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A focus on bilingualism and “Singapore flavour” for MOE kindergartens

SINGAPORE — When the five Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergartens begin classes in January next year, children can expect to spend at least a quarter of each day on Mother Tongue lessons, as part of the kindergartens’ focus on bilingualism.

A focus on bilingualism and “Singapore flavour” for MOE kindergartens

An example of an activity under the Starlight Literacy Programme for the English language. The programme is a story-based curriculum that

develops children’s language skills through a rich variety of songs and stories. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF EDUCATION

SINGAPORE — When the five Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergartens begin classes in January next year, children can expect to spend at least a quarter of each day on Mother Tongue lessons, as part of the kindergartens’ focus on bilingualism.

This will make up to about 30 per cent of the curriculum time, said the ministry’s Director of Education Services Loke-Yeo Teck Yong, at a media briefing on the kindergartens’ curriculum on Thursday.

The Starlight Literacy Programme — one of two flagship programmes designed using principles in MOE’s kindergarten curriculum framework for all schools — will be offered in both English and Mother Tongue Languages — Chinese, Malay and Tamil.

MOE Programme Director (Literacy Development) Dr Elizabeth Pang said that language development has to be “daily, frequent (and) regular”. “In some centres, not every day is dedicated to ... literacy but … what we know from the research is that it needs to be … daily,” she added.

When contacted, the PAP Community Foundation, which operates 235 kindergartens island-wide, said it offers Chinese, Malay and Tamil as second languages, with classes ranging between 40 minutes to an hour a day. “In centres where there is insufficient children to make up a class or often in case of Tamil language, we group the students who have opted for this language together for their lesson in a nearby centralised location,” a spokesperson said.

During the Budget earlier this year, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat announced MOE’s re-entry into the preschool sector, with 15 kindergartens to be opened over the next three years. Registration for the first five took place in April, but the 560 places available received mixed responses. The MOE said that there are about 250 children enrolled in the MOE Kindergartens.

“As this is the first year that MOE is setting up the kindergartens, the number of children enrolled is a good start. It will allow time for refinement and review of the programme to ensure that it best meets the needs of our children,” added its spokesperson.

The ministry will provide about six to eight teachers for a K1 cohort of up to 120 children. The number will be dependent on actual enrolment and the demand for mother tongue language.

All teachers must have a professional diploma in early childhood education, and the ministry hopes to hire suitable candidates early as there are still another 10 kindergartens slated to open, said Mrs Loke-Yeo.

The ministry also shared more details of how it has sought to infuse the curriculum with a “Singapore flavour”. Noting that there is a lack of resources with local flavour in the current kindergarten curriculum, Director of Curriculum Planning & Development Division Chua-Lim Yen Ching said: “When you have materials that (are) related to Singapore, (it) is something that the children can identify.”

Agreeing, Mrs Loke-Yeo added: “It is really about exposing the child from young what is it like to be a Singaporean and the common experiences.”

For example, children will learn about hawker centres through picture books created by the MOE, visit hawker centres and talk about what they saw, and sing songs like “Our Hawker Centre Food” - sung to the tune of “Are you sleeping”.

Materials like enlarged picture books were also created for the Starlight Literacy Programme, which will use a story-based curriculum to develops a child’s language skills.

The other flagship programme — the HI-Light Programme — is aimed at the holistic development of children and features themes such “What are the places around me?” where teachers will bring children on a neighbourhood walk, and discuss topics like road safety.

During each term, children will embark on a Week of Wonder project to investigate topics of their interest, so that they experience “self-directed learning” and build their confidence.

The MOE also held two information sessions on the curriculum for parents and children who are enrolled in the kindergartens today (Aug 31). Another three will be held on Sept 21. Details can be found at http://www.moekindergarten.edu.sg/others/events-n-news

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