To Those Who Teach Children to Start Small, and Dream Big

Each day, they teach and care for the little ones. They help them to learn, and to grow.

They are our pre-school teachers.

And each day, there are stories of how they have helped little boys and girls learn a few more new words, put another step forward, and helped them to understand a bit more about the world.

NLX_ HF_ECDA-ORION-7602Bethanie Wong from Orion Preschool

When Bethanie met 3-year-old Daniel, he was barely speaking at home.
To help Daniel, Bethanie worked with his mother to learn his favourite words and songs. Then, Bethanie used those words as a conversational hook to interest Daniel into participating in class.

Within a few months, Daniel became sociable, and was able to speak in full sentences!

Ms Farhana listening intently to a child's comments.Farhana Mustafa from Bright Juniors

Alan was a child with special needs, and was having some difficulty trying to express himself. To better help Alan, Farhana took the time to attend a three-day course on speech and learning support.

Farhana used Alan’s interests in music and movement to slowly expand his vocabulary. Over time, Alan was learning to form sentences with more words – from two, to four, and then to six.

Like Bethanie and Farhana, many other pre-school teachers go the extra mile. Some of them even enter this field from other job industries, because they felt a calling to help children have the best possible start in life.

14079578_1195466487162791_7724903438978079209_nReally love children at this age 😊

To all pre-school teachers, thank you. This day is for you, who make that positive difference in the lives of children. You guide them in their small, starting steps. And you teach them to dream big.

Thank you for making a positive difference in the lives of our little ones. I wish you Happy Teachers’ Day. 😊

Making Singapore a Home for all Families

As a father of two, I know that family outings (especially with young children or an elderly parent) can be a real challenge.

In the past, there weren’t as many shopping malls, and most did not cater to families with young children or elderly parents. Popping out for a quick dinner with kids in tow was no walk in the park! I still remember the days when my wife and I would try to plan every outing in advance to ensure that it would be as fun and stress-free as possible.

Shopping malls are now a common feature in most neighbourhoods. With the government’s requirement to provide family-friendly facilities through the Code of Accessibility, many malls now boast features such as nursing rooms, and ramps and wider corridors for wheelchair-users.

grandstand14From my visit to The Grandstand yesterday, to see its enhanced family-friendly features.

I visited one of the seven neighbourhood malls that received an enhanced grant to increase their family-friendly features yesterday. The improved facilities encourage more family outings and made it convenient for families to eat, shop and have fun together.

But a family-friendly environment cannot be achieved just by infrastructure alone.

We need to complement that with a family-friendly mindset and passion to go that extra mile to give customers a positive experience during family outings. It is important that our service professionals have a deeper understanding of different families’ needs. To equip them with the necessary skillsets, MSF will soon roll out training courses for the service industry.

grandstand12Speaking to a concierge who’d received many complimentary letters for his service

Courses for frontline staff include communication skills and dealing with specific situations, such as helping an elderly person with dementia or calming a lost toddler. Courses catering to managerial staff include fostering a customer-centric culture and planning innovative initiatives for families.

I would like to encourage businesses that aim to attract a larger family customer base to attend these courses. I hope that more businesses will join our efforts in building a family-friendly environment and encourage their staff to take up courses to improve their customer service skills.


We want to celebrate families in Singapore.

Apart from encouraging family time through programmes or events, it is important to ensure that our infrastructure and service standards are in place to make Singapore truly a home for families to interact, bond and connect with each other.

Top Three Tips on Building Children’s Character

Featuring Ms Alicia Lim, ECDA Fellow and Executive Principal of PCF Sparkletots; Ms Ava Wang, ECDA Fellow and Preschool Learning Academy @ Temasek Polytechnic; and Mrs Ang-Oh Chui Hwa, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Far Eastern Kindergarten.

Respect, kindness, courage, honesty… You might want to instill such values in your children at their early years – but do you know which methods are effective?

Meet Ms Alicia Lim who used storytelling to impart values and enlighten her students about character development.

There are also other different ways to weave lessons about values and morals into children’s daily life.

