The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) licences childcare centres for children from 2 months to 6 years. Over the years, standards have been raised and quality of childcare centres has improved through higher level teacher training and a higher requirement for the academic qualification of early childhood educators.
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In 2002, the Ministry of Education (MOE) launched Nurturing Early Learners (NEL): A Framework for a Kindergarten Curriculum. The Kindergarten Framework provides a broad set of principles and practices to guide early childhood educators plan and implement developmentally appropriate activities for children aged 4 to 6 years old in kindergartens and childcare centres.
As younger children in child care centres do not come under the Kindergarten Framework, MCYS initiated the Early Years Development Framework (EYDF) to enhance quality care for children aged 2 months to 3 years. The two frameworks, taken as a whole, provide early childhood educators with continuity for the care and development of children from 2 months through the kindergarten years until they enter primary school.
The EYDF sets the standard for quality of care, pedagogy and practices that are specific to the developmental needs of infants and toddlers. It defines outcomes for learning and development and provides educators with broad guidelines to plan and deliver culturally and developmentally appropriate experiences, strengthen home-centre partnerships, foster community networks and enhance professional development.
The Development of EYDF
The EYDF was developed with reference to different sources of information building on existing standards and training of infant and child care educators. First, the EYDF team reviewed research and literature from neuroscience, infant and child development, attachment theories, early childhood education, programmes for infant and toddlers and also literature on good practices.
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This exercise reinforced the importance of optimizing children’s development in the first three years of life. During this period the intensity in which neural connections are formed in the brain is unparalleled. What toddlers experience and acquire serve as the foundation for future learning and development.
Second, reference was made to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) with special attention to Articles 3, 6, and 121. The UNCRC Guiding Principles articulate children’s rights to holistic development and having their best interests at the heart of all decision-making process. Several countries2 have embarked on a journey to clearly define what is in the best interests of young children in centre-based settings. Frameworks from these countries served as useful references for the EYDF.
1 Singapore ratified the UNCRC in 1995
2 Countries like Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the UK and the US have articulated frameworks which reflect how children learn and develop, the mediating importance of relationships, developmental experiences (strategies and activities), accountability in terms of goals and outcomes, and partnerships with families and the community.
3 Early Childhood and Special Needs Education Academic Group, National Institute of Education
Third, the development of the EYDF involved considerable input from the local academia and various stakeholders. Research findings from the MCYS/ NIE3 study using the Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale (ITERS), contributed to some of the contents in the EYDF. Contributions also came from extensive consultative sessions with the early childhood community, including operators, supervisors, educators, training agencies, as well as parents. Other inputs came from observation visits to infant/toddler settings and conferences in Singapore and abroad. CONFIDENTIAL DRAFT 3
ENVISIONING QUALITY FOR THE EARLY YEARS
The EYDF builds on foundations laid by the child care centre licensing standards and teacher training requirements. It expands on these and weaves a developmental theme into the care practices. The framework serves as a professional compass for early years educators working with infants and toddlers by describing guiding principles and practices to inform and support their pedagogical and curricular practices.
Early years educators can use the framework as a tool to make informed decisions and to plan developmentally appropriate experiences and environments for infants and toddlers. Strategies outlined in the framework will guide educators to focus on developing warm and nurturing relationships with the children in their care by responding appropriately to their physical, linguistic, cognitive, social and emotional needs.
