These experts will show you how they teach pre-schoolers effectively

Featuring Ms Shirley Tan, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Church of the Holy Trinity Kindergarten; and Ms Christine Soo, ECDA Fellow and Manager of PCF Sparkletots.

Every one of us wants our children to do well, not just in academics but also in developing good social and moral competencies. But how can we ensure effective learning for our children and help them achieve their full potential?

From connecting well with children to working hand-in-hand with families, educators can adopt several methods to promote the positive development of children.

Here are two tips on uplifting the quality of early childhood educators:

  1. “The hand that works hard, put it close to your heart and that makes a difference in a child’s life.”

WWHMeet Ms Shirley Tan, who believes that the H.E.A.R.T is the principle of nurturing children and holding close to her heart where passion lies, is Humility, Enthusiasm, Attitude, Resilience and Trust.

When working with children, Ms Tan believes that it is important to remain humble and keep an open mind. Her positive attitude towards others builds strong relationships at work, her ‘never-say-die’ belief develops resilience, and she builds trust through her own words and actions which are consistent with what she stands for.

Ms Tan recognizes the need to meet the individual needs of each child by taking time to observe and understand their perspectives. Although this can be a challenging task for teachers, it is at the heart of what each teacher does, to discover and nurture the unique talents of every single pupil – as she adds, “working with your heart will create a lasting positive impact on a child’s life and the children can feel it.”

  1. “When children see important people in their lives working together, they learn that it’s important to build healthy relationships.”

WWH2“Families tend to know the children’s strengths, personalities, moods and behaviours very well and educators understand the children’s development, so together they make great partners in the children’s life,” said Ms Christine Soo.

That is why in pre-school settings, Ms Soo strongly encourages teachers and families to work closely together to exchange information, address specific concerns and focus on meeting the needs of the children.

By doing so, both parties can apply a suitable approach for teaching the children and thus, enable the children to receive the best possible care and education.


About ECDA Fellows

The ECDA Fellows are a select group of exemplary early childhood professionals with high levels of leadership and professional expertise. The sector as a whole benefit from their extensive experience and deep expertise. The ECDA Fellows work closely with ECDA to train and mentor other early childhood professionals.  They will also develop sector-wide resources for professional development, curriculum leadership and sector partnerships.

Embracing our Roles in Life

By Parliamentary Secretary Assoc Prof Faishal Ibrahim

Throughout our lives, we take on many different roles. And the importance we place on each of these roles changes at different stages of our lives.

Sometimes, the beauty of life lies in its cyclical nature. Just last week, I saw 12 couples renew their marriage vows at the Family Life First Carnival and also sat in for a session of the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Programme (PREP).

At PREP, I met a lovely young couple – Darren and Clare – who will soon embark on their own journey together as husband and wife. They attended PREP to learn tips on building a marriage based on a strong foundation of love and understanding.

family life first_parl secAnd they said “I Do”…again.

This reminds me of how my wife and I learnt over the years that maintaining a strong marriage and being good parents does not come easy. We need to make a conscious effort to communicate, understand and to encourage each other. To keep our strong commitment to each other and to our children.

When my children were born, I felt like the happiest father alive! At the same time, I felt the pressure – I knew that as a father, I had to be a good role model and inculcate good values in my children. My father must have felt the same too.

Strong marriages lead to strong families. When we have a strong marriage, we will then be better able to create a happier environment for our children to grow in. If we lead by example, our children will learn to develop strong and lasting relationships of their own.

A father’s presence and influence in their children’s lives often mean more to them than they realise.

It is on occasions like Father’s Day that we are reminded of the responsibilities we have in shaping our children into individuals who are responsible, capable, giving and nurturing – who can also teach their children to embrace the various roles in life well.

This Father’s Day, let’s make the personal choice to spend time with our families meaningfully.

To all fathers and grandfathers, Happy Father’s Day!

Be a Dad for Life

By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

Quick question for all dads: Has your Father’s Day celebrations been rather low key as compared to Mother’s Day celebrations?

Maybe it’s our traditional cultural roles that make it that way. How we think it’s Dad’s job to go out and make money, and Mum’s role to take care of the family.