Here are three tips on helping them develop the strength of character:

  1. “Storytelling is one of the best ways to inculcate virtues. Stories can ignite children’s imagination, strike their emotional chords and help them grasp the concept of these virtues.”


Inspired by her kindergarten teachers, Ms Alicia Lim feels that she can give back to society as an early childhood educator and a teacher trainer that supports children’s moral and character education.

Ms Lim believes that abstract topics, such as character development, should not be taught academically to children but in a more interactive style that allows them to model the behaviors they see around them. For that, storytelling works best for teaching values as children are usually receptive and keen to listening.

“When children keep stories close to their heart, the messages of these stories will inspire and shape their characters,” said Ms Lim. Hence, good stories not only provide joy to the children, they also strengthen their understanding of human motives as well as introduce them with new encounters.

  1. “When we teach young children how to solve problems, they grow up to be more resilient, resourceful and ready to face any challenge.”


Developing a classroom culture that promotes problem-solving approach will help to equip children with the necessary skills required to combat societal challenges in the future.

That is why Ms Ava Wang finds every opportunity to encourage her students to become independent thinkers and not to rely on others to fix their problems.

However, every child reacts differently when they experience a challenge, it is therefore important to guide them to use the right coping mechanism needed to tackle various situations.

  1. “Like shaping a clay pot, character takes time to develop before it becomes strong and beautiful. Everyone, from the teacher to the family, has a part to play.”

FotoJet Collage

As for Mrs Ang-Oh Chui Hwa, engaging young minds and shepherding young hearts are best achieved during early childhood.

Avoid rewarding children’s behaviors with stars or stickers, but focus on teaching and encouraging them on how they can contribute and help those in need.

Children learn to better appreciate values from doing small acts like donating their savings, and “that is how their characters can be moulded,” said Mrs Ang-Oh. “When one’s character has been well-moulded, it will hold its own against life challenges and soon it will be a work of art, with its own character, strength and beauty.”



About ECDA Fellows

The ECDA Fellows are a select group of exemplary early childhood professionals with high levels of leadership and professional expertise. The sector as a whole benefit from their extensive experience and deep expertise. The ECDA Fellows work closely with ECDA to train and mentor other early childhood professionals.  They will also develop sector-wide resources for professional development, curriculum leadership and sector partnerships.


These experts will show you how they teach pre-schoolers effectively

Featuring Ms Shirley Tan, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Church of the Holy Trinity Kindergarten; and Ms Christine Soo, ECDA Fellow and Manager of PCF Sparkletots.

Every one of us wants our children to do well, not just in academics but also in developing good social and moral competencies. But how can we ensure effective learning for our children and help them achieve their full potential?

From connecting well with children to working hand-in-hand with families, educators can adopt several methods to promote the positive development of children.

Here are two tips on uplifting the quality of early childhood educators:

  1. “The hand that works hard, put it close to your heart and that makes a difference in a child’s life.”

WWHMeet Ms Shirley Tan, who believes that the H.E.A.R.T is the principle of nurturing children and holding close to her heart where passion lies, is Humility, Enthusiasm, Attitude, Resilience and Trust.

When working with children, Ms Tan believes that it is important to remain humble and keep an open mind. Her positive attitude towards others builds strong relationships at work, her ‘never-say-die’ belief develops resilience, and she builds trust through her own words and actions which are consistent with what she stands for.

Ms Tan recognizes the need to meet the individual needs of each child by taking time to observe and understand their perspectives. Although this can be a challenging task for teachers, it is at the heart of what each teacher does, to discover and nurture the unique talents of every single pupil – as she adds, “working with your heart will create a lasting positive impact on a child’s life and the children can feel it.”

  1. “When children see important people in their lives working together, they learn that it’s important to build healthy relationships.”

WWH2“Families tend to know the children’s strengths, personalities, moods and behaviours very well and educators understand the children’s development, so together they make great partners in the children’s life,” said Ms Christine Soo.

That is why in pre-school settings, Ms Soo strongly encourages teachers and families to work closely together to exchange information, address specific concerns and focus on meeting the needs of the children.

