Training centre for pre-school teachers

Training centre for pre-school teachers
Trainee Siti Suhailah with her charges at the pre-school teacher training centre at St James' Church Kindergarten.

Trainee pre-school teachers now have a dedicated centre where they can get hands-on experience.

Philanthropic organisation Lien Foundation is putting $660,000 into the centre - Singapore's first - over the next three years. There, "mentor supervisors" focus on guiding the teachers when they come up with lesson plans or manage the children, for instance. Such training is a critical part of attracting and retaining teachers in the manpower-starved pre-school sector, particularly as the Government aims to add 20,000 more childcare places to the current 85,000 by 2017.

There are now around 12,000 pre-school professionals, and 2,000 more will be needed by then. Yet, about one in five teachers leave each year, and only about half of the early childhood polytechnic graduates even join the workforce.

To improve the situation, many pre-schools are adjusting salaries and opening up new career tracks for teachers to become principals, centre supervisors, specialist educators and mentors.

Lien Foundation, which has long advocated for greater emphasis on early childhood education here, chose St James' Church Kindergarten at Harding Road for the new training centre because it has Singapore's largest pre-school enrolment at 1,200.

The centre can take in up to 300 trainee teachers each year.

Currently, trainees have to do at least 200 hours of practical experience, but often do not get the attention they need at busy childcare centres. With the new centre, they go through a structured programme similar to the system for training primary and secondary school teachers, and have the full attention of mentor supervisors who are either with them in class or meet them afterwards for discussions.

Since the centre opened in April, 15 trainees from NTUC's early childhood training arm Seed institute, Ngee Ann and Singapore polytechnics have gone through the programme.

One of them, Ms Siti Suhailah, 22, said: "I had lots of eye-opening experiences... I really appreciate the undivided attention I received. The host teachers and mentors would always find time to answer any queries I had and the experience has definitely rekindled my passion for the industry."

This article was first published on August 13, 2014.
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