Wednesday, 29 November 2017

MOE kindergarten kids get priority P1 admission to co-located primary schools from 2018

Those applying to co-located primary schools will be under Phase 2A2, as part of pilot scheme
By Sandra Davie, Senior Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2017

To help children transition more smoothly to Primary 1, those attending Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergartens will be given priority to enter the primary school that shares a compound with their kindergarten.

The MOE said this will involve 12 kindergartens as part of a pilot scheme next year, involving children entering Primary 1 in 2019.

Kindergarten children applying for admission to the respective primary school will be eligible under Phase 2A2 of the Primary 1 registration scheme, which currently applies to children whose parents or siblings had studied in the primary school, but had not joined the alumni association.

The change, announced yesterday, puts MOE kindergarten children ahead of those who apply in the next phase, 2B, which gives priority to parent volunteers and those with church or clan links.

The ministry will continue to set aside a minimum of 40 places for phases 2B and 2C. It also said it will provide sufficient school places on a regional basis so that no child will have to travel long distances to his or her primary school.

Schools involved include Riverside Primary, Farrer Park, Punggol Green and West Spring.

Explaining the move, Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said: "MOE always has the child at the centre of its policymaking. It will facilitate the child's learning in a more familiar environment... We hope to enable the child to have a smoother transition to Primary 1."



Will the change lead to more pressure for Primary 1 registration?

MOE assured parents that the planned intake from its kindergartens will be below that of the associated primary school. Parents may also choose another primary school.

But it admitted that "as demand situations differ from year to year, we are unable to predict the demand situation in individual schools and kindergartens".

"The MOE kindergartens are located in areas with upcoming developments and families with young children. We expect healthy demand for these school-based kindergartens as well as the primary schools in that area."

MOE explained that it was making this change to help children have an easier transition to the co-located primary schools as they would remain in a familiar environment.

"With a close partnership between the kindergarten and the primary school, the latter would also be more familiar with the needs of the children, and can more quickly ensure that they have the necessary developmental support when they enter Primary 1."

Currently, about half of MOE kindergarten children register in the associated primary schools. Each kindergarten takes in about 60 to 120 children every year.

When asked if it had considered according the same priority to children attending private kindergartens near primary schools, MOE said its kindergartens come under the purview of primary schools they are co-located with, and the heads and teachers work closely with the primary school teachers. "Private kindergartens do not have similar arrangements," it said.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had announced in August that MOE will scale up to 50 kindergartens in the next five years.

Following that, MOE announced that it will open 13 new MOE kindergartens in 2019 and 2020 in areas with high demand. All of them will be located in the same compounds as primary schools.

Of the 13, seven will open in 2019, and six in 2020.









Move from kindergarten to P1 smoother with co-located schools
Familiar environment will help children get down to learning earlier, say experts
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2017

The move to give children attending Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergartens priority admission to co-located primary schools will give them a leg-up when transiting to Primary 1, experts said.

The change, announced yesterday, involves 12 kindergartens in a pilot scheme next year. MOE kindergarten children applying for admission to the respective primary school will be eligible under Phase 2A2 of the Primary 1 registration exercise, giving them a slight edge over those whose parents have volunteered in the schools, have links to churches or clans, or are active community leaders.

Observers said remaining in a familiar environment will make the transition to Primary 1 less rough for these children, allowing them to get down to the learning earlier.

Sengkang Green Primary principal Daphne Yeoh said some parents in the kindergarten on its premises had been asking for "direct admission" to the school.

Besides being familiar with the shared facilities, children from the kindergartens relate to the primary school pupils through joint mother-tongue storytelling and craft sessions. "The MOE kindergarten kids and teachers also sit in on the Primary 1 classes to experience what it's like... Our primary school teachers also understand what the younger kids are learning, so when they come to Primary 1, it's a seamless transition," said Mrs Yeoh.

Parent Tricica Oh, who has two daughters, will now have less to worry about. The 39-year-old, whose elder daughter Cassidy is starting Primary 1 at Northoaks Primary next year, said children who attend MOE kindergartens would have been prepared for primary school, having visited common school areas like the canteen.

