TL;DR – Early childhood significantly impacts future learning, behavior, and even health.
A career in early childhood (EC) education is probably one that many Singaporeans won’t consider. You yourself might have come across the course while deciding on your Polytechnic Diploma, but were told by your parents not to do it because it’s a “very difficult job” and “cannot earn money one lah”.
We decided to speak to the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) to find out the reality, and here are five myths we discovered.
Myth 1. “Early childhood teachers are not very qualified. They are usually those who cannot get jobs as primary or secondary school teachers.”
On the contrary, early childhood educators, like primary or secondary school teachers, require professional qualifications and not just general academic qualifications. In order to work with preschool children of ages 0 to 6, preschool teachers actually need to possess at least an EC Diploma or Certificate. And over and beyond that, quite a number have also gone on to take degrees.
Apart from attending courses, they also need to undergo practicum or internships as part of the professional certification to ensure that they are properly trained to work with young children. Anyone wishing to teach in preschools, including those who qualify for teaching in primary schools, must go through professional training in early childhood education. That means, even if you have a PhD, you will still be required to undergo professional training.
One example is Dr May See, Senior General Manager of MY World Preschool Ltd and one of the inaugural batch of ECDA Fellows appointed in 2015.
Dr May See has been in the EC sector for more than 25 years. She received her Diploma in Preschool Leadership from the National Institute of Education (NIE) back in 1990s. Her degree was in Early Childhood Studies from the University of Melbourne. Her PhD was from the University of Western Australia, and her Doctor of Education thesis was on “Early Childhood Educators and Departure from Their Profession”.
Myth 2. “An Early Childhood career is a career-ending move with no career progression.”
ADECT stands for Advanced Diploma in Early Childhood Teaching & Learning
ADECL stands for Advanced Diploma in Early Childhood Leadership
Guess what? There are actually several competency-based initiatives to encourage in-service educators to upgrade themselves and take on larger job roles, such as Professional Development Programmes for teachers, educarers and leaders, ECDA Fellows Programme for pinnacle leaders, and SkillsFuture Study Award for the EC sector.
Apart from teachers seeking to become centre leaders or principals, there are increasing career development options for EC educators, including cluster supervisors, learning support, in-centre mentors and lead teachers, curriculum and quality assurance specialists at preschool HQs. With more and larger preschools in Singapore, there are more opportunities for intermediate and senior positions.
At the 2018 Committee of Supply debates, the Ministry of Social and Family Development announced that ECDA will work with the Anchor Operators (AOPs) to enhance career prospects for their early childhood educators, with more progression opportunities and structured career development. As the AOPs set up more and larger-capacity centres, there will be greater opportunities for teachers with the right aptitude and competencies to take on larger job roles, such as the mentoring of junior teachers, and for leaders to manage a larger centre or a cluster of centres.
Myth 3. “Early childhood teachers earn very little.”
Always thought that a career in early childhood pays peanuts?
Based on ECDA’s 2016 survey, basic salaries for educarers with a professional Certificate range from $1,800 to $2,100 per month, salaries for teachers with a professional teaching Diploma range from $2,200 to $3,000, and salaries for principals with a professional leadership Diploma range from $3,100 to $6,000.
In fact, some senior centre leaders can earn about $95k per year. And we are not just plucking random figures from the air. Ms Tan Ying Ying Pamela is only 34 years old and she is already the Executive Principal of My First Skool, Punggol Early Years Large Centre. Interestingly, Ying Ying started off working in a law firm for two months, upon graduation from Temasek Polytechnic with a Diploma in Marketing. However, discovering her passion in early childhood, she joined NTUC First Campus and never looked back since.
If you’re thinking of making a mid-career switch, you probably should. Learn how you can do so at www.ecda.gov.sg/shapeourtomorrow.
Myth 4. “Early Childhood teachers don’t actually teach. They are just glorified nannies.”
Have you ever found yourself saying, “Aiya, Pre-school actually no use one lah. Pay so much money for them to go there to just play and sing sing dance dance”?
Then why don’t you do it yourself at home then?
The truth is, a lot – and I mean really A LOT – of skills, knowledge and planning is involved behind that little bit of song and dance activity you see your child participating in. We are talking about skills and knowledge in children psychology and developmental milestones, pedagogical approach, content, etc. Also the time spent on concepts, lesson plans, preparation and the eventual teaching and portfolios for parents. So it’s not just care routines after all.
This brings us to our next point.
Myth 5. “Early childhood teachers are not important since children don’t actually learn anything until their primary school years.”
Wrong, wrong, and WRONG.
Stats and studies point to the importance of early childhood and how the formative years make a significant difference to one’s development.
Our pre-school teachers put in time and efforts guiding and nurturing the children, not just in academics e.g. bilingualism, numeracy skills, phonics, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) etc, but, more importantly, in instilling good values, positive learning dispositions, and life skills that will stay with the children for a life time.
MSF Minister Desmond Lee wrote previously in a Facebook post:
“…the formative years have a lifelong impact on a child’s life. Beyond getting them academically ready for primary school, early childhood development is also about holistic support for their health and socio-emotional growth.”
If you are a fellow crazy Asian parent, then you may want to read this interesting study done by Harvard University.
If you are too lazy to read, then let me summarise it for you. Basically, here are Five Numbers to Remember about Early Childhood Development:
- More than 1 million new neural connections per second that build brain architecture
- 18 months – age at which differences in the size of children’s vocabulary begin to appear
- 90-100% chance of developmental delays when children experience 6-7 risk factors
- 3:1 odds of adult heart disease after 7-8 adverse childhood experiences
- $4-$9 in returns for every dollar invested in early childhood programmes
So yes, quality early childhood significantly impacts future learning, behavior, and even health. After all, getting things right the first time is easier and more effective than trying to fix them later.
This probably explains why the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) under the Ministry of Social and Family Development is so focused on transforming the early childhood sector to give Every Child A Good Start In Life.