Archive for the ‘Early Childhood Education’ Category

Nurseries in dilemma over discount requests

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Childcare Services Association (PPTS) has appealed for parents’ understanding that operators have financial obligations to meet even during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period and the monthly fee will help keep the nurseries open.

PPTS president Hajah Nabsia Hj Yunus (pic) said parents have been asking nurseries to give discounts on the monthly fee for April since the MCO has been extended for another two weeks till April 14.

Upon discussion, she said members of the association have agreed not to offer discounts given the uncertainty as to whether the MCO would be further extended.

Nabsia said nursery operators were feeling disheartened by the parents’ requests because the temporary suspension of the childcare services was a directive from the government, not done on purpose by the nurseries.

“Operators are facing a dilemma when parents ask for discounts because employers are still expected to pay their staff full salaries during the MCO.”

If the MCO is further extended after April 14, some smaller nurseries may have to close shop, she lamented.

Nurseries, or taska, are childcare centres for children below four years old. There are about 170 nurseries that are members of PPTS, collectively employing around 1,000 teachers.

Nabsia said most nurseries only earn a small profit margin, unlike larger nurseries established by churches or Chinese chambers of commerce that were managed by a board of governors.

She said managing a private nursery was not easy and the revenue was just enough to break even.

She added staff expenses constituted a major part of the expenditure.

Nabsia explained that childcare service providers have to comply with the Childcare Centre Act 1984, particularly on the ratio of staff to children. For instance, the ratio of staff to children under one year old at childcare centres is one to three; and one to five for children between one to three years old. For three to four-year-olds, the ratio is one teacher to 10 children.

And starting January this year, she said the minimum wage has been increased to RM1,200.

“We have discussed among ourselves in the association about the requests on reducing the monthly fee.

“However, we do not know for certain when the MCO will end. If the order is extended again, what will happen to us?

“So we have agreed not to give discounts on the monthly fees.”

Nabsia said some parents have complained about having to pay the fees in full on social media even though they were also getting full salary and incentives from the government.

“We hope parents will realize in these four weeks (MCO) that looking after young children is not easy.

“Our teachers and staff have to be present all the time because we are dealing with human beings.

“Providing childcare services is not a good business to venture into but we do it because we love children and we like to work with children.”

In a way, she said nurseries are helping parents by looking after their children.

“Treat us as your family member.

“We are always there for their children when they need us. Now we need them to help us in sustaining our nurseries, which will benefit them in the future.”

If parents refused to pay, she said some nurseries would have to close down, meaning parents have to go through the trouble of finding another childcare provider that may be located further away.

She added that most nursery operators were not entitled to the Wage Subsidy Programme under the Prihatin Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package as well, due to the condition that employers have to show they have experienced 50 percent loss since January this year, which might only apply to newly established nurseries.

“We understand the problems faced by parents but they are getting full salary and incentives from the government.

“Private nurseries are not getting anything.

“Parents should discuss their requests nicely with the principals.”

On another note, Nabsia said some nurseries communicated with the children via video call or video recording of tutors doing activities.

She said members of the association have also discussed about the possibility of e-learning if the MCO was extended.

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Childcare centres: DPM urges govt agencies to apply for ready funding

Friday, February 7th, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): Government agencies, particularly those with shift workers and are in need of childcare centres have been urged to apply for funding made available through a RM30mil allocation in the 2020 Budget.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is also the Women, Family and Community Development Minister, said so far, only 36 agencies had applied for funding.

“We need to check on the agencies which have submitted applications… if they already have childcare centres, whether the application is for an upgrade and such,” she said, during a press conference after officially opening the Childcare Centre in the Parliament building here on Friday (Feb 7).

Also present was Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin and Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof.

Earlier in her speech, Dr Wan Azizah said it was anticipated that the RM30mil allocation would facilitate the setting up of 150 more childcare centres in public workplaces across the country this year, compared to 64 centres last year with an allocation of RM10mil.

The establishment of childcare centres at individual workplaces will definitely ease the affairs of employees and their families, said Dr Wan Azizah, while explaining that priority would be given to applications from hospitals and schools, as well as agencies with shift workers.