By doing so, both parties can apply a suitable approach for teaching the children and thus, enable the children to receive the best possible care and education.


About ECDA Fellows

The ECDA Fellows are a select group of exemplary early childhood professionals with high levels of leadership and professional expertise. The sector as a whole benefit from their extensive experience and deep expertise. The ECDA Fellows work closely with ECDA to train and mentor other early childhood professionals.  They will also develop sector-wide resources for professional development, curriculum leadership and sector partnerships.

3 early childhood experts share how they teach based on children’s needs

Featuring Ms N. Pushpavalli, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten; Dr Geraldine Teo-Zuzarte, ECDA Fellow and Centre Director of The Caterpillar’s Cove Child Development and Study Centre; and Ms N. Thamarai, ECDA Fellow and Cluster Quality Manger of My First Skool.

Everyone knows that children’s growing up years play a crucial role in their development – but how do we make sure our teaching methods adequately address their needs?

One such way would be to put ourselves in the shoes of young children and try to see the world as they would. This would help us craft teaching methods that focuses on their strengths and enhances their holistic development.

Such child-centered teaching methods will then be better able to help children achieve their full potential.

Here are three tips on customizing teaching pedagogies to the needs of young children:

  1. Innovation requires us to constantly question why we do what we do.”

ECDA 2,1Ms N. Pushpavalli, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten, believes that it is important for teachers to constantly reflect on the children’s curriculum and activities.

This would then create a culture of innovation that would aid teachers’ individual professional growth, while allowing them to find the best ways for their children to learn.

That is why she decided to move from having show-and-tell in the classroom to a concept called “My Space” – where children were given a space of their own much like an “offline blog” – when she realised that the former allowed for little engagement and that the children were reproducing memorised scripts.

  1. “One of the unique features of Learning Stories is the focus on the strengths of each child rather than deficits or what the child cannot do. Over time, this practice positively changes how educators relate to the child.”

 ECDA 2.2

For Dr Geraldine Teo-Zuzarte, ECDA Fellow and Centre Director of The Caterpillar’s Cove Child Development and Study Centre, creating a positive, conducive and meaningful environment for children is key to their development.

One such way is through Learning Stories – a compilation of observations on their growth – that would not only provide an opportunity for dialogue and discussion on the holistic development of the child, but also allow educators to be more reflective and collaborative.

“Learning is a co-construction between the learner and the teacher; each has something to offer and bring to the learning context,” she adds.

  1. “Just think, how do I usually talk or treat an older child, or even an adult? Then treat the young children in the same way.”

ECDA 2.3

Constant innovation and a system that encourages reflection would then allow for quality standards and continuous professional improvement – something that Ms N. Thamarai, ECDA Fellow and Cluster Quality Manger of My First Skool, advocates for.

One way to ensure quality standards would be to observe the 3 ‘R’s of teaching young children – respect, respond and reciprocate.

Teaching children from young the very values that we adults hold highly ourselves would set an example for them to follow as they grow.

“With the 3 ‘R’s, our children will grow into confident and secure individuals.  Such independence and emotional security, puts them in good stead for the next stage of their development. It is normal to feel anxious about a child’s development. Remember – it is not about the outcomes, but building a fulfilling personal experience during a child’s early years that matters,” said Ms Thamarai.


About ECDA Fellows

The ECDA Fellows are a select group of exemplary early childhood professionals with high levels of leadership and professional expertise. The sector as a whole benefit from their extensive experience and deep expertise. The ECDA Fellows work closely with ECDA to train and mentor other early childhood professionals.  They will also develop sector-wide resources for professional development, curriculum leadership and sector partnerships.


Art, Science & Culture in pre-school education

Featuring Mrs Elsie Tan-Chua, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Living Sanctuary Kindergarten; Ms Dianne Swee-Seet, ECDA Fellow and Ascension Kindergarten; and Ms Tan Beng Luan, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Creative O Preschoolers’ Bay.

You might have heard of students rearing guppies, shrimps and maybe even hamsters for school – but have you heard of classrooms rearing… stick insects?