But today, these traditional roles are evolving. Now, more couples take on shared responsibilities in supporting the family. Fathers are becoming more actively involved in their families.

There is no doubt that we, as fathers, play an important role in our children’s lives.

Sure, it’s easy to get caught up with work. But is the tradeoff really worth it? I’m sure we don’t want to miss hearing our child say their first word, or take their first step.

Children grow up so fast. I think it’s immensely important to create special memories and moments with our children from young. But we can start from everyday activities.

For example, I was glad to catch ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ (on a movie date!) with my daughter after her exams were over. We had a great time discussing the movie afterwards…


(…Such as how Professor X may need some Beijing 101 after the events of the movie)
Image: 20th Century Fox

So, time spent in both quality and quantity does matter. At the same time, do remember to appreciate our own fathers and include them in our celebrations too!

On the whole, it is good to see that more families and organisations are starting to celebrate Father’s Day in a big way. I’m glad to be a part of a few of these celebrations – such as the “Dad’s Day Out” event on Father’s Day today, and the Families for Life Father’s Day picnic later this month.

Fathering is a beautiful and meaningful journey, and I am proud to be a father. To answer my own question? It’s not about the size of the celebration, but the strength of the bond with my children that matters more to me. 🙂

To all Dads and Grandfathers out there, Happy Father’s Day!

3 early childhood experts share how they teach based on children’s needs

Featuring Ms N. Pushpavalli, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten; Dr Geraldine Teo-Zuzarte, ECDA Fellow and Centre Director of The Caterpillar’s Cove Child Development and Study Centre; and Ms N. Thamarai, ECDA Fellow and Cluster Quality Manger of My First Skool.

Everyone knows that children’s growing up years play a crucial role in their development – but how do we make sure our teaching methods adequately address their needs?

One such way would be to put ourselves in the shoes of young children and try to see the world as they would. This would help us craft teaching methods that focuses on their strengths and enhances their holistic development.

Such child-centered teaching methods will then be better able to help children achieve their full potential.

Here are three tips on customizing teaching pedagogies to the needs of young children:

  1. Innovation requires us to constantly question why we do what we do.”

ECDA 2,1Ms N. Pushpavalli, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten, believes that it is important for teachers to constantly reflect on the children’s curriculum and activities.

This would then create a culture of innovation that would aid teachers’ individual professional growth, while allowing them to find the best ways for their children to learn.

That is why she decided to move from having show-and-tell in the classroom to a concept called “My Space” – where children were given a space of their own much like an “offline blog” – when she realised that the former allowed for little engagement and that the children were reproducing memorised scripts.

  1. “One of the unique features of Learning Stories is the focus on the strengths of each child rather than deficits or what the child cannot do. Over time, this practice positively changes how educators relate to the child.”

 ECDA 2.2

For Dr Geraldine Teo-Zuzarte, ECDA Fellow and Centre Director of The Caterpillar’s Cove Child Development and Study Centre, creating a positive, conducive and meaningful environment for children is key to their development.

One such way is through Learning Stories – a compilation of observations on their growth – that would not only provide an opportunity for dialogue and discussion on the holistic development of the child, but also allow educators to be more reflective and collaborative.

“Learning is a co-construction between the learner and the teacher; each has something to offer and bring to the learning context,” she adds.

  1. “Just think, how do I usually talk or treat an older child, or even an adult? Then treat the young children in the same way.”

ECDA 2.3

Constant innovation and a system that encourages reflection would then allow for quality standards and continuous professional improvement – something that Ms N. Thamarai, ECDA Fellow and Cluster Quality Manger of My First Skool, advocates for.

One way to ensure quality standards would be to observe the 3 ‘R’s of teaching young children – respect, respond and reciprocate.

Teaching children from young the very values that we adults hold highly ourselves would set an example for them to follow as they grow.

“With the 3 ‘R’s, our children will grow into confident and secure individuals.  Such independence and emotional security, puts them in good stead for the next stage of their development. It is normal to feel anxious about a child’s development. Remember – it is not about the outcomes, but building a fulfilling personal experience during a child’s early years that matters,” said Ms Thamarai.