The minister also said that until last month, 241 childcare centres at public workplaces across the country were operational, in line with the Pakatan Harapan administration’s commitment to ensure that women played a vital role in the development of the country’s economy.

She said statistics indicated that the number of female employees who were married was rising every year, with this group totalling 3.65 million until the third quarter of last year. This number was an increase from 3.54 million in 2018 and 3.41 million in 2017.

This rise, she said, directly increased the need for childcare centres.

“We want parents to have peace of mind knowing that their children are being well cared for and are safe. This matter can also help improve their performance at work because they are able to focus on their duties,” Dr Wan Azizah explained.

The government, she said, was also undertaking efforts to streamline various childcare centres as well as early learning centres under various agencies including the Education Ministry, Rural Development Ministry and the National Unity and Integration Department.

This was to facilitate upgrades in the administration of the centres, and ensure the quality of care, education, personnel, safety and food.

Dr Wan Azizah also took the opportunity to call on the private sector to provide similar assistance to employees.

On the childcare centre in the Parliament building which became operational on Jan 2 this year, she expressed the hope that it would ease the work of employees there and parliamentarians, as well as members of the media reporting from Parliament.

So far, 50 children have been registered at the centre, with personnel numbering 13.

by Bernama.

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Fatimah: Nursery, kindergarten teachers required to have diploma in ECCE by 2021

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah

KUCHING: All nursery and kindergarten teachers are required to hold at least a diploma qualification in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) by next year.

Minister for Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah said this was her ministry’s target as it strives to provide quality teachers and high value early childhood education for all children.

“At present, in terms of qualification, 3,676 out of 5,823 teachers do not have a diploma in ECCE. That is approximately 63 per cent of them.

“So, we need to work very hard and we have directed Sedidik nursery and kindergarten (run by the state) to have all its teachers acquire at least a diploma in ECCE by 2021,” she said at the Sidma College Sarawak 6th Convocation Ceremony held at Kompleks Islam Sarawak hall today.

She added that National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) assistance is difficult to obtain nowadays so the ministry is currently discussing with Yayasan Sarawak to provide loans for the teachers to pursue diploma in ECCE.

She said this is because these teachers play important role in education as they build a child’s foundation from the start.

She added that the Sarawak government recognises the importance of early childhood education and care by creating Early Childhood Development Division under the ministry, gazetted in May 2017 and approved post in June 28, 2018.

As such, the state government has been investing in grants and working to put a support system in place to provide quality ECCE, she said.

“The state government does this because it recognises that it is in pre-schools that the children with the help of the teachers learn and further develop their vocabularies and language skills, counting and numeracy skills, interaction and social skills outside their family circle.

“We have a commitment to ensure that everyone, practitioners or providers in this field, feel that they are as important as other teachers in primary school, in secondary school or in universities. This is the stand taken by the state government,” she said.

As of November last year, there are 258 registered nurseries in the state with 4,239 classes and 906 children.

For registered kindergartens, there are 2,904 institutions with 5,175 classes and 81,104 children.

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Building confidence via YS

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: The early learning process of children begins with the bond they share with their parents besides influence from their social environment. “Children’s learning process continues in the childcare centre and it is the centre’s responsibility to provide a conducive environment for children to develop positively,” said the Director of Yayasan Sabah, Director Datuk Jamalul Kiram Datuk Mohd. Zakaria.

He added that children who receive preschool education will be more independent and confident in voicing their opinions as compared to children who are not exposed to early education.

Hence, recognising the importance of early education in a child’s development, Yayasan Sabah Group continues the State’s effort in preschool education. In September 1982, Child Development Division was established and Tadika Ria preschool was then fully operational with the concept “Learn Through Play”.

To date, as many as 2,760 children have completed their preschool education at Yayasan Sabah Group preschools.

“After completing Tadika Ria, these children will be prepared and confident to move forward with positive traits in interpersonal skills. In short, preschool education prepares them for the next level of schooling,” said Datuk Jamalul.