Meet Mrs Elsie Tan-Chua, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Living Sanctuary Kindergarten, who purchased the six-legged creatures much to the delight of her students.


Citing the need to use innovation to spur children to learn and be excited about learning, Mrs Tan-Chua finds every opportunity to bring in unique teaching resources into her classroom.

Be it the arts, science or through cultural lessons, there are multiple innovative ways to inspire and nurture young minds.

Here are three tips on helping young minds develop:

  1. “Use things that excite both teachers and children, so that they can explore, discover and learn together”

ECDA 1.1

From her 18 years of experience in the early childhood sector, Mrs Tan-Chua feels that she has learnt and grown as a professional as she worked alongside young children and teachers.

That’s why she believes that it is good to use things that teachers can learn something from as well.

Alternative lessons help spark curiosity, so that children are encouraged to constantly learn and discover, while teachers are motivated to sharpen their skills and keep themselves abreast of the latest developments in the sector.

  1. “Through music and art, children are encouraged to express their individuality and creativity, and more importantly, learn to respect one another.”

ECDA 1.2For Ms Dianne Sweet-Seet, ECDA Fellow and Principal of Ascension Kindergarten, encouraging children to learn through music and art help nurture children holistically.

“I think one of the best parts of encouraging the arts is giving children room to share their ideas with one another. When they share, they learn that there is no right or wrong in creativity, and they should respect each other’s opinions,” said Ms Swee-Seet.

These then create a positive environment that helps build children’s confidence.

  1. Teach children about diversity. Teach them the similarities among different cultures, model cultural harmony, and instil cultural appreciation through daily life.”

ECDA 1.3Encouraging multi-culturalism early helps guide children in forming a positive attitude towards people, work and the environment.

That’s why Ms Tan Beng Luan, ECDA fellow, Founder and Principal of Creative O Preschoolers’ Bay, encourages the celebration of different festivals in the classroom.

“Children are innocent, forth-right, sincere, friendly, helpful and caring. They remind me daily of all these wonderful basic human qualities,” said Ms Tan. “When being with them, I become humble and patient and I learn much from them. For that, I thank you, Children.”


About ECDA Fellows

The ECDA Fellows are a select group of exemplary early childhood professionals with high levels of leadership and professional expertise. The sector as a whole benefit from their extensive experience and deep expertise. The ECDA Fellows work closely with ECDA to train and mentor other early childhood professionals.  They will also develop sector-wide resources for professional development, curriculum leadership and sector partnerships.

MSF Addendum to The President’s Address

By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

At the opening of the 13th Parliament on 15 January 2016, President Tony Tan Keng Yam outlined the key priorities of the Government over the next few years. Even as we address the many challenges ahead, we need to also remind ourselves of the kind of society we are and the kind of people we aspire to be.

We are a dynamic and diverse nation. This can be a big strength so long as we remain united and anchored on shared values. Building a caring society and a more engaged community will help us achieve that.

When we begin to care for others, we begin to look beyond ourselves as individuals. Collectively, we all play a part in strengthening our social safety nets and ensure continued social mobility, so that no Singaporean is left behind.

My hope and vision for Singapore, is that it will become an even more inclusive society, and a great place for our people, whether young or old, whether able or differently abled.

Strong families and resilient individuals are the basic building blocks of our nation. This is why over the next few years, my MSF colleagues and I will do more in anticipating and responding to changes in societal trends, demographics and family structures.

You can read the full version of the MSF Addendum below, and we will share more details of our plans with you very soon.


Ministry of Social and Family Development

Addendum to The President’s Address


1.             The social needs of our citizens and families are becoming more complex as the demographics, economics and family structures in Singapore change. Our social policies and services must evolve so that we can continue to nurture resilient individuals and strong families. Our societal culture must also evolve so that we can become a more inclusive and caring society where no Singaporean is left behind.

2.             The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will focus on:

i.      strengthening marriages and families;

ii.     providing a good start for our young;

iii.    extending a helping hand for the vulnerable;

iv.    fostering a caring community.

