A brief overview of MSF’s work 2016

Whether it is to support families, foster a more inclusive Singapore, or provide a good start for every child, MSF will continue to work to nurture a resilient and caring society that can overcome challenges together.

Here are some of what MSF has done in 2016:

msf2016-strengtheningfamilies

Families are the building blocks of our society. That’s why we believe that having strong families is key to our nation’s progress.

Find out more:
Safe and Strong Familes Pilot: http://tinyurl.com/SSFpilot
Marriage Preparation Programme: http://tinyurl.com/marriageprogrammes
Positive Parenting Programme: http://tinyurl.com/TriplePPilot
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA): http://tinyurl.com/LPAFeeWaiver

msf2016-inclusivesociety

Building a society that supports those who come from less-advantaged backgrounds and those living with disabilities is important to us.

Find out more:
ComCare Assistance: http://tinyurl.com/ComCareAssistance
SHARE as One: http://tinyurl.com/SHAREasOne
Recommendations for 3rd Enabling Masterplan: http://tinyurl.com/Recommendations3EM

msf2016-goodstartforchildren

Our children are the nation’s future, and having a strong start in life will enable them to reach their potential in adulthood.

Find out more:
Baby Bonus scheme: http://tinyurl.com/BabyBonusScheme
KidSTART: http://tinyurl.com/KidSTARTpilot
Early Childhood Manpower Plan: http://tinyurl.com/EarlyChildhoodManpowerPlan
Amendments To The Child Development Co-Savings Act: http://tinyurl.com/AmendmentsToCDCA

Doing Her Best with Each Request

By Julie @ ECDA, MSF

Julie is an Early Childhood Subsidy Officer at the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA). For the past 16 years, she has been working closely with child care centres to process subsidy applications for families, which includes processing back-payment cases. She also manages public queries from the centres and parents, and follows up on relevant MP cases.


Sometimes, Julie does more than just ensuring the affordability of pre-school education, as she recalls handling the case of a mother whose action breached the Court Order.

The mother had taken her children away from a child care centre they were enrolled in, and placed them in another centre without the knowledge of the father or the grandmother, even though the mother did not have the care and control of the children.

As such, the grandmother called in – weeping and desperately seeking help to get her two grandchildren back.

But as much as Julie would like to lend a helping hand, her hands were tied.

“In this kind of scenario, we have to let them know that it is not within our authority to intervene in custody issues. With no control over such disputes, it’s best that both parties come to an agreement and settle the issue among themselves, or refer the issue to the Courts or Police, ” said Julie.

Going beyond her obligation – Julie still wrote to the mother to highlight to her about the impact of her actions and the proper manner to handle the issues instead of taking unilateral actions that will inadvertently put the children at a disadvantage.

She says that when dealing with frustrated customers like this, “We have to listen to them, understand the story behind and then do our best to render assistance.”

Even when nasty remarks were thrown at her by applicants who insist on claiming subsidies they are not eligible for, Julie does not let these remarks affect her.

Experience has taught her to handle complaints graciously – but it is Julie’s bubbly and cheerful personality that has enabled her to keep things impersonal and remain professional in her work.

Her judicious thinking is especially useful in managing certain heart-wrenching cases.

For instance, some children from low-income families may miss out on pre-school because their parents can no longer afford the child care fees. Often, these parents will require financial assistance for the children to continue with their pre-school education.

One important part of Julie’s role is to liaise directly with social workers who conduct house visits and carry out the necessary background checks on selected households. With evidence proving a need for financial aid, she will then render the appropriate assistance to the families.

Julie also shares about her encounters with cases involving disputes between parents and child care centre personnel, such as the centre delaying the application of subsidy for the parents even though the latter have submitted the forms on time.

In such situations, she says, “We do our best to help the parents because the centre’s inaction had deprived the parents of the subsidies that they would have been eligible for.” Hence, Julie also helps the centres to perform audit checks and back-pay the affected families.

Doing her best and making a difference in someone’s life – Julie explains “It’s the sense of achievement and satisfaction I get when I manage to help a family with their problem” that keeps her motivated in life.

To Those Who Teach Children to Start Small, and Dream Big

Each day, they teach and care for the little ones. They help them to learn, and to grow.

They are our pre-school teachers.

And each day, there are stories of how they have helped little boys and girls learn a few more new words, put another step forward, and helped them to understand a bit more about the world.

NLX_ HF_ECDA-ORION-7602Bethanie Wong from Orion Preschool

When Bethanie met 3-year-old Daniel, he was barely speaking at home.
To help Daniel, Bethanie worked with his mother to learn his favourite words and songs. Then, Bethanie used those words as a conversational hook to interest Daniel into participating in class.

Within a few months, Daniel became sociable, and was able to speak in full sentences!

Ms Farhana listening intently to a child's comments.Farhana Mustafa from Bright Juniors

Alan was a child with special needs, and was having some difficulty trying to express himself. To better help Alan, Farhana took the time to attend a three-day course on speech and learning support.

