In last month’s Methodist Message, we wrote about how our preschools faced declining enrolment, rising costs and stiff competition from highly subsidised preschools set up by the Ministry of Education.1 As individual entities, our preschools may not have the resources to make the necessary changes to remain sustainable and relevant in the long term. The preschools are important avenues for outreach, for ministry to families, and where inculcation of good values can start early in the children’s lives. As such, we are determined to keep our preschools going to provide quality and relevant faith-based preschool education.
At a 30 Oct 2019 meeting organised by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and attended by some preschool operators, Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development, reaffirmed the government’s target that 80 per cent of all children up to six years of age will receive subsidised preschool education. He said that for faith-based preschools to be included in the subsidy scheme, they must ensure that they teach the core curriculum; and during faith-based sessions, children of other faiths must be provided with optional activities. He encouraged the different religious groups present to consolidate their centres under new entities.
On 4 Nov 2019, the General Conference Executive Council (GCEC) approved a proposal for the centralised management of all the Methodist preschools. Local churches stand to benefit from improvements to their premises, better preschool performance, reduced financial concerns and greater focus on the ministry aspects.
GCEC has approved plans by the taskforce to seek investments with agencies, crowdsource from Methodist communities for assistance schemes for needy children, and work with local churches to co-fund capital expenses for infrastructure transformation. The individual preschools will present unique situations that need to be taken into account before consolidation.
As Stephen Lim, chair of the GCEC Preschool Taskforce, put it, “the real work begins now”. The transformation strategies proposed will include efforts to establish quality curriculum, improve infrastructure, continuously develop teacher competencies, appoint excellent operation and logistic support, and communicate better with parents. Concurrently, it is proposed that we leverage on technology and automation, provide teacher support system and operations, and increase effectiveness through shared services.
Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung urges all the local churches to come together as one in this endeavour. He said, “The preschool years are a very important phase in a child’s life. Let us take this opportunity to raise up our preschool education that parents will seek after for its quality programme and Christian values.”
1 “The Importance of Faith-Based Kindergartens in Our Secular Society,” Methodist Message, October 2019, 12–13.
Kwok Wan Yee is the Education Secretary for the Council on Education, and also Conference Lay Leader for the Chinese Annual Conference of The Methodist Church in Singapore. She worships at Charis Methodist Church.
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