This was acknowledged by Aidariani Michael Olaybal who sends her daughter, Dhia Azalea Amani binti Jaini to Tadika Ria, Yayasan Sabah Group. “Before her enrolment in kindergarten, she used to talk only to certain people. Since studying at Tadika Ria, my daughter has become braver to approach others and smart in interacting,” said Aidariani proudly.

“I like the education system in Tadika Ria. This is because the teachers’ approach is not boring and attracts the children’s attention to come to school and study,” said Aidariani, when asked to on the education system in Tadika Ria. She further explained that her daughter was a fast learner and was quick to learn how to read and count.

Aidariani also praised the activities at Tadika Ria that have changed her daughter tremendously in a positive way. “Dhia used to be shy and afraid to try, but now she is confident to participate in any activity. She can stand up in front of people without being afraid or shy,” she said.

Aidariani also explained that the reasonable fees at Tadika Ria is a plus point when compared to other kindergartens and is one of the reasons she sends Dhia to Tadika Ria. Besides this, the teachers’ kindness towards their students as well as sufficient facilities, also gives more advantage to Tadika Ria. Aidariani who is also a staff of Yayasan Sabah Group expressed her gratitude to the organisation for providing this facility. Tadika Ria’s location at the Yayasan Sabah Group headquarters makes it easier for her to visit her daughter during lunch breaks.

“I hope more activities can be provided to further engage children’s development and maintain the quality so that Tadika Ria continues to improve,” said Aidariani. She also suggested that the kindergarten improve in providing a more comfortable learning and teaching environment.

As for Joana Ginus, she said, “The learning process at Tadika Ria is excellent. However, it will be best if elements of technology can be incorporated as to keep up with the current development.”

According to Joana, her son, Sean Andderson Nelson, has become more confident after completing his preschool education at Tadika Ria, Yayasan Sabah Group. The young mother also praised the activities organised by Child Development Division Yayasan Sabah Group in conjunction with Hari Potensi which is a combination of three celebrations namely Reading Month, Independence Month and World Children’s Day. “Through this programme, our children are allowed to showcase their talents by participating in activities such as reading, colouring, singing, and storytelling. In my opinion, these activities will help our children to be more spirited and increase their confidence when facing the public,” explained Joana.

She added, “Besides building children’s confidence, preschool education can also tap into our children’s talents. It is more fun for them because they can also mingle with other children and learn together.”

According to Norzimah Mohamed Nun, the mother of Nur Auni Nathraa Jaafar, “I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the teachers at Taska Ria and Tadika Ria for educating my daughter. After attending preschool, Nur Auni quickly learned to be self-reliant, confident and able to read satisfactorily apart from learning and embedding moral values.”

On her perception of the quality of education provided by both Taska Ria and Tadika Ria, Norziman opined, “The level of education provided was excellent as it incorporates vital and beneficial aspects of children’s mental and physical development and growth.”

“The activities provided left a huge and positive impact on Nur Auni’s learning progress. The Hari Potensi programme, for example, created an atmosphere that allowed my daughter to be willingly confident in the participation of the Got Talent competition. This programme helped built confidence in her and being her mother, I felt thrilled and proud of her,” she added.

Norzimah also talked about the many advantages of sending her daughter to the preschools, which she maintained as having a proven-effective educational system quantified by the number of highly successful preschool graduates.

In proposing the improvements to be made on both preschools, Norzimah stressed on the need of setting up special classes for children with special needs, “This can help them study more comfortably and effectively thus, helping them develop the best possible understanding of their learning disabilities and needs.”

As for, Syaharuddin Mohd Amir, father of Mohd. Syahmi Daim, thinks that ‘Playing and Learning’ method practiced at Tadika Ria helped his son learn reading, counting, writing and colouring. “I observed that my son showed immense positive development after joining Tadika Ria,” he said happily.

Syaharuddin also congratulated Yayasan Sabah Group for providing highly qualified and experienced teachers. He added, “The teaching techniques used are excellent and easy to understand. The teachers and staff of Child Development Division are also very kind and dedicated. I feel safe sending my son to Tadika Ria.”

