In the PISA Survey conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) every three years, the Shanghai region of China, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, and Finland dominate with high placings in science, reading and maths.
If NZ aspired to replicate what Singapore, for example, is doing in its school system to achieve high student outcomes would we also also want to replicate its early childhood education system and policies? See the following article about what Singapore is planning to do to increase the number of the qualified early childhood professionals.
With more childcare centres in the pipeline, the Government will be funding more than 4,000 training places over the next three years to increase the supply of early childhood professionals.
In Parliament yesterday, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing said the training spots will be made available under the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) programmes under which individuals will be trained and certified according to industry standards.
The training is targeted at new entrants as well as existing professionals. The Workforce Development Agency will subsidise up to 90 per cent of course fees. Employers will also be provided with an absentee payroll subsidy of up to 80 per cent of the employee's salary.
There are currently about 11,000 early childhood professionals, including teachers and centre supervisors.
The Government had earlier announced plans to build 200 more childcare centres by 2018. Mr Chan acknowledged the manpower crunch faced by the childcare centre operators, noting that mid-career workers or part-time employees could be tapped on as additional sources of manpower.
An Implementation Committee for Enhancing Pre-school Education - headed by Mr Chan and Education Minister Heng Swee Keat - has been set up.
Mr Chan said that issues such as diversifying career pathways and improving the image of childcare educators are among the committee's key areas of focus. Adding that the Government is also studying how to better organise the sector, Mr Chan noted the difficulty that small operators face in providing adequate opportunities for career progression.
"For example, some of them, after a while, may want to move on to become principal of centres, or some of them may want to take on some other curriculum development jobs ... these are areas we have to look at to see how we can provide better opportunities for them to fulfil their career aspirations," he said.
On the image problem dogging the sector, Mr Chan urged parents to play their part in showing appreciation and respect for childcare teachers. "These people are professionals in the area, because trying to manage the children and their different learning pedagogies requires professional knowledge. So, it is not true that they are just 'nannies' or 'child minders'," he said.
Nevertheless, according to Mr Chan, efforts to address the industry's manpower crunch are starting to pay off. The total number of employees in the childcare sector increased by 25 per cent last year while the attrition rate fell from 15 per cent to 13 per cent over the past year. Ng Jing Yng
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