SINGAPORE - Zao An! Selamat pagi! Kaalai vanakkam!
Children heading into Primary 1 should know how to use such simple greetings, along with the ability to recognise their name and an awareness of their local ethnic culture. These were several of the "learning goals" spelt out in a new teaching framework for mother tongue languages (MTL), launched by the Education Ministry on Thursday.
It will serve as a reference for teachers when it comes to the teaching of Chinese, Malay and Tamil for children aged four to six.
Currently in English, it will be translated into the three languages next year and be accompanied by a teacher's guide for each language. Other recommendations in the Nurturing Early Learners (NEL) framework for MTL includes kids being able to write Chinese characters with the correct sequence of strokes after observing teachers. Children should also be able to share their ethnic customs for Deepavali and Hari Raya, for instance.
Said Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah: "Our vision is for every child to be an active learner who enjoys using his or her mother tongue language, communicates with confidence and appreciates the local ethnic culture."
Speaking at the Early Childhood Conference at the Singapore Expo yesterday, she explained that research showed that the "golden period" for children to pick up languages is in their pre-school years, and the learning goals will help smoothen their transition to Primary 1.
Pre-school professionals and parents, who can access the framework on the Education Ministry's website, welcomed the move, saying it gives them a clear guideline on what children need to know before starting formal schooling.
Ms Tan Beng Luan, principal of Creative O Preschoolers' Bay, said that pre-schools now have a "common direction" when it comes to mother tongue education. "There's nothing wrong with schools having different curricula, but some teach difficult words and go beyond what is age-appropriate for children," said Ms Tan, whose pre-school has a Chinese Language teacher and an English Language teacher in every class.
Finance manager Joan Ng, who has a daughter in Kindergarten 2, said: "It's good for schools to be on the same page, to have a common understanding of what's needed before kids go to primary school."
The ministry also launched the NEL Educators' Guide yesterday to suggest ways to further plan and improve their lessons to pre-school teachers. This complements a broader curriculum framework, which was revised in February, for areas such as numeracy and discovery. A visit to a primary school canteen, for instance, can include activities such as practising how to buy and sell using tokens.
Other kindergarten learning resources will be rolled out over the next two years to support pre-school teachers.