By Jennani Dural
KINDERGARTEN teachers will now be able to pursue a degree programme on the Education Ministry's dime.
While the ministry had previously offered funding for diploma programmes, it is now providing scholarships and training awards for preschool teachers to obtain a bachelor's degree in early childhood education with management at SIM University.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Masagos Zulkifli announced the change at the Kindergarten Learning Forum yesterday. He said: 'At the heart of quality kindergarten education is the quality of its teachers.'
A total of 13 scholarships and 14 awards were given out this month. These 27 teachers will begin their four-year part-time degree programme in January.
The change is in line with a nationwide move to raise the quality of preschool education, a promise made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at last year's National Day Rally. The industry has also seen an exodus, with those who leave citing reasons such as low salaries and a lack of avenues for advancement.
The new scheme addresses both those concerns, said Dr Christine Chen, president of the Association for Early Childhood Educators (Singapore). She also believes the increased government focus on early childhood education means things are looking up for educators in terms of pay.
Starting pay for kindergarten teachers with degrees range between $2,000 and $2,200, compared with entry-level salaries of $1,500 to $1,800 for diploma holders.
Ms Adeline Koh from the PAP Community Foundation centre in Tampines East had earlier shelved plans to enrol in a degree course due to financial constraints.
With the teaching award she received, 80 per cent of the course fees are covered, and the remaining 20 per cent will be paid by her kindergarten. She said: 'As a teacher, I must always be learning.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times.