Hands-on learning for pre-school educators

Hands-on learning for pre-school educators
Senior teacher Carlie Tan (left) and principal Jessica Tan engaging the kids at the Whampoa Block 85 PCF kindergarten with music.

SINGAPORE - Kindergarten principal Jessica Tan went for a course recently to learn how to plan activities that encourage children to learn and explore spontaneously.

Such courses are usually held over a few consecutive days.

But Ms Tan, who heads the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) kindergarten at Whampoa Block 85, did her training on March 21 and April 5, with a two-week gap. The "time-out" meant she could apply what she learnt, document it and go back to the course to share her experience. This new hands-on approach to training has been adopted for all courses run by the Early Childhood Development Agency, which oversees the regulation and training of the sector.

Giving an update last week of its Continuing Professional Development Masterplan launched last November to allow educators to progress as they improve their skills, an agency spokesman said: "In the past, it was all in one chunk; you just go for three days and then that's it."

But now, there is a break of two to four weeks between course dates, so "participants can better reflect on and apply theory to their teaching and professional practice", she added.

Trainees could be assigned to film their teaching, write reflection journals, or prepare storytelling aids, among other things.

The agency has also added at least five new courses in areas such as music and storytelling, following surveys and focus group discussions conducted from May to July last year to assess the learning needs of teachers. These are part of the Government's efforts to improve the quality of pre-school education, and attract and retain teachers.

There are about 12,000 pre-school professionals and 2,000 more are needed by 2017.

The agency now provides 10 core courses, covering essential knowledge and skills, and plans to provide a total of 20 this year. It is also developing "milestone" courses to prepare educators for roles with higher responsibilities.

Course participants welcomed the new training approach.

Said Ms Tan: "With the assignment, it ensures that we review what we learnt, instead of going through the whole course at one go and throwing aside our notes after that."

Added Ms Carlie Tan, a senior teacher at the same kindergarten: "When the trainees return for the course, we discuss how we did the assignment. So we not only learn from the lecturers, but we get feedback from our peers too."

goyshiyi@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 28 in The Straits Times.

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