Besides him, another parent, Fazli Sabrin, feels that besides an experienced team of teachers, the conducive environment of Tadika Ria also played a role in enhancing a child’s mind development. Hence, he hopes that Yayasan Sabah Group continues to emphasise preschool education for the children in Sabah.

At the moment, Fazli’s five-year-old daughter, Feeya Eshaal, is still attending Tadika Ria and he is happy with her development. “When I see Feeya being independent and knows how to do basic chores herself without help, I know that she is getting the best education,” he said.

“Since Feeya attended Tadika Ria Yayasan Sabah Group, she communicates better. Using the correct speech and sentences makes it easier for myself and her mother to understand Feeya well,” he said. With that, Feeya is friendlier and can mingle with others.

According to Fazli, “Academically, Feeya now knows letters and numbers. This has allowed her to read and spell words easily.”

As for Rosmiah Sidi, mother of one of Tadika Ria’s students, she has seen a lot of improvements to her six-year-old daughter, Briana Au from Kelas Merak. “Since Briana joined Tadika Ria Yayasan Sabah Group, I have seen a lot of improvements in her academically and other outreach activities organised by Child Development Division,” said Rosmiah.

She also said, “I am pleased with Child Development Division for providing complete education for the children. The activities held also helped my daughter to become more confident in speaking, storytelling and become braver. Briana is also smarter in her words and is more active now.”

“Academically, I noticed that my daughter has become more fluent in reading and good in writing,” said Rosmiah.

She also shared her views on the advantages of Yayasan Sabah Group’s Tadika Ria and Taska Ria. “In my opinion, the teachers at Yayasan Sabah Group’s Tadika Ria and Taska Ria are the best because they are professional and patient in educating children. The activities held give opportunities to children to try something new besides uncovering their talents. My daughter has become more confident and a fast learner in reading and writing,” said Rosmiah.

“For future improvement, Child Development Division can add more weekly activities such as English, Bahasa Melayu, and Science classes,” she added.

It has been nearly four decades since Yayasan Sabah Group through Child Development Division established Taska Kristal Ria and preschools in the rural areas besides organising courses in early childhood education, parenting seminars and publishing children’s books. Yayasan Sabah Group will continue to strive to improve the quality of preschool education in Sabah as an effort in assisting the Sabah State Government in creating a society that is outstanding in all aspects of life

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Minister tells preschool teachers to be creative

Friday, November 8th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: State Education and Innovation Minister, Datuk Dr Yusof Yacob, wants preschool teachers to be innovative and creative in preparing children for the future so as to empower them with the foundational skills they need to succeed in life.

He said through the use of technology, teachers have access to more innovative and improved teaching methods that allow them to promote learning and create an active learning environment for children.

“Nowadays, technology plays a positive role in children’s development and learning. By using technology, teachers have the ability to identify opportunities to support a pupil’s learning development more easily and foster a strong interaction with the child,” said Yusof when officiating the Cultural Carnival of Preschool Students held at Resital Hall, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Thursday.

His speech was read by his Political Secretary, Rapahi Edris.

Yusof said the carnival was the best place for young talents to be polished and nurtured which will help them to mature and be competitive.

He said such event was important to children because it was a natural and enjoyable way for children to keep active, stay well and be happy.

“Children can learn on skills they need for study, work and relationships like confidence and self-esteem through the carnival.

“Exposure to a variety of challenging activities opens the mind and engages children with a healthy and strong mentality, especially in dealing with competitive situation like in this carnival,” he said.

UMS Vice Chancellor, Professor Datuk Dr Taufiq Yap Yun Hin, represented by the Dean of Faculty of Psychology and Education and Preschoolers of Cultural Carnival Advocate, Prof Dr Ismail Ibrahim said cultural competitions are important to instil understanding among preschoolers.

He said children need to be educated and exposed to scientific and cultural activities so that they can be developed from the beginning as agents of change in the country.

“The diversity in Malaysia requires a vessel to unite and such carnival is a start to the unification.

“With the physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual and social equilibrium in each of the preschool students, it is not impossible that they will become the catalyst for change.

