It is about time that pre-school teachers had access to improved training, career progression and better pay. The long-term benefits of early education have been well documented and the subject has been much talked about in the last couple of years. Elaborating on education during the National Day Rally in August, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reaffirmed the Government's investment in pre-school - 20,000 new places are to be added to the existing 85,000 in the next five years. Hence, the importance of attracting and retaining able pre-school teachers.
On their part, parents need to appreciate the value of pre-school teachers. More than just child minders or subject tutors, they help prepare young children for a lifetime of learning and interacting with others. This is no easy task. Parents who are overly attracted by tuition centres offering "read in a week" programmes have got the wrong end of the stick. It's not about how fast a pre-schooler starts but how far he or she can go over the long term. The three pillars of a child's development at pre-school stage are social skills, a keen sense of curiosity and basic values - such as family bonds, showing concern and respect for others, sharing and a sense of fair play.
Besides parents, the pre-school teacher is best placed to help build this foundation in a child. Thus, it makes sense to pay more to get quality teachers.
There are 12,000 pre-school professionals, with 2,000 more needed by 2017. Their median basic salary last year was $1,800, not much more than what a bus driver or a mechanic takes home. Depending largely on an individual's latent interest in working with kids will not yield the numbers required. Inevitably, the perceived social status of this career will be linked to the salary levels offered, putting off young career seekers. And older candidates, with a clear knack for early education, will be financially strained by a career switch.
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