About ECDA Fellows

The ECDA Fellows are a select group of exemplary early childhood professionals with high levels of leadership and professional expertise. The sector as a whole benefit from their extensive experience and deep expertise. The ECDA Fellows work closely with ECDA to train and mentor other early childhood professionals.  They will also develop sector-wide resources for professional development, curriculum leadership and sector partnerships.


Seeing the Strengths in Families

By Applie@MSF

For the past 6 years, Applie’s job as a Child Protection Officer has taken her through some of the most challenging situations. In this article, she shares about her experiences and rewards of working in the social service sector.

Applie sobbed silently at her desk after the phone call.

Ms Tan (not her real name) was just on the phone. And she hurled personal attacks at Applie because her request to see her son in the children’s home was not acceded to; he was being punished for getting into trouble.

It was almost unimaginable when Ms Tan thanked Applie personally a year later, after all the years of fighting with the system.

It had been four years of fighting by then.

Since Applie took over the case in 2010, the road had not been easy. Having just been released from prison that year, Ms Tan was more than eager to get her seven children back.

After all, it had been 6 years since they were taken out of their home when they were found to have been exposed to physical abuse, neglect and spousal violence.

For years, Applie tried to build up trust and a working relationship with Ms Tan. But it didn’t help that the woman resented her and the organisation she represented, believing they had wrongly taken away her children when her oldest child was just 7 years old.

Still, Applie pushed on.

She took every opportunity that came her way to show that she was on the same page as the mother, and over time, a little bridge of trust was formed.

With the working relationship firmed up, the pair moved on to their next goal – reintegrating the children with their mother.

Since her release from prison, Ms Tan had gotten a job and was showing signs of improvement. She was still asking for her children back, and while Applie wanted to see the family reunited, she remained cautious as the children’s interests came first.

She started with the oldest boy, a teenager by then. She noted that the boy, who had a strong relationship with his mother, was not doing well in the children’s home. Could he be better off at home?

Weighing the protective factors and detriments, she took a “calculated risk”, as she puts it, and reintegrated the teenager with his mother.

“The children were all growing up, and it wasn’t good for them to remain in the system,” she explains.

It worked.

Today, six out of the seven children are back home with their mother. The Family Service Centre (FSC) in their neighbourhood continues to help the family build a community and monitor their progress.

As for Applie, she still encounters difficult parents from time to time.

“It’s a learning process,” she says of each time she deals with a hostile parent. But with a supportive supervisor who checks in on her every now and then, Applie has learnt to de-personalise the attacks.

“Clients do these for a certain purpose, it’s natural for a mother to react the way she did,” she says, referring to Ms Tan.

Looking back, Applie believes it was her conviction that there was a light at the end of every tunnel that carried her through each difficult moment. But on top of that, it was the strength that she saw in the families and the belief that she had in them had pushed her on too.

Because at the end of the day, it is the rewarding moments – like when Ms Tan came around – that counted.


Protecting gamblers even when unwelcomed

By Xinyi@MSF

As an officer with the Gambling Safeguards Division, Xinyi knows that emotions can run high when it comes to helping those with a gambling addiction. In this article, she shares about her work in protecting problem gamblers from financial harm, even when unwelcome.

Sometimes, Xinyi visits the casino. But it’s not because she’s there to gamble.

She works at MSF’s Gambling Safeguards Division, and she’s at the casino to observe gamblers and their habits.

In this Division, Xinyi and her colleagues oversee casino exclusions and visit limits.

Some apply for these voluntarily, but family members can apply to protect their loved ones too.

Others who are declared bankrupt or on Government financial aid are unable to enter the casinos altogether. There are also individuals who have had their access restricted by the National Council on Problem Gambling, and some are not too pleased about it.

Take a person who plays the jackpot machine, for example. He pushes the button and gets a rush from the sounds and sights from the machine. He then repeats it, again and again.

For someone who is depressed, this mode of playing could be a form of escapism – for him to seek comfort in the repeated push of the button, along with the possibility of winning. But where will this habit and spending bring him to, eventually?

When Xinyi interviews individuals with gambling problems, she helps them understand risks that they may not be aware of. She also encourages them to seek professional help to tackle their gambling problems and to address underlying issues without resorting to gambling as the only means of coping.