Some MOE kindergartens also organise one-day immersion programmes for their graduating K2 pupils, including attaching them to primary school classes.

Ms Oh, an executive assistant, said: "I think there is a definite advantage for when these kids move up to the primary school, especially for the first few months."

Cassidy, six, has attended the MOE kindergarten co-located with Northoaks Primary for the past two years. Her sister, Lesley, four, will start K1 there next year.

Ms Oh added: "It helps that there are some familiar faces around. The kindergarten does a lot of tie-ups with the primary school, so the kids already know some of the teachers by face. It is not so scary for a seven-year-old who is moving on to a new environment."

With the close partnership with their co-located kindergartens, primary schools would be more in tune with the needs of those children who move on to Primary 1.

Teacher Premlatha Selvaraj, 36, said information on the children's progress can be shared with the Primary 1 teachers taking them, so that the young ones will get the necessary support when they enter primary school. Her children, Shivanesh, six, and Nivashini, five, attend the MOE kindergarten at Springdale Primary.

MOE kindergarten children may also get an advantage over their peers in their studies, thanks to exchanges between educators from the kindergartens and their respective primary schools on the curriculum and teaching methods.

National University of Singapore economics lecturer Kelvin Seah said the close partnership could mean greater continuity in the curriculum.

And such opportunities for teachers to work together may increase, say school leaders. Vice-principal Kelvin Ho of Springdale Primary, which has an MOE kindergarten, said: "It would be helpful if the teachers on both sides can have an understanding of what happens when children transit to the next level. Then, they can help the pupils to be prepared for primary school."










Priority for MOE kindergartens: Experts worry about pressure at K1 stage
By Amelia Teng, Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2017

With Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergartens expected to become more popular - now that their children will get priority in Primary 1 admission - experts are concerned that this could lead to more pressure at K1 registration.

Some also wonder if private kindergartens would now be seen as a less desirable option.

Dr Khoo Kim Choo, who founded the Preschool for Multiple Intelligences, said: "Many parents want to have a straight route to primary school, and they also think that the MOE kindergarten may better prepare their child for primary school because of the internal liaison."


Ms Denise Phua, who heads the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said: "While the said priority admission provides familiarity and less transitional angst for kids who choose the co-located school, it may create other unintended consequences. It may later create more anxiety and stress having to queue at an earlier age for some of the more popular MOE kindergartens."


She added: "The new measure in effect provides additional benefits to the MOE kindergartens compared to other pre-schools, including anchor operators like PCF (PAP Community Foundation) and My First Skool and even private ones."




Some private pre-schools might face a challenge going forward. Said Dr Khoo: "It's an uneven playing field, no longer as before. With MOE kindergartens having an added advantage, it may make it more difficult for the smaller private players, especially those who have to differentiate themselves, to draw parents.

"All kindergartens - private, and those run by voluntary welfare organisations and religious organisations - should have some links with nearby primary schools, beyond the usual school visits, so that all children can have a smoother transition to primary school."


Said National University of Singapore economics lecturer Kelvin Seah: "Every policy throws up winners and losers. Since each primary school has a finite number of places, having kids from MOE kindergartens getting priority in co-located primary schools implicitly also implies that some other kids will have less priority in getting into these primary schools."


Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, said that parents might put pressure on MOE to have kindergartens within popular primary schools, or primary schools under this scheme could become popular.


"That will shift the competition for a seat at popular schools to the kindergarten level, which is undesirable," he said.


By 2023, MOE plans to run 50 kindergartens, all of which will be based in primary schools.


Dr Seah said if these primary schools are deemed by parents to be prestigious, they might switch to the MOE kindergartens.










Pick a private or MOE kindergarten?
By Sandra Davie, Senior Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2017

The Ministry of Education's (MOE) move to give priority to children attending its kindergartens has left many parents asking if they should look into sending their children to such kindergartens, instead of private or church-run ones.

Some, whose children are already in nursery or pre-nursery care in private kindergartens, are also considering transferring their children to MOE-run kindergartens.

