Highlights

The importance of faith-based kindergartens in our secular society

Nov 2019    
Parents and children at Faith Methodist Church Kindergarten’s Family Day.

Education has always been an important mission of Methodism, in order to reach out to all levels of society, and through this social gospel, fulfil Christ’s command to spread the good news and serve all people.

There was a time when a child who attended kindergarten was viewed as getting a good start in life; a child who attended a church kindergarten was seen as having an even better start. Parents would choose the church kindergartens for the values they embodied, the environments that nurtured their children both morally and academically, and the kindness of the teachers who helped build their children’s characters by espousing biblical values such as love, patience, grace and kindness—attributes that are best caught, not taught.

However, across the nation today, the utilisation rates of preschools are declining. Of late, many of our Methodist kindergartens have also faced declining enrolment and escalating costs that have resulted in growing financial losses for almost all of our preschools. In recent years, five Methodist preschools have closed, citing financial restraints, licensing requirements and manpower shortages as the top three reasons for closure.

In response to a proposal submitted by the Methodist Preschool Connection (Management), the General Conference Executive Council commissioned SEED Institute to do a comprehensive objective study of our preschools and to recommend strategies so that our preschools will remain relevant and sustainable in years to come.

The report highlighted strengths such as focusing on cultivating the right values and behaviour, strong working relationships among principals and staff, caring teachers, and the ability to retain staff. The report also highlighted that character development of the preschool students is prioritised, with Christian values woven into many aspects of the programme and curriculum.

However, the report also noted that there were inconsistent human resource (HR) practices and that there was a need to establish a baseline level of quality. A common curriculum framework would greatly facilitate sharing of knowledge and skills among teachers and principals, and also allow for economies of scale.

For the preschools to be sustainable over the longer term and relevant to the needs and demands of young parents, there are a number of areas that we must look into. Central management will help us do this effectively; otherwise each church is on its own. Together we can align our HR practices, consolidate our funding, foster niche curriculum of quality, enhance teacher development, branding and marketing.

The idea that we are better together has also led to the formation of an informal coalition among the various denominations. A Nationwide Preschool Teachers’ Day Dedication Service, held at Orchard Road Presbyterian Church on 31 Aug 2019, was organised by a joint committee from the Presbyterian Church in Singapore (PCS), the Diocese of Singapore (Anglican), the Lutheran Church in Singapore (LCS) and The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS). The service saw more than 600 participants from the four denominations, as well as from the Salvation Army, the Brethren churches and independent churches.

On 21 Sep 2019, a forum was held at Faith Methodist Church to discuss relevant points about early childhood education that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had brought up at the National Day Rally and the idea for coalition was shared further. It is very much a gotong royong concept at the moment as the group explores ideas and areas where it would be beneficial to come together.

What parents of students at Foochow Methodist Church Kindergarten, as well as their staff, say:

“The mission of a Methodist kindergarten is to allow parents, children and staff to experience the love of Christ. We have staff who got to know Christ, who came back to Christ. It is not just an academic institution, but a mission.” —May Ten, Principal 

“I joined the kindergarten [as staff] at one of the lowest points in my life, [and] I accepted Christ two years after starting work here.”—Jane Wong, Administrative Assistant

“ The biggest difference for me [between Foochow Methodist Church Kindergarten and a secular preschool] is the exemplification of God’s unconditional love. And I feel sad that he has to leave [at the end of K2] because this is like his family now. He has made many good friends here.”—Mrs Chung, mother of Daniel, who at 18 months needed speech therapy and occupational therapy

“Many children who, like me, didn’t come from a Christian family, got to hear for the first time [in a Christian kindergarten] who Jesus is. I am glad that I can have my children come to this kindergarten.”—Mrs Cheong, mother of three

For a closer look at Methodist preschools, with a focus on Foochow Methodist Church Kindergarten, go to https://youtu.be/x2XiyjX0pnM or scan the QR code.

Current status of Methodist pre-schools at a glance (as at Nov 2019)

Kindergartens

  • Ang Mo Kio MCK
  • Barker Road MCK
  • Bedok MCK
  • Bukit Panjang MCK
  • Faith MCK
  • Foochow MCK
  • Kampong Kapor MCK
  • MC Incarnation MCK
  • Paya Lebar MC Covenant K
  • Pentecost MCK
  • Sengkang MC Children Centre
  • The Capstone MCK
  • Toa Payoh MCK

 

Childcare centres

  • Chen Su Lan Methodist Children’s Home (Child Care Division)
  • MWS D’Joy Children’s Centre
  • Wesley Vineyard (Serangoon North)
  • Wesley Vineyard (Telok Blangah)
  • Wesley Vineyard (Toa Payoh) 
Chen Su Lan Methodist Children’s Home (Child Care Division).
Some of our Methodist preschool staff at the Nationwide Preschool Teachers’ Day Dedication Service, together with CAC President the Rev Dr Gregory Goh (front row, centre).
Pentecost Methodist Church Kindergarten.
Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church Kindergarten.

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. 

Photos courtesy of Ang Mo Kio MCK, CSLMCH, Pentecost MCK, Faith Kindergarten and Lim Ee Tuo.

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