Speech by Senior Minister of State for Education Ms Indranee Rajah at the Singapore Pre-School Accreditation Framework (SPARK) Certificate Presentation Ceremony on 25 Sep 2015, 3.30pm at SUNTEC Convention & Exhibition Centre

Published Date: 25 September 2015 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Early childhood professionals.

Ladies and gentlemen.

Good afternoon.

1. I am delighted to congratulate 203 centres on achieving their SPARK certification. SPARK is a voluntary quality assurance framework that provides pre-schools with quality benchmarks and guides their improvement efforts. Today, one in four pre-schools is SPARK-certified and this family is growing fast. I am encouraged to know that there is a record of 152 new SPARK applications so far this year, and that is a 25 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

2. We often ask ourselves, “How can we give all our children a good start?”. Pre-schools can help our children if they:

  • Firstly, develop our children’s eagerness to learn, and start them on their path of life-long learning.
  • Secondly, support them in developing their curiosity and sense of confidence.
  • Thirdly, provide a conducive learning environment, where our children look forward to going to school.

3. SPARK works hand-in-hand with centres and parents, and this in turn helps centres and parents build a good start for our children. SPARK helps centres to continually improve the quality of their programmes and SPARK provides parents with a quality benchmark in choosing a pre-school for their child.

4. SPARK recognises pre-schools in their efforts to improve teaching and learning, administration and management processes to enhance the holistic development, and well-being of young children.

SPARK has helped centres improve quality

5. To all the teachers and centre leaders here today receiving your SPARK certificates, you have risen to the challenge of looking into how you can improve the teaching and learning practices in your centres. Just as we encourage our children to embrace life-long learning, centres should continue to strive for even greater improvement within the pre-school sector.

6. ECDA and SPARK assessors will support you at every stage. There are both pre-assessment workshops to prepare your centre well, as well as post-assessment evaluations which recognise your strengths and areas in which you can improve. Every centre is unique, and so ECDA ensures that its feedback is customised for each centre’s needs.

7. ECDA recognises centres that have done well in the SPARK assessment, to encourage them to set and strive towards higher goals. For instance, since last year, ECDA has recognised re-certified centres that demonstrated Progress in Teaching and Learning. This year, I am glad that we are recognising 16 more such centres. Learninghill Educare is one example. They shared with us that their teachers were more confident in customising lessons, and were inspired to experiment with investigative play. Teachers found that the children were more engaged in class, and likewise, parents noticed that their children were more articulate in sharing what they have learnt.

8. ECDA has also introduced a new SPARK Commendation category in 2015 to recognise pre-schools for their quality achievements, as well as to provide parents with better information about the quality of pre-schools. The new Commendation category will distinguish centres with strong teaching and learning practices. These include a well-designed and integrated curriculum, facilitated by strong pedagogies in a conducive learning environment to support children’s holistic development.

9. I am glad that 59 centres have already achieved SPARK Commendation. SPARK goes beyond an assessment. It is an investment in the quality of our centres, and ultimately in our children.

Parents find SPARK useful when choosing pre-schools

10. Today, more parents are making reference to SPARK as a mark of quality. They ask if centres are SPARK-certified before enrolling their children. They recognise and are proud of the SPARK banners hanging outside their pre-school. Understandably, parents would want to find a centre which best fits the needs of their child, and offers high quality programmes for good value. SPARK helps parents to do this, by thoroughly and objectively assessing centre quality through class observations and interviews with teachers and centre leaders.

11. Parents were also very pleased when centres successfully achieved their SPARK certification. I learnt that parents praised PCF Sparkletots @ Bukit Batok East block 208 for achieving the SPARK Commendation, and were encouraged to find out more about SPARK and the centre’s achievements.

We will continue to improve SPARK to meet changing expectations of parents and centres

12. After SPARK was introduced, we continued to expand our support to centres in quality improvement. This includes having direct outreach to address centres’ concerns, conducting workshops to better prepare centres for the assessment, and providing consultancy services for centres.

13. As the sector continues to improve, we know that SPARK must continue to evolve to meet both the parents’ and centres’ needs. Over the coming year, ECDA will review the SPARK Quality Rating Scale, QRS for short. ECDA will find ways to make the QRS more relevant and useful in guiding centres in their quality improvement journey. We will continue to focus on teaching and learning practices, which are key to giving children a high quality pre-school experience, and take in feedback from centres and parents as part of the review.

We will continue to support pre-schools to improve the quality of teaching and learning

14. Over the last few years, MOE has shared the Nurturing Early Learners (in short NEL) curriculum to support you in enhancing the quality of teaching and learning in your centres. The NEL Curriculum Toolkit is a comprehensive range of kindergarten curriculum resources that comprises several components: the NEL Framework, the NEL Educators’ Guide and the NEL Framework for Mother Tongue Languages.

15. Last year, MOE shared the Chinese, Malay and Tamil language versions of the NEL Framework for Mother Tongue Languages. These support centres in designing learning experiences which will enable our children to enjoy using their Mother Tongue Language, communicate confidently and appreciate their different ethnic culture, experienced in the local context. I trust that you and your colleagues have found these resources useful in your curriculum planning and review. The beliefs and principles articulated in the NEL Frameworks will be helpful in guiding teachers in designing quality learning experiences, giving every child a strong start.

16. Teachers of Mother Tongue Languages can look forward to receiving more support from MOE and ECDA in enhancing Mother Tongue Language learning experiences for our children. Today, I am happy to launch the NEL Educators’ Guides for Mother Tongue Languages. The NEL Educators’ Guide in each of the Mother Tongue Languages is available online and hard copies will be distributed to your centres in phases.

17. The NEL Educators’ Guides for Mother Tongue Languages are written in and for each of the three Mother Tongue Languages and draws on their individual characteristics. They will help teachers gain practical lesson ideas and teaching strategies that specifically cater to each of the Mother Tongue Languages. Teachers can also be inspired by the examples of good practices and suggestions for learning activities in the Educators’ Guides that are relevant to Singapore’s context and will ignite children’s love for Mother Tongue Languages and their local ethnic culture.

18. MOE has partnered ECDA to conduct training sessions to help teachers better understand how to apply the NEL Framework for Mother Tongue Languages, since August this year.

19. During the development of the NEL Educators’ Guides for Mother Tongue Languages, MOE sought input from pre-school educators through focus group discussions to ensure that the content would be relevant and useful for practitioners. We were glad to hear that the educators appreciated how the Guides translated the principles and learning goals in the NEL Framework for Mother Tongue Languages to cater to their Mother Tongue Language. They also appreciated that the Guides provided a common set of professional terms for teaching and learning that could be used by all pre-school Mother Tongue Language teachers. They shared that the availability of such resources would enhance their professional dialogues and signal the importance of their role as Mother Tongue Language teachers.

20. Bilingualism is a cornerstone of our education system and an important part of our cultural and national identity. It is our goal that the Mother Tongues will be living languages for our children. We will continue to work with educators, parents and the community to engage pre-school children in the learning of Mother Tongue Languages. I look towards all of you as leaders in this field, working together with MOE and ECDA towards this common goal. I hope that your teachers will be able to benefit from the rich NEL curriculum resources developed by MOE.

CONCLUSION

21. Today marks an important milestone for you and your centres. Thank you for your commitment in investing your time and energy to improve the quality of your centres for the benefit of our children. I also want to thank our parents for their confidence in SPARK as a mark of quality of our pre-school education in Singapore. Just as we help our children to “reach for the stars”, your achievement in attaining SPARK certification today is yet another step towards providing quality early childhood development for our children.

22. Congratulations once again! Thank you.

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