“Thus, the early application of positive values and perseverance in preschoolers will foster and stimulate students’ self-esteem and commitment to their role as participants in the carnival,” he said.

The event was organised by the Faculty of Psychology and Education UMS in collaboration with the Minda Lestari Centre with participation from 17 preschools across the State.

Themed as “Culture the Soul of the Country”, there are six categories contested, namely are “Rampai Sari Dance”, Singing and Movement, “Hafazan”, storytelling in English and Malay languages and solo and duet singing.

By: Ottey Peter.

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Effective practices in early intervention for children with autism

Saturday, October 12th, 2019

A child’s natural setting in early childhood years means his or her home environment, childcare centre and preschool. – NSTP/File pic

The National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC) refers to a news portal that highlighted the lack of early intervention services to cater to the increasing number of children with autism in Malaysia.

We, at NECIC, agree that the public and private sectors need to boost efforts to ensure that no child is left behind.

Although setting up centres to cater to the needs of children with autism and other disabilities is an option, it is not the only feasible solution.

Not only is it not cost-effective, it also takes a long time. We would like to highlight constructive solutions that can be implemented as our children cannot wait.

FIRST, integrate early intervention services into childcare centres and preschools. We can only build so many autism-friendly early intervention centres, and the waiting list will be long.

Evidence has shown that early intervention that is conducted in the child’s natural setting is the most efficient.

A child’s natural setting in early childhood years means his or her home environment, childcare centre and preschool.

While we do need more early intervention centres delivering quality services that complement the work of childhood care providers, we should not aim to construct more of them, which can be expensive.

Instead, the focus must be on making early childhood care inclusive by employing therapists to provide services in these settings, as well as making environmental adaptations to buildings to accommodate children’s sensory and physical needs.

This is because childcare centres are places where children spend the most time at, apart from their homes.

Many parents enrol their children with disabilities in mainstream preschools because the learning environment is conducive for their development and inclusive education benefits all children.

SECOND, emphasise training for early childhood educators. Malaysia has a deficit of well-trained personnel to provide quality early intervention services to children with disabiliti

Ideally, these should be transdisciplinary therapists to support all children with special needs.

The skills and knowledge in inclusive early childhood education should be imparted to the early childhood caregivers at their settings.

Thus, resources should be channelled to train personnel instead of building centres.

THIRD, empower parents to teach. Currently, intervention plans are mostly developed by early childhood intervention therapists.

International research has shown the effectiveness of early intervention programmes when there is committed parental involvement.

Parents can be great teachers for children with disabilities because they have a keen observation of what their children need.

They are resourceful and can draw up intervention plans that best meet their children’s needs.

It is time that early intervention therapists shared the teaching responsibility with parents and allow them to take the lead in making decisions concerning their children’s needs.

With limited funding and human resources — factors that plague early childhood intervention services — we need to rethink how the nation is addressing this pressing need.

Datuk Dr Amar-Singh

Adviser, National Early Childhood Intervention Council

Dr Wong Woan Yiing

President, National Early Childhood Intervention Council; consultant paediatrician

Prof Dr Toh Teck Hock

Vice-president, National Early Childhood Intervention Council; consultant paediatrician

Ng Lai Thin

Project officer, National Early Childhood Intervention Council


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Children need to read, play sports

Friday, October 4th, 2019
Children are often exposed to watching videos for an extended time, so they tend to get distracted in school because their mind is not trained to focus because classes can be too ‘static’ for them. NSTP/SHAHNAZ FAZLIE SHAHRIZAL

KUALA LUMPUR: Parents are urged to inculcate real-world interests among their children to break them from the monotony of gadget use.

Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik said encouraging “self-regulated skills” such as reading or playing sports would help to improve children’s attention span.

“Children are often exposed to watching videos for an extended time, so they tend to get distracted in school because their mind is not trained to focus because classes can be too ‘static’ for them.

“I believe one of the ways to break this cycle is when parents implement self-regulated skills from young that will teach them to manage their time.