Children in MOE kindergartens will have priority under Phase 2A2 to get into the associated primary school, putting them ahead of children in the next phase, 2B, which gives priority to parent volunteers and those with church or clan links.

MOE has sound reasons for the move - remaining in a familiar physical, social and educational environment will help smooth the transition to Primary 1 for the children. Parents whose children have moved from MOE kindergartens to the associated primary schools have also seen the benefits.

MOE said that, currently, about half of its kindergarten children move on to register in the co-located primary schools.

Still, parents considering a transfer should ask themselves this: If their children are happy and enjoying learning in the pre-school they are in now, is it in the children's best interest to switch to another pre-school just to gain admission priority?

MOE kindergartens provide a high-quality curriculum and facilities at an attractive price, but so do many other kindergartens run by private organisations, churches and anchor operators.

I have visited several that offer a sound, play-based curriculum, highly qualified teachers and low pupil-teacher ratios, so that children have more individual attention. Several private centres also offer bilingual programmes for their pupils, where Chinese is given equal exposure and importance as English.

Parents who send their children to church-run kindergartens also praise the emphasis on values and character development.

Parents who still want to switch to an MOE kindergarten should also consider if their children will be able to secure a place in the kindergarten, which offers between 60 and 120 places a year.

Also, they should realise that MOE kindergartens give priority to siblings of their current pupils, and one-third of the places are set aside for children from lower-income homes.

Beyond that, children who live near the kindergarten are given priority, first for those living within 500m, then for those living between 500m and 1km, and finally for those living outside 1km. As with Primary 1 admission, Singapore citizens will be given places before permanent residents.

There are some parents who are considering a switch because of the priority gained for the co-located primary school.

Again, parents should not just go for schools because they are "reputed to be the best in the neighbourhood" . What parents should consider is if it is the best fit for their children.

If you still think it is a good choice for your child, then have a look at the figures from previous Primary 1 registration exercises to see if there is a need to transfer your child to the co-located kindergarten just to gain a place in the primary school.

But having said that, as MOE officials said yesterday, demand situations differ from year to year, and it is difficult to predict the demand situation for the individual schools and MOE kindergartens.

Parents must keep in mind that MOE kindergartens are located in areas with upcoming developments and families with young children. So, there is likely to be healthy demand for these school-based kindergartens as well as the primary schools.

The ministry has assured parents that the intake for the kindergartens - which at the moment ranges from 60 to 120 - will be below that of the planned Primary 1 intake of the co-located primary school. On average, the intake for a primary school is 210, although some schools in high-demand areas have intakes of up to 300.

The ministry has also said it will continue to set aside a minimum of 40 places for phases 2B and 2C, and provide sufficient school places on a regional basis so that no child will have to travel long distances to his primary school.

The guessing game for the locations of the new MOE kindergartens has started, with some parents hoping that MOE will set up kindergartens at aided primary schools and some of the more popular government schools.

MOE has said it will set up kindergartens only in areas where there is demand, and it will not include any government-aided primary schools.















Private pre-schools worry about new P1 admission policy
Smaller players fear being squeezed out as kids in MOE kindergartens get entry priority
By Amelia Teng, Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2017

Some private pre-school operators are watching the changes in the sector with concern, after the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced on Monday that children in its kindergartens would get priority admission in the Primary 1 registration exercise.

Smaller players are worried about being squeezed out as MOE expands its reach and adds an advantage to attending its kindergartens, though MOE said the move is to better ease children into Primary 1 education.

Under the new rules, children in its 12 kindergartens will be allowed to apply for places in the primary schools whose premises the kindergartens share, under Phase 2A2 of the registration scheme, which now applies to children whose parents or siblings were former pupils but are not in the alumni association.

"This will put private schools which are not affiliated with any primary school at a disadvantage," said Ms Kelly Chua, principal of Appleland Playhouse, a childcare centre with 170 children.

Appleland in Telok Blangah might feel the heat from the MOE kindergarten in Blangah Rise, whose children will get priority admission to Blangah Rise Primary. Parents of children who are eligible for admission in later phases than 2A2 might feel pressured to move them to MOE kindergartens, said Ms Chua.



