific KidSTART community (details in Annex B).
OUTDOOR LEARNING COMMITTEE
The Outdoor Learning Committee, led by ECDA and the Ministry of National Development (MND) was set up in early 2018. It aims to enhance outdoor learning for preschool children by:
1. Enhancing opportunities for children to learn and play outdoors in park, preschool and residential spaces; and
2. Equipping EC educators with the skills and resources required to facilitate quality outdoor learning experiences.
The Committee comprises EC professionals, preschool operators, and government agencies, including
1. EC and education professionals from Seed Institute, Institute of Technical Education, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore University of Social Sciences, and National Institute of Education
2.Health Promotion Board
3. Housing Development Board
4. Ministry of Education
5. National Institute of Early Childhood Development
6. National Parks Board
7. NTUC My First Skool
8. PAP Community Foundation
9. Sport Singapore
GROWING TOGETHER WITH KIDSTART
The GROWING TOGETHER with KidSTART initiative aims to deepen partnerships between the community and Government in giving children on the KidSTART programme a good start in life. This is in line with the Singapore Together movement for Singaporeans and the community to partner the Government to jointly develop policies and deliver programmes.
GROWING TOGETHER with KidSTART will provide a more systematic way for corporates and individuals who wish to foster deeper and more sustained giving relationships with KidSTART children and families. They can partner a KidSTART community through regular service volunteering and/or contributions, and follow the progress of KidSTART children in the community through regular updates.
From early next year, interested corporates or individuals can approach ComChest on providing regular contributions for KidSTART children in their chosen community. These contributions would help with providing families essential items such as milk and diapers, transport for children to attend preschool or KidSTART programmes, and children’s learning resources. The contributions could also help with top-ups of KidSTART children’s Child Development Accounts (CDA). These top-ups will be matched by the Government, up to the CDA matched savings caps. Community partners can also choose to volunteer regularly in the community to support the KidSTART families.
ENHANCED OUTDOOR LEARNING EXPERIENCES
Outdoor learning spaces in parks, preschools and in HDB estates
1. Where will the prototypes be located and will all HDB preschools be able to have such enhancements?
The prototypes will be developed at two preschools in Bukit Batok’s West Ridges precinct and the Jurong West Street 93 precinct. The preschools are located in HDB void decks. We will monitor the effectiveness and impact of the prototypes, with the possibility of scaling up in the future. Updates on the prototypes will be provided at appropriate junctures.
2. What are Nature Playgardens and how do they help outdoor learning? Where can I find them?
Playgardens are set within nature and use natural materials and curated play features to engage children in child-directed spontaneous play. Such playgardens encourage creativity and decision-making amongst children as they get to choose what and
how to play. Amid nature, they develop a sense of adventure and discovery, which can increase their independence. NParks has developed playgardens in HortPark, Jubilee Garden in Fort Canning Park, Lakeside Garden in Jurong Lakeside Gardens, and
is developing playgardens in Sengkang Riverside Park, Pasir Ris Park, and the Gallop extension of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. In deciding where to develop biophilic playgardens, NParks will accord priority to locations that are within easy
reach of preschool children.
Training and support for EC educators on outdoor learning
3. When can educators register for outdoor learning courses at NIEC?
The courses are targeted at in-service teachers and educarers who wish to (a) deepen their knowledge of outdoor learning principles and approaches, (b) gain skills to plan, design, facilitate outdoor experiences, and (c) learn to assess and manage risks in the outdoor environment. The CPD workshops will be open for registration in 2020. NIEC will provide more details at a later date.
4.Where can the online resources for outdoor learning be found?
They can be found on ECDA’s corporate website at the link https://www.ecda.gov.sg/early-childhood-educators-(ece)/curriculum-frameworks/outdoor-learning.
GREATER SUPPORT AND DEEPER PARTNERSHIPS FOR KIDSTART
Partner a Community
1. Which KidSTART communities can interested parties partner?
The current KidSTART communities are in Kreta Ayer/Bukit Merah, Taman Jurong/Boon Lay and Geylang Serai. Starting next year, ECDA will expand KidSTART to more locations in regions where MSF is running the Community Link (ComLink) initiative to support families in rental housing, such as Kembangan-Chai Chee and Marsiling. There would be a few clusters within each community to which corporates or individuals could contribute.
2. How are the expanded clusters selected?
The clusters are selected based on the concentration of low income families in each precinct and may vary in size.
3. Are volunteering opportunities only open to corporates and not individuals?
We welcome both corporate and individual volunteers.
4. What are the volunteering opportunities that are available?
Our current volunteering opportunities include providing child-minding support at KidSTART Supported Groups on a weekly basis or at our monthly Group Connect sessions. Past volunteers have also co-organised events and co-created programmes for KidSTART families. We welcome ideas from volunteers. For more information on the available volunteering opportunities and to sign up as a volunteer, you can visit: www.Giving.sg/Community/KidSTART.
Fundraising and Donations
5. Can individuals donate to this relationship-based giving model?
Yes, individuals can provide support to children from low-income families by making contributions to ComChest.