“That way, their mind will learn to develop discipline and explore new interests such as reading,” he told reporters when met after launching the Children’s Literature Festival 2019 at the National Library.

The event, which will end on Sunday, is jointly organised by Book City Corporation, Malaysian Book Publishers Association and Malaysian Board on Books for Young People. It aims at creating a platform to magnify children’s reading material quality.

Bakhtiar also encouraged parents to expose their children to arts and culture.

“When children learn about arts and culture, they will learn to appreciate things as they grow up, and at some point they will start expressing themselves by asking questions (related to their interests).

“Parents should not suppress their children’s interests and creativity. We have to give them the freedom to express,” Bakhtiar said.

By Farah Solhi.

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JKM-registered childcare centres to get 20% off electricity bill.

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

Deputy of Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh and Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin speaking to the media in Putrajaya. – MOHD SAHAR MISNI/The Star

PUTRAJAYA: Childcare centres will get a 20% discount on their electricity bill if they are registered with the Social Welfare Department (JKM).

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh said at present, only one out of 10 childcare centres have done so.

“We believe there are about 40,000 childcare centres out there, but only 11.9% out of that have registered with JKM.

“Hopefully, this discount will encourage more centres to get themselves registered,” said Yeoh at a press conference at her ministry here on Thursday (Sept 26).


Also present was Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin.

Yeoh said the ministry acknowledges that child centre operating costs can be steep – even more so with the implementation of minimum wage.

“We hope that this discount will lessen the burden of the operators, and at the same time have more childcare centres registered with JKM. Being registered allows better monitoring of such centres by the ministry, to ensure better safety and well-being of the children,” said Yeoh.

Meanwhile, Yeo said her ministry had set aside RM10mil for the purpose of giving the discount.

“This RM10mil is an estimate, should all 40,000 childcare centres come out and register. This is also part of the Incentive-Based Regulation (IBR) that we have in Peninsular Malaysia,” said Yeo.

The discount is only available to childcare centres that register themselves with JKM in Peninsular Malaysia, and the establishment must be using commercial and not residential tariffs.

The offer will last until Dec 31,2020.

Yeoh added that the government would also consider discussing with Sarawak Energy Berhad and Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd to extend the discount offer to day care centres in east Malaysia.

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Early childhood week to be held next month.

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

THE Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Council is organising the National Early Childhood Care and Education (NECCE) Week 2019 with the theme, “Bringing out the scientist in young children”.

The NECCE Week 2019 has three events lined up to raise the quality and professionalism of the early childhood community.

These are:

  • The Educational Visits to childcare centres and preschools or kindergartens on Oct 4 to share good Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) practices which are being carried out. By experiencing these best practices, the participants will take home what they have experienced as well as give them inspiration on what else they can do to nurture children’s curiosity and develop their science process and thinking skills;
  • The conference on “Bringing out the scientist in young children” on Oct 5 has lined up hands-on workshops to provide experiential learning and will also provide knowledge and better understanding of science, especially the science behind the activities. It is of great importance that the facilitators of the workshop provide the scientific knowledge and scientific explanations of the activities carried out. The plenary session two provides better understanding of the science process skills which children should acquire through carrying out STEM activities. Of importance are the policies and programmes which the Education Ministry is currently embarking on and the plans it is having in the pipeline; and
  • The STEM Nature Walk is being held at Taman Dusun Bandar in Jalan Bellamy. There will be activities related to science for children.

For information, call Roziah at 014 3692421 or visit the ECCE Council Facebook or

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Prioritise play in our preschools

Sunday, August 25th, 2019

COMPLAINTS from primary school teachers that young children are being pushed through preschool without a solid grounding in basic reading, writing and comprehension skills keep growing louder.

Despite the government’s admirable efforts to raise the standard of early childhood education in Malaysia, the number of children who struggle to attain age-specific learning benchmarks keeps increasing.

On the surface, this situation makes no sense. The National Preschool Standard Curriculum (KSPK) is a well-researched roadmap that, on paper, matches its most celebrated contemporaries in Finland and Canada.

What is going wrong then?