MOE entered the pre-school sector in 2014, with the goal of raising the quality of early childhood education here. The kindergartens will charge $160 a month from next year, up from $150 now, and take in 60 to 120 children each. This can go up to 160 if there is demand.

By 2023, MOE hopes to have 50 kindergartens located in primary schools and offering 14,000 places - enough to cater to a fifth of all Singaporeans and permanent residents aged five and six. There are about 450 kindergartens here now, with a median monthly fee of about $170.

Dr T. Chandroo, chief executive of pre-school chain Modern Montessori International, which has two centres in Sengkang, said the new policy would affect all private operators in the long run as more MOE kindergartens come up.

"Instead of being able to play a pivotal role in the child's life in his formative years from birth till six years of age, there is a likelihood that parents may leave our centre after the nursery programme for the MOE kindergarten," he said, adding that private operators may become centres for just children aged up to four.

Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, noted that early childhood education was a key part of the National Day Rally speech given by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who announced plans to invest in pre-schools and ramp up places for young children.

"The role of the state stepping in is to level the playing field from the beginning and provide an education experience that can be enjoyed by many people without them having to pay hefty fees that some private pre-schools charge," he said, adding that private pre-schools must find "new value propositions" to keep parents going to them.

Ms Iris Lim, principal of Chiltern House, would agree. Its five centres in areas such as Thomson and Mountbatten are known for an emphasis on speech and drama, and boast small class ratios of 14 children to two teachers.

Dr Chandroo said his group's centres differentiate themselves from other schools by offering its core Montessori curriculum, emphasising a learning approach tailored to individual children's needs. He said: "We are always open to re-inventing ourselves to be relevant in this changing business landscape."














Experts advise against co-locating kindergartens with popular schools
By Amelia Teng, Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2017

If the Ministry of Education (MOE) were to situate a kindergarten together with a popular primary school, demand for the kindergarten would shoot up because of the benefit of priority access, said education experts.

They noted that MOE has to carefully consider the impact of co-locating kindergartens with sought-after schools, now that it has stipulated priority admission for children in the kindergartens to those schools.

Jalan Besar GRC MP Denise Phua, who heads the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said: "Locating MOE kindergartens on the premises of currently popular primary schools, such as Rosyth, and adding the new benefit of priority access, would make the popular primary schools even more in demand.

"It would render the dream of every school (being) a good and desirable school less achievable," she said. "If popular primary schools become even more popular because of this priority, then it would be harder to level the playing field."

In response to queries, MOE said that up to 2020, all its kindergartens will be inside government primary schools. The locations of new kindergartens beyond 2020 will be announced at a later date, its spokesman said.

She added that in setting up the kindergartens, MOE and the Early Childhood Development Agency work together to identify estates with higher demand for pre-school places as suitable locations. These include new estates and mature estates with upcoming housing developments.

Government-aided primary schools, such as Ai Tong School and Nanyang Primary School, will not be included in the ministry's kindergarten plans up to 2020.





Priority admission: A boost for equity, not equality
MOE is giving its kindergarten pupils priority admission to the primary schools co-located with its pre-schools. Those who think this will breed elitism are barking up the wrong tree.
By Sandra Davie, Senior Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 7 Dec 2017

There are already rumblings over the Ministry of Education's move to accord priority to its kindergarten pupils who want to enrol in the co-located primary schools.

Some of the concerns raised are valid, such as worries that the scheme will simply transfer the pressure from Primary 1 to kindergarten admission.

Some, like National University of Singapore economics lecturer Kelvin Seah, think this "trickle down of the pressure" is unlikely, unless the co-located primary schools are deemed by parents to be prestigious.

MOE has already said it will not be siting any kindergartens at government-aided primary schools. They are more likely to be paired with "neighbourhood schools" in estates where there is demand for pre-school places.

Also, those worrying about these primary schools creating a new elitist tier should keep in mind that one-third of the kindergarten places go to children from disadvantaged homes; and the rest have priority if they already have a sibling studying there and if they live within 500m, then within 1 km.