Farhana used Alan’s interests in music and movement to slowly expand his vocabulary. Over time, Alan was learning to form sentences with more words – from two, to four, and then to six.

Like Bethanie and Farhana, many other pre-school teachers go the extra mile. Some of them even enter this field from other job industries, because they felt a calling to help children have the best possible start in life.

14079578_1195466487162791_7724903438978079209_nReally love children at this age 😊

To all pre-school teachers, thank you. This day is for you, who make that positive difference in the lives of children. You guide them in their small, starting steps. And you teach them to dream big.

Thank you for making a positive difference in the lives of our little ones. I wish you Happy Teachers’ Day. 😊

Making Singapore a Home for all Families

As a father of two, I know that family outings (especially with young children or an elderly parent) can be a real challenge.

In the past, there weren’t as many shopping malls, and most did not cater to families with young children or elderly parents. Popping out for a quick dinner with kids in tow was no walk in the park! I still remember the days when my wife and I would try to plan every outing in advance to ensure that it would be as fun and stress-free as possible.

Shopping malls are now a common feature in most neighbourhoods. With the government’s requirement to provide family-friendly facilities through the Code of Accessibility, many malls now boast features such as nursing rooms, and ramps and wider corridors for wheelchair-users.

grandstand14From my visit to The Grandstand yesterday, to see its enhanced family-friendly features.

I visited one of the seven neighbourhood malls that received an enhanced grant to increase their family-friendly features yesterday. The improved facilities encourage more family outings and made it convenient for families to eat, shop and have fun together.

But a family-friendly environment cannot be achieved just by infrastructure alone.

We need to complement that with a family-friendly mindset and passion to go that extra mile to give customers a positive experience during family outings. It is important that our service professionals have a deeper understanding of different families’ needs. To equip them with the necessary skillsets, MSF will soon roll out training courses for the service industry.

grandstand12Speaking to a concierge who’d received many complimentary letters for his service

Courses for frontline staff include communication skills and dealing with specific situations, such as helping an elderly person with dementia or calming a lost toddler. Courses catering to managerial staff include fostering a customer-centric culture and planning innovative initiatives for families.

I would like to encourage businesses that aim to attract a larger family customer base to attend these courses. I hope that more businesses will join our efforts in building a family-friendly environment and encourage their staff to take up courses to improve their customer service skills.

grandstand8

We want to celebrate families in Singapore.

Apart from encouraging family time through programmes or events, it is important to ensure that our infrastructure and service standards are in place to make Singapore truly a home for families to interact, bond and connect with each other.

Top Three Tips on Building Children’s Character

Featuring Ms Alicia Lim, ECDA Fellow and Executive Principal of PCF Sparkletots; Ms Ava Wang, ECDA Fellow and Preschool Learning Academy @ Temasek Polytechnic; and Mrs Ang-Oh Chui Hwa, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Far Eastern Kindergarten.


Respect, kindness, courage, honesty… You might want to instill such values in your children at their early years – but do you know which methods are effective?

Meet Ms Alicia Lim who used storytelling to impart values and enlighten her students about character development.

There are also other different ways to weave lessons about values and morals into children’s daily life.

Here are three tips on helping them develop the strength of character:

  1. “Storytelling is one of the best ways to inculcate virtues. Stories can ignite children’s imagination, strike their emotional chords and help them grasp the concept of these virtues.”

dsa

Inspired by her kindergarten teachers, Ms Alicia Lim feels that she can give back to society as an early childhood educator and a teacher trainer that supports children’s moral and character education.

Ms Lim believes that abstract topics, such as character development, should not be taught academically to children but in a more interactive style that allows them to model the behaviors they see around them. For that, storytelling works best for teaching values as children are usually receptive and keen to listening.

“When children keep stories close to their heart, the messages of these stories will inspire and shape their characters,” said Ms Lim. Hence, good stories not only provide joy to the children, they also strengthen their understanding of human motives as well as introduce them with new encounters.

  1. “When we teach young children how to solve problems, they grow up to be more resilient, resourceful and ready to face any challenge.”

fa

Developing a classroom culture that promotes problem-solving approach will help to equip children with the necessary skills required to combat societal challenges in the future.

That is why Ms Ava Wang finds every opportunity to encourage her students to become independent thinkers and not to rely on others to fix their problems.

However, every child reacts differently when they experience a challenge, it is therefore important to guide them to use the right coping mechanism needed to tackle various situations.

  1. “Like shaping a clay pot, character takes time to develop before it becomes strong and beautiful. Everyone, from the teacher to the family, has a part to play.”

FotoJet Collage

As for Mrs Ang-Oh Chui Hwa, engaging young minds and shepherding young hearts are best achieved during early childhood.

Avoid rewarding children’s behaviors with stars or stickers, but focus on teaching and encouraging them on how they can contribute and help those in need.

Children learn to better appreciate values from doing small acts like donating their savings, and “that is how their characters can be moulded,” said Mrs Ang-Oh. “When one’s character has been well-moulded, it will hold its own against life challenges and soon it will be a work of art, with its own character, strength and beauty.”

6

***

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.

 

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.

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.