PCF centres' makeover not just skin-deep

PCF centres' makeover not just skin-deep
The uniforms for children attending PAP Community Foundation kindergartens have evolved over the years, from the blue and white attire of the 1980s, to the latest iteration.

The iconic white and blue uniform familiar to many who grew up attending PAP Community Foundation (PCF) kindergartens has been given a makeover. In its place is a white, blue-trimmed, red-collared T-shirt and red shorts.

The fresh look - which will be worn by most of the 44,000 children enrolled in its kindergartens and childcare centres from next year - also comes with a new logo unveiled yesterday by chairman of PCF executive committee Lawrence Wong at a branch in Bishan.

But the changes are more than skin-deep - standard curricula have been developed to be used across its schools, a PCF spokesman told The Sunday Times.

The rebranding exercise of Singapore's largest pre-school operator is part of a three-year revamp that started in 2012 to bring all of its 360 kindergartens and childcare centres under a centralised system.

This was done to address the problem of uneven standards across different centres, and to keep up with rising expectations of parents as more competing players joined the sector.

In the past, centres were run by individual divisions. Each decided on its own curriculum, fees and teachers.

About 200 kindergartens have now started basing their lessons on a curriculum framework developed by the Education Ministry. Some of its features include learning through play, and an emphasis on building social skills and confidence. And 130 childcare centres are also using a newly developed curriculum guided by a framework from the Early Childhood Development Agency, which sets out the principles for quality care and learning practices.

The rest of the kindergartens and childcare centres are expected to switch by next year.

PCF said some centres will still run special programmes, such as those using the famous Reggio Emilia approach with its inquiry-based learning philosophy, to allow for diversity. Centres are also encouraged to conduct their own niche activities, depending on the needs of the children.

That is why there will not be a fixed school fee for all centres, said Mr Wong.

"We think we can narrow that variation but we are not about to mandate a standard fee overnight," he said. Currently, PCF kindergarten fees range from $60 to $160, while childcare rates are between $600 and $700.

Mr Wong added that the restructuring process will also provide more pathways for career progression, because staff can develop their careers not only within one centre, but also across the entire organisation.

Ms Felicia Koh has been a pre-school teacher at the same centre in Bishan North for the last 11 years. She was promoted to senior teacher two years ago.

"Over the years, I have seen colleagues leave partly due to limited career options, so the changes will help attract and retain more teachers while sharpening their skills when they are exposed to different practices at other centres," said the 49-year-old.

Housewife Dawn Chew, 33, who has two daughters in childcare now, said parents will feel more assured with the move to level up standards.

"We feel more at ease that the children will enter Primary 1 at roughly the same level instead of having some lagging behind others."

jantai@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 16, 2014.
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