So those worrying about priority admission breeding a category of "heartland elite schools" are barking up the wrong tree.

Still, MOE needs to study the admission patterns carefully and tweak them if necessary.

BETTER TRANSITION TO PRIMARY SCHOOL

Yet, the ministry's reasons for according this priority are sound. MOE's expanding presence in the pre-school sector will benefit many children and, most importantly, those from poorer homes who have less access to good-quality early-years education.

MOE announced last week that children attending the ministry-run kindergartens will be given priority to register in the co-located primary schools, under Phase 2A2 of the Primary 1 registration scheme.

This puts them in the same category as children of alumni who have not joined as members of the alumni association, and ahead of children of parent volunteers and those with church or clan links.

Currently, about half the MOE kindergarten children register for a Primary 1 place at the co-located primary schools.


Parents have been given the assurance that there will be a minimum of 40 places for later admission phases 2B and 2C. MOE has also assured parents there will be sufficient school places on a regional basis so that no child will have to travel long distances to his or her primary school.

MOE's reasoning that its priority admission will allow its kindergarten pupils a smoother transition into Primary 1 is a sound one.

Transitioning to primary school from pre-school is a significant change in a young child's life. The change in routine can be overwhelming and lead to feelings of apprehension for both children and families. Hence, as child experts stress, a positive experience during this important transition is crucial - it can impact the child's social, emotional and educational outcomes through primary school.

But what will benefit children more is the exchange of information between their kindergarten teachers and teachers at the primary schools they join. With a better grasp of the children's learning curve at the kindergarten level, the Primary 1 teachers can calibrate their teaching and curriculum to ensure that the children will not be overwhelmed.

Currently, one or two months into the school year, I hear of parents complaining about their children suffering anxiety over long spelling lists and having to do difficult sums.

The sharing of information is especially valuable for children who have additional needs, be it social and emotional adjustments, or in learning.

At home, some children face a myriad mix of challenges, such as single parenthood, mental health issues, disabilities, substance abuse, abandonment and family violence. With the teachers and school counsellors working together, there can be quicker and more coordinated exchanges of information, and more comprehensive supervision of a child's needs.

MUSCLING INTO THE PRE-SCHOOL SECTOR

The other issue that has arisen is whether the Government is now muscling into the pre-school sector that has been dominated by private players and welfare organisations, including church groups.

Some have questioned if this is desirable.

Currently, there are 15 MOE-run kindergartens, with a dozen of them co-located in the same compound as neighbourhood primary schools.

MOE has already announced that, by 2023, it will have 50 kindergartens all located in neighbourhoods where there will be high demand for quality pre-schools.

And when the 50 kindergartens are up and running, MOE kindergartens will cater to about 20 per cent of the kindergarten cohort. That still leaves about 80 per cent of the cohort each year to the private sector.

Since MOE will not be setting up kindergartens in aided primary schools, it leaves that space free for church-run kindergartens, some of which stand out in terms of quality and their emphasis on values and character development.

And you also have your private kindergartens, like the ones run by EtonHouse, which provide a distinctive inquiry-based pedagogy and unique learning environments that parents are willing to pay high fees for.

Operators such as the PAP Community Foundation and NTUC First Campus, which run pre-schools, are moving to focus on early-years care and education for children - up to age four.

There are arguments to be made for MOE scaling up its involvement in the pre-school sector.

It will enable the ministry to influence and strengthen its support of the sector. Dr Seah from NUS says MOE can become a catalyst for raising teacher quality in the sector.

He notes the fact that pre-school teacher salaries have not kept pace with the times.

"Perhaps due to this, there were no strong incentives for extremely capable people to become pre-school teachers. MOE's wealth of resources and its ability to offer attractive salaries mean that it is in a good position to hire qualified teachers to improve the standard of pre-school education offered," he explains.

There is another important reason for MOE to stay in the sector. It can ensure that a high quality early-years education is accessible to all families, especially to children from disadvantaged homes who need it most.

