Giving children the best start in life

Ms Siti Noraisha Binte Mohamad Sa’at is a firm believer in life-long learning and encourages her colleagues to constantly improve themselves. (Photograph taken in March 2020)

Ms Siti Noraisha Binte Mohamad Sa’at has been in the Early Childhood (EC) profession for 16 years, working with children locally and abroad.

Currently the Principal of Wee Care Kindergarten, the 43-year-old shares her teaching philosophy: “Children have the right to learn, therefore we need to be accountable for that. We need to make sure that we are also prepared to teach.”

Ms Siti believes in always upgrading her knowledge and skills. To support her pursuit of the Bachelor in Early Childhood Education with Minor at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), she was presented an Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) Scholarship on 28 October 2020.

The ECDA Scholarships are given to outstanding EC educators to support their aspirations as they strive for professional mastery and pursue their part-time Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Early Childhood Care and Education. It provides recipients with a full course sponsorship, learning resource allowance and study bonus, as well as professional development and networking opportunities. Scholarship recipients possess strong leadership potential and passion to play a larger role through continued contributions to the EC sector.

When Ms Siti started as a trainee teacher in 2005, there was less awareness of the importance of early childhood care and education, and EC educators were typically viewed as “babysitters” or “nannies”.

These stereotypes have been debunked over the years with the government’s continuing efforts to improve the sector and uplift the preschool profession.

“This Scholarship motivates me to continue developing professionally, and spurs me to pay it forward while I hone my leadership skills,” says Ms Siti.

Learning as she teaches

As with other professional sectors, Ms Siti believes that EC educators also need to keep abreast of current trends and research in the early childhood field. This will help them understand children better and apply the knowledge and skills in their everyday work.

This is why at each stage of her career, Ms Siti has found avenues to improve herself.

While working as a trainee teacher, she took up a Diploma in Pre-School Education-Teaching where she could apply newly acquired knowledge on the job. She then worked for a school in Myanmar for a few years, before she returned to Singapore to take on the role of Vice-Principal at her current kindergarten in 2014. She subsequently pursued an Advanced Diploma in Early Childhood Leadership, before moving on to become a Principal.

As the head of her centre, she regularly sends her teachers for courses to upgrade their skills. She hopes that by pursuing her Bachelor’s degree, she can lead by example and encourage others to continue to improve themselves and become even better educators.

Ms Siti admits that it can sometimes be challenging to juggle work and studies, having to be at the centre full-time and attending evening classes at SUSS at least three times a week. Self-discipline and time management are important since lessons are currently conducted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What keeps her motivated is the knowledge and networking opportunities she has received through her Bachelor’s degree programme.   

When asked about the future of the EC sector, Ms Siti says she hopes educators will continue to upgrade themselves and strive for professional excellence so that they can give our children the best possible start in life.

She says, “If I can do it at this age and at this stage of my career, I believe that everyone and anyone else can do it too.

For more details on the ECDA Scholarships and Training Awards, click here.