Speeches

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of National Development and Ministry of Education, at the MOE Kindergarten Conference on Friday, 4 June 2010, at 9.00 am, at Singapore Polytechnic Convention Centre

Colleagues from MOE

Kindergarten Leaders

Teachers

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning.

It gives me great pleasure to be here with all of you at the MOE Kindergarten Conference today. This year’s theme ‘Go Out and Learn—The Wonders of the Outdoors’ is particularly close to my heart. I enjoy outdoor activities, like rafting, swimming and hiking. I often bring my 3 sons, since they were very young boys, on such activities with me as these provide great learning opportunities.

Holistic development of children

Studies have shown that one of the most effective ways that young children learn about the world is through their active involvement. Teachers can encourage children to explore and discover the world around them by creating a stimulating and safe learning environment, both inside and outside the classrooms. The environment outside the classroom is a vast educational resource that can be tapped to enrich learning. Teachers who often plan and conduct purposeful learning activities in the outdoors report that their pupils are more engaged, enjoy learning and are healthier. The outdoors can provide an interesting, senses-rich and inviting environment that allows for your pupils’ holistic development of key knowledge, skills and dispositions in all learning areas.

For example, when children engage in gross motor movements such as climbing, running and balancing in the outdoor environment, they not only develop physical skills but also take risks, learn to pick themselves when they fall, and try again till they experience success. In so doing, they learn resilience, build endurance and grow in confidence. When they play with their friends in the playground, they learn to share, take turns and negotiate with others. When they are split into groups to go through various exercise stations, they develop teamwork and build bonds with team mates as they cheer and encourage one another. These are important 21st century competencies that our young children can develop through their teachers’ careful planning of the outdoor environment.

Young children can also learn important process skills in the outdoors. For example, I understand that some of you provide space outdoors for your pupils to grow their own plants. Children thereby develop process skills such as observation and prediction by measuring the height of plants, watching them grow (or die) throughout the year, recording their observations through their drawings or interacting with technology through digital photography. I encourage more of you to do that, as such projects allow children to develop a better understanding of the environment around them, thereby enriching their vocabulary, stimulating their curiosity and providing the foundations for learning in many areas such as science, numeracy, art and so on.

Professional Development of Teachers

Teachers play an important role in designing suitable learning environments and appropriate teaching methods in order to maximise the learning opportunities for children At the heart of quality education in any kindergarten is the quality of our teachers. The Master Teachers in MOE tell me that they need to continually learn to ensure that their tool box of teaching skills, tips and tricks is continually expanded to engage different types of learners. There is a variety of professional development opportunities available to kindergarten educators to expand their toolbox of teaching strategies. Many of these professional development opportunities are listed in the Training Prospectus which was given to every kindergarten teacher last November at the Kindergarten Learning Forum. The Training Prospectus is available on-line in the K-Portal . In addition, there are events that bring kindergarten educators together for sharing such as the yearly kindergarten briefings.

Today’s conference is another platform for learning, networking and sharing. This year, we are pleased to present the inaugural MOE Kindergarten Distinguished Speaker series at this conference. The Distinguished Speaker series is the latest of MOE’s efforts to provide opportunities for kindergarten practitioners to learn from world-renown experts. The goal of the Distinguished Speaker series is to give early childhood educators the opportunity to think about our work and to see from new angles and fresh perspectives. Today, we are privileged to have Professor Robin Moore, Director of the Natural Learning Initiative at North Carolina State University to share with us his expertise on designing outdoor environments that enhance the development of the children in your kindergartens.

I understand that some of you went on the pre-conference learning journeys yesterday. I hope that you have been enriched by learning first-hand from the various facilitators including Professor Robin Moore and Dr Nilda Cosco on ways to design interesting outdoor environments and strategies to conduct field trips that stimulate the curiosity of your pupils and extend their thinking about the environment around them. MOE will continue to bring in distinguished speakers from around the world as part of our efforts to help you uplift the quality of learning experiences you provide for the children in your kindergartens.

Administration—Kindergarten Link

Every good kindergarten needs to be supported by an effective administration system. Today, I am also pleased to launch the Kindergarten Link, or K-Link in short. The K-Link is an internet-based computerised system that gives all kindergartens a direct communication link with MOE. The K-Link system provides kindergartens with an array of tools and resources that will enable kindergartens to:

  • Manage their kindergarten, teacher and pupil data;
  • Apply for training workshops, conferences and learning forums;
  • Access up-to-date information to enhance operations.
  • Access the latest advisories from MOE

In short, the K-Link is a one-stop centre for kindergartens to enhance their administrative efficiency.

The system will help MOE gather up-to-date information on the kindergarten landscape, thereby enabling us with better information in our review of policies on the kindergarten sector. For example, the pupil data provided by kindergartens will help us identify children who are not in pre-school and with this information, we can take timely corrective action of emplacing these children.

In developing K-Link, we have not forgotten about the importance of connecting with parents, who are our partners in education. I am pleased to note that K-Link will also provide a one-stop centre for parents who seek information on pre-school education. This one-stop centre, called the Pre-school Link, will give parents information on educational or childcare options for their 4 to 6 year old children, across the kindergarten and childcare sectors.

For the past 2 years, you have heard much about K-Link at various platforms with MOE. The project team has put in many hours of hard work into the development of this system. I would like to thank them for their efforts in bringing the system to the kindergartens. MOE would also like to thank the system developer, ST Electronics for their partnership in the project. Today, you will finally get to experience the system, via the various terminals at the exhibition area. I hope you will take some time to explore using the system and give feedback to the project team.

Conclusion

I am heartened that you are here today, making good use of the school holidays to develop your professional knowledge. Through this conference, you will be able to explore more engaging ways to use the outdoors to enhance teaching and learning. I encourage all of you to attend the sessions today with an open mind and keen heart so that you can bring the wonders of the outdoors back to your children and inspire them to go out and learn. Together we can promote the holistic development of our children and provide a strong start for every child. I wish you all a fruitful day ahead. Thank you.