That's why the policy to reserve at least one-third of the places for children from low-income homes is to be applauded.

There is a powerful body of research done by people like Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman that shows pre-school education, especially one that is of high quality, is the way to give children the very best start in life.

The evidence shows the benefits percolate across all domains of life. Based on two seminal studies that tracked children into adulthood - the Perry Pre-school Project in Michigan and Abecedarian experiment conducted in North Carolina - Professor Heckman has made a clear case for governments to invest in early childhood education.

Quality is key, though. For example, the Perry Pre-school Project involved providing high-quality pre-school education to a group of three-and four-year-olds living in poverty, and assessed to be at high risk of school failure.

The pupils were taught by certified public school teachers with at least a bachelor's degree. The average child-teacher ratio was 6:1 and the curriculum emphasised active learning. These children were tracked for decades after leaving pre-school. Not only did more of them go on to complete high school and enter college, they also had better jobs and earned higher salaries.

Mr Lee Poh Wah, chief executive of the Lien Foundation, which among other objectives seeks to foster exemplary childhood education, feels that MOE should set its aspirations higher for children in need by incorporating the KidStart programme in its kindergartens and developing inclusive education.

"It can weave a tighter circle of care around children-at-risk and their families, starting from kindergarten all the way to primary school. For instance, it can work closely with these parents to meet their needs more responsively and arm them with positive parenting skills. MOE can consider bringing in specialists, like social workers and therapists, to holistically look after their needs," he argues.

The evidence is clear - early education, especially one that is of high quality, pays off.

It has enduring benefits for children and the societies that invest in it.

Far from widening educational inequality, as some fear, MOE's move to expand its presence in the pre-school sector, and its decision to give priority admission to ease its pupils' transition to primary schools, should improve educational equity. It allows more low-income children access to quality pre-schools, with an assured place at good primary schools near their homes.





MOE's move ensures every child has equal chances

We thank the writers of the letters and commentaries on the Education Ministry's (MOE's) pilot Phase 2A2 eligibility for MOE Kindergarten children's Primary 1 admission to the school the MOE Kindergarten is co-located with.

The best interests of our students are always our priority.

We are committed to ensuring that every child has equal opportunities and access to affordable and quality education.

It is in this context that MOE Kindergartens were set up, with one-third of their places reserved for Singaporean children, from households with a monthly household income of $3,500 and below, living within 1km of these kindergartens.

The fees for these kindergartens have been kept affordable, at $160 monthly next year. Generous subsidies are provided for families with a household income below $6,000, with monthly fees at just $1.60 for those with a monthly income of up to $2,500.

MOE will increase the number of MOE Kindergartens from the current 15 to about 50 by 2023.

It is timely to facilitate a smoother transition of MOE Kindergarten children to the co-located primary school, as this will optimise the benefits of remaining in a familiar physical, social and educational environment.

It also addresses feedback from parents who hope to avoid another transition just two years after their children moved from nursery to MOE Kindergartens.

The primary school and the co-located kindergarten can also work closely to facilitate a seamless transition to Primary 1.

Nevertheless, MOE is mindful about the current diverse parental preferences on pre-schools and will ensure that our Primary 1 admission framework continues to ensure open access.

For the schools with Phase 2A2 eligibility for MOE Kindergarten children, the planned K1 intake will be significantly below the planned Primary 1 intake of the co-located school.

To address concerns that this may bring the stress of primary school admission to the kindergarten years, we have calibrated this admission eligibility at Phase 2A2 - below the sibling's eligibility (Phase 1) and alumni eligibility (Phase 2A1).

We will also ensure open access to our primary schools, by reserving 40 places for Phases 2B and 2C.

MOE will monitor demand and needs of young parents, take in feedback and assess how well the pilot is working in achieving the intended outcomes after we have the experience of operating the 50 MOE Kindergartens.

If necessary, we will make refinements to the policy as part of our continued journey to improve our education system.

Lim Huay Chih (Ms)
Divisional Director
Student Placement & Services Division
Ministry of Education
ST Forum, 8 Dec 2017




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