Despite this, some still disagree with the restriction or exclusion order imposed because of their financial vulnerability. And in the course of helping them, Xinyi encounters hostility from time to time.

She recalls the moments when security intervention was necessary: A man, unhappy with his exclusion order, refused to leave the office until he spoke to the panel of assessors behind the decision. The management had to intervene and security officers had to escort him off the premises.

On another occasion, a man got angry about the questions asked during an interview. He raised his voice and made personal attacks about how she would not understand his situation given her age. His complaints were loud enough for the security officer to intervene to ensure that she was safe.

Thankfully, Xinyi has learned to stay unaffected by such hostile verbal attacks. She has experienced worse during her 1.5 years as a child protection officer prior to working here.

“It’s a lot about getting them to cooperate”, she said. “I try to calm them down and explain the rationale behind these social safeguards.  I also explain the entire process to them and then offer assistance to help them make the necessary financial declarations.”

“I believe that as frontline officers, we simply have to manage it as it comes,” she said. She is grateful for a supportive team where colleagues and supervisors alike are cognizant of frontline challenges and are willing to help one another when the need arises.

Xinyi takes negative encounters in her stride and chooses to focus on the purpose behind her line of work. Having the privilege of helping people, understanding their stories and directing them to the right agencies for help on coping without gambling is definitely one of the most rewarding parts of her job.

Art, Science & Culture in pre-school education

Featuring Mrs Elsie Tan-Chua, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Living Sanctuary Kindergarten; Ms Dianne Swee-Seet, ECDA Fellow and Ascension Kindergarten; and Ms Tan Beng Luan, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Creative O Preschoolers’ Bay.

You might have heard of students rearing guppies, shrimps and maybe even hamsters for school – but have you heard of classrooms rearing… stick insects?

Meet Mrs Elsie Tan-Chua, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Living Sanctuary Kindergarten, who purchased the six-legged creatures much to the delight of her students.


Citing the need to use innovation to spur children to learn and be excited about learning, Mrs Tan-Chua finds every opportunity to bring in unique teaching resources into her classroom.

Be it the arts, science or through cultural lessons, there are multiple innovative ways to inspire and nurture young minds.

Here are three tips on helping young minds develop:

  1. “Use things that excite both teachers and children, so that they can explore, discover and learn together”

ECDA 1.1

From her 18 years of experience in the early childhood sector, Mrs Tan-Chua feels that she has learnt and grown as a professional as she worked alongside young children and teachers.

That’s why she believes that it is good to use things that teachers can learn something from as well.

Alternative lessons help spark curiosity, so that children are encouraged to constantly learn and discover, while teachers are motivated to sharpen their skills and keep themselves abreast of the latest developments in the sector.

  1. “Through music and art, children are encouraged to express their individuality and creativity, and more importantly, learn to respect one another.”

ECDA 1.2For Ms Dianne Sweet-Seet, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Ascension Kindergarten, encouraging children to learn through music and art help nurture children holistically.

“I think one of the best parts of encouraging the arts is giving children room to share their ideas with one another. When they share, they learn that there is no right or wrong in creativity, and they should respect each other’s opinions,” said Ms Swee-Seet.

These then create a positive environment that helps build children’s confidence.

  1. Teach children about diversity. Teach them the similarities among different cultures, model cultural harmony, and instil cultural appreciation through daily life.”

ECDA 1.3Encouraging multi-culturalism early helps guide children in forming a positive attitude towards people, work and the environment.

That’s why Ms Tan Beng Luan, ECDA fellow, Founder and Principal of Creative O Preschoolers’ Bay, encourages the celebration of different festivals in the classroom.

“Children are innocent, forth-right, sincere, friendly, helpful and caring. They remind me daily of all these wonderful basic human qualities,” said Ms Tan. “When being with them, I become humble and patient and I learn much from them. For that, I thank you, Children.”


About ECDA Fellows

The ECDA Fellows are a select group of exemplary early childhood professionals with high levels of leadership and professional expertise. The sector as a whole benefit from their extensive experience and deep expertise. The ECDA Fellows work closely with ECDA to train and mentor other early childhood professionals.  They will also develop sector-wide resources for professional development, curriculum leadership and sector partnerships.