In 2017, the “International Journal of Early Childhood Education Care” published a highly-cited study on preschool curricula co-authored by researchers from Malaysia and the Philippines that shed some light on the issue.

The study, titled “Comparing the Kindergarten Curriculum Framework of the Philippines and Malaysia,” identified four key problems with preschools in Malaysia—incompetence and the lack of training in teachers, inadequate English skills, the “wrong” use of play, and poor parental involvement.

But what do they really mean?

First, the study concluded that Malaysian preschool teachers have limited training in making lessons more “interesting and fun”. It is indeed true that in the majority of preschools, teachers only prioritize finishing activity books and worksheets.

Such practices do not leave space for the development of “pre-literacy” or “pre-numeracy” skills which educators should employ before a child can read, count, or even hold a pencil. For instance, the recognition of sounds to vocalize letters contributes to their reading fluency and expansion of vocabulary. And the ability to understand sizes, shapes and patterns gives children a head-start in basic arithmetic.

How can teachers do it? Well, through play of course, where children learn shapes using concrete objects and not flashcards, and such learning is reinforced by “scavenger hunts” to find these shapes in their environment.

The incompetency among teachers, however, cannot be helped if their poor attitude underscores the problem. As I’ve written before to the shock of many, Malaysian preschool teachers who genuinely care about their profession are few and far between. For many, early childhood education was not their first or even second career choice.

When we don’t do what we love, isn’t it natural to resent going beyond the call of duty? This is one of the major reasons why the otherwise stellar play component of the KSPK curriculum is scarcely implemented.

Parental indifference also plays an outsized role in diluting the effectiveness of KSPK. It is unfortunate that many treat preschools as glorified daycare centers and not incubators of future academic excellence.

They routinely drop off and pick up their children either too early or too late, and have begun demanding recently that the timings of preschools align with their work hours with scant regard for the rest and bonding needs of their young ones.

Moreover, many wholly ignore their co-responsibility in educating children and the great value of positive reinforcement at home. What is worse, they resist the idea of play in preschools as a valuable tool for learning, believing instead that rote memorization is most useful in higher education.

Yet, it is hard to completely fault them when the labor market still relies on test scores as its primary filter of fresh graduates instead of evaluating their potential to innovate—something Malaysia desperately needs as it transitions into Industrial Revolution 4.0.

This leads to the last major issue highlighted in the journal: the “wrong” use of play. You see when we hold up Western countries as role models of early childhood education, we conveniently divest our thoughts of the massive influence of play-based learning in raising their quality of pre-schooling as a whole.

Time and again, academic studies have proven the “right” use of play multiplies the ability of young children to excel in higher education and social life, not least because they develop the right sides of their brains first.

When structured toward specific objectives, play-based learning raises children’s language skills through conversation and curiosity, supports “pre-literacy” and “pre-numeracy” that rapidly improve their reading, counting and writing abilities, develops the social and emotional skills imperative to building and maintaining healthy relationships as adults, and most significantly, turns them into creative problem-solvers.

Unfortunately, while KSPK is a fantastic curriculum, its monitoring and evaluation have routinely been found wanting.  If play has failed at preschools in Malaysia, we all share the blame for preventing our children from achieving their full potential.

Which is why we must act now. First and foremost, there is a dire need to lower the student-to-teacher ratio so we can move from quantity to quality in early childhood education. This will require the regular influx of new and better trained teachers.

Next, public awareness campaigns aimed at breaking the negative stereotypes surrounding play-based learning are also very important. Parents and teachers must realize that when structured around clear objectives, play is far more beneficial to the mental and emotional development of young children than rote memorization or mindlessly filling worksheets.

Above all, the government must develop a detailed set of guidelines on play-based activities that are standardized throughout KSPK preschools and rigorously monitored.

Such a policy will have two major benefits. First, it will free up teachers to focus on effectively conducting play-based learning activities instead of first having to brainstorm and map them. Two, it will signal to parents that standardized play legitimately helps their children learn better.

For the above reasons, prioritizing play in preschools is common sense and we must act now for the good of all Malaysian children. This is our national duty

By: Jerrica Fatima Ann.

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