MOE considers extending literacy support to K1
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Education (MOE) is looking to extend its successful literacy support programme — currently available for children in K2 — to pre-schoolers in K1, TODAY has learnt.
Early childhood educators and observers, however, were divided over the possibility of such a move. While some welcomed greater academic support for children, there were concerns about intervening in their development at an increasingly younger age.
Responding to this newspaper’s queries, an MOE spokesperson confirmed that the ministry is “considering the feasibility of providing focused language support to children at an earlier age”. She added: “We are looking into developing resources and piloting the extension of FLAiR (Focused Language Assistance in Reading) to children in K1 next year”.
The FLAiR programme, which was started in 2006, currently targets K2 kids from lower-income families who are studying at pre-school centres run by anchor operators.
Between 2006 and last year, 8,200 children have benefited from the programme. Currently, about 2,500 children from 250 pre-school centres are participating in it. The MOE had earlier announced it would extend the programme to 100 more centres.
Children are identified for literacy support at the end of K1 through a checklist developed by the MOE. Pre-school teachers will then use the checklist to, for instance, observe how children respond to questions and recognise letters of the alphabet.
Under the programme, children may be taken out from daily lessons for pre-school teachers to work on their English Language reading and speaking abilities, depending on the children’s needs.
Last week, findings from a Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF)-funded study indicated a need for intervention programmes for oral skills to start earlier, in order to help children from low-income households. Nevertheless, TODAY understands that the MOE had been considering extending its literacy programme to children in K1 prior to the study.
National Institute of Education early childhood academic Sirene Lim warned against treating early education as just intervention programmes or attempting to intervene in a child’s development at too young an age. She noted that pre-school education is supposed to support children’s natural abilities. However, “we have come to a point where we feel that we need to provide additional support or be more deliberate in supporting a particular group of children towards preparing for primary school”, she said.
“Young children are designed to learn all the time,” said Dr Lim. “To restrict their learning to a narrow set of academic or school-readiness skills is to go against the very nature of young children.”
Still, Nanyang Technological University’s Assistant Professor Qu Li, who was one of the researchers in the MSF-funded study, noted that the ages of between three and five are crucial years for language development. Introducing literacy support earlier would establish a strong foundation in language for a child and help him acquire other skills to learn and socialise, she said.
Pre-school teacher Rafidah Rafie added: “If we have already worked on the basics in K1, we are not starting from zero in K2 and we have a stronger base to improve the child’s skills.”
Ms Rafidah noted that teachers have to be well trained in order to provide assistance at K1 to children with weaker language ability, as many might enter kindergarten without the fundamentals in writing or speaking.
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