Flying high in preschool education?
Posted August 1, 2012on:
It seems that almost everyone has an opinion about Singapore’s low preschool ranking. You cannot turn to a forum page in a paper without someone offering a solution. If cabbies talk about it, you know it has hit a nerve!
Some of the solutions include asking the Ministry of Education taking charge of preschool education. Others are adamant that the free market should rule. Yet others argue that such competition prices the lower income households out.
People who suggest that preschool education should be centralized or regulated are concerned about standards. They think that a governing body can figure a size that fits all. That might have been true in the past with a schooling system built on the industrial model. Not anymore.
People who favour privatization think that competition will weed out the weak. The assumption is that innovative practices will create demand, and when demand rises but places remain the same, prices naturally go up. This is market or economy driven. You get the veneer of quality that only some can afford.
I think that the focus should shift to teacher quality.
Any school is only as good as its teachers. Little is expected of preschool teachers in terms of academic qualifications and little is given to them by way of salary.
That is not to say that highly qualified individuals make better preschool teachers. Those who choose to be preschool teachers tend to be a self-selecting group. Most are not in it for the money. They want to teach because they care. Having a better quality teacher education ensures that they understand and are better able to apply principles of child psychology, pedagogical strategies, and social, emotional and cognitive development .
Such teachers should be nurtured as professionals, not drone-like factory workers. More than applying theories, they should be given opportunities to think and act creatively, critically, and reflectively. Such qualified teachers can operate in a centralized, privatized, or hybrid environment.
Parents can then be better reassured that even with the basic tier of preschool, the teachers are nurturing and qualified.
Put more bluntly, this is economy class in a plane. But it is the same plane going to the same place at the same time as business and first class. You cannot make everything equal, but you can make things fair.