Strong Marriages and Families

3.             The family must remain the basic building block of our society. The Ministry is committed to making Singapore a great place for families. We will work with Government agencies, businesses and employers, as well as community organisations to create a conducive environment for Singaporeans to start families and raise children, enjoy family life and experience meaningful family ties.

4.             We will provide greater support for couples to prepare for and strengthen their marriages, and offer evidence-based parenting programmes in our schools and community. These will include marriage preparation and support programmes for young couples and Singaporeans marrying foreigners.

5.              MSF will also strengthen support for vulnerable families so that they can overcome their challenges and become more stable and resilient. We will look into new ways of engaging such families early, and work with social service agencies to assess their needs holistically to provide more coordinated and effective assistance.

A Good Start for Our Young

6.             Children are our hope and future. The Ministry will strive towards giving all our young children a good start in life. We will extend greater attention and support to those from disadvantaged or vulnerable backgrounds so that they too can realise their potential.

7.             The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) will continue to expand childcare capacity, particularly in housing estates with more young children. There will be one childcare place for every two children by 2017. ECDA will provide parents with more good quality and affordable childcare options through its Anchor Operator and Partner Operator schemes. It will also continue to enhance the quality of preschool education and the professional development of early childhood educators.

8.             To help vulnerable children from low income or disadvantaged families, we will work with other Government agencies and community organisations to identify them and support their developmental needs during their early years. We will also introduce initiatives to help these families improve their home environments for the children’s learning and development, as well as support the children at pre-schools.

9.             For children who need protection or care outside of their own homes, we will broaden the care options available to them. This will include working with Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) and volunteers to increase the number of foster families who can offer a nurturing environment for these children to grow up in.  To better help youths-at-risk, we will strengthen both government and community systems, programmes and capabilities in prevention, early intervention and rehabilitation.

A Helping Hand for the Vulnerable

10.             Those with less and those in need will receive an extra helping hand to overcome their difficulties and improve their lives. We will continue to strengthen our social safety net, review legislations and policies, and improve services to keep in step with emerging needs.

11.             We have completed the network of 24 Social Service Offices (SSOs) across Singapore as well as the first phase of the Social Service Net (SSNet) – an integrated information sharing and case management system that will link MSF with other Government and VWO help agencies. Building on their reach on the ground, SSOs will further improve the coordination in planning and delivery of social services for residents within each HDB town. We will also expand SSNet to cover more help agencies. Together, these efforts will ensure that Singaporeans with complex social support needs receive more holistic and integrated help.

12.            For persons with disabilities, we will develop the next Enabling Masterplan to build a more inclusive society where they can lead more meaningful lives and become integral members of society. Through assistance in early intervention, education, training and employment, we will help them maximise their potential at different stages of their lives. We will also render greater support for caregivers. We will work with employers, businesses, community organisations and volunteers to raise public understanding and acceptance of persons with disabilities within our communities.

13.            To safeguard the interests of the growing number of elderly in Singapore, the Government will review legislations, policies and services to better protect those who are subject to abuse, neglect or self-neglect. We will also look into strengthening support for vulnerable adults in residential care through streamlining regulatory and care standards for residential homes.

A Caring Community

14.             The future of caring in Singapore is one where Singaporeans come together to look out for and support one another, especially those amongst us who need a helping hand. Government agencies, VWOs, corporates, community organisations, social service professionals and the wider public all play a part. Through what we do and how we do it, the Ministry hopes to nurture a culture and spirit of giving in Singapore.

15.             Professionals including early childhood educators, learning support specialists, social workers, counsellors, therapists, psychologists and care workers lie at the forefront of the social service sector. Through ECDA and the Social Service Institute (SSI), we will groom a larger pool of committed and skilled social service professionals and leaders.  We will also expand opportunities for them to develop their capabilities and build fulfilling careers.

16.             VWOs play a critical role in mobilising volunteers and donors to complement the work of social service professionals and effort by the Government. The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) will work with VWOs to improve their organisational capability and management of volunteers so as to involve more Singaporean individuals and groups in enriching volunteering experiences. The Community Chest will extend its reach by tapping on new platforms and partnerships to raise funds and rally public support to meet social needs.


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