The Framework articulates the indispensible role families play in the care and development of their children and therefore the need to strengthen home-centre partnerships. Linkages and collaborations within the community are included to both support families and children’s learning. In pursuing quality in care, key elements such as critical inquiry and reflection by educators ensure that young children’s experiences are developmentally and culturally appropriate. The Framework advocates a strong sense of professionalism and accountability among those caring for the young. CONFIDENTIAL DRAFT 4
FRAMING A VISION FOR QUALITY IN THE EARLY YEARS
This Framework embraces an image of centre-based quality for young children as one of:
¶€ Children being Secure, Confident, Safe and Healthy
¶€ Children being Involved, Engaged and Enquiring
¶€ Centre, Families and the Community Connecting and Relating
Five key pillars uphold this image of quality:
¶€ The Developing Child
We see the child as a whole being developing physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially and culturally. The child is wired for development and learning even before birth and enters the world resourceful and actively participating in its learning and development. â€•If a young child’s brain is to thrive â€¦ she needs to be loved, held, talked to, read to and allowed to explore4â€- The positive social and emotional support that a young child receives help her feel secure and feel good about herself, and this develops the motivation to learn. We also see the child as being focused, asking questions, like â€-what is this?’ and â€-why?’ and engaging in problem solving, from figuring how to drink soup from a plate to keeping a tower of 5 blocks from toppling when a 6th block is added. Quality environments and positive relationships with adults help develop autonomy and independence and at the same time builds confidence and self- esteem.
4 Simmons & Sheehan (1997) – source to be provided
¶€ The Intentional Programme
The programme, environment and curriculum are flexible to meet the needs of young children. The emphasis is intentionally developmental and appropriate to the well-being and life stages of young children. The focus is on positive interactions and building warm and nurturing relationships. The environment is created to facilitate play and exploratory behaviours for learning and development. Pre-toddlers who are crawling and toddlers who have discovered the joys of walking need customised environments. The purposeful environment CONFIDENTIAL DRAFT 5
provides opportunities for movements and varied activities and is well stocked with appropriate materials and resources. These are safe, available and accessible to the children.
¶€ The Professional Educator
The Educator is attuned and responsive to the needs of young children. She is keenly aware of the different developmental stages, especially the distinct needs for infants and toddlers to develop secure attachments and relationships. She is also aware of individual differences and needs of children in her care. With this knowledge, the Educator creates a nurturing environment for positive interactions with adults and children and for facilitating play, exploration and learning. The educator is professionally qualified and is always seeking to further develop her skills and knowledge in working with young children, families and the community.
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¶€ An Involved Family
The family is an integral part of young children’s development. A shared and sustained partnership between the centre and the home draws on their respective strengths and ensures that children’s growth and developmental needs are addressed optimally. The educator understands that parents and other family members are individuals with their own set of concerns and issues which may at times affect their behaviour towards the child and the centre. While keeping in mind the child’s best interest, the educator also seeks to understand, be supportive and offers help to family members where necessary.
¶€ An Engaged Community
The home-centre partnership is further enriched with linkages with the community. The resources from networking with other professionals, specialists, agencies and organisations, will offer families support and professional assistance when needed. At the same time, the children benefit when community resources are accessed by the children or when they are brought or invited to the centre to enhance children’s health, development and learning. CONFIDENTIAL DRAFT 6
THE EARLY YEARS DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK
The focus on children aged 3 and below is at the heart of this framework. Our professional knowledge and research, past experiences, beliefs and values shape the way we work with children. These factors interact with children’s need to develop secure attachments, stable relationships as well as their inclination to explore the environments.
Children grow and develop as they learn to construct and expand their sense of self, their confidence, their capabilities, and their understanding of who they are in relation to the surrounding environments and the world beyond. The rich fabric of interactions and relationships is the foundation upon which all other developments take place.
The framework recognises the valuable role played by families and Educators and the partnerships with families and the community. The EYDF comprises 3 areas – Guiding Principles, Expected Outcomes and Suggested Practices.
Five guiding principles constitute the foundation of the EYDF and reflect the best interests of children. The principle statements are anchored on research evidence, neuroscience, child development literature and good practices.
The principles embody values and beliefs of how children grow, learn and develop and the role of educators in this process as well as the integral place families and the community have in this development. CONFIDENTIAL DRAFT 7
Guiding Principle 1:
Developing secure attachments and confidence in children with nurturing adults in a safe and healthy environment.
Guiding Principle 2:
Generating culturally and developmentally appropriate opportunities for children’s holistic development and learning.
Guiding Principle 3:
Committing to professional standards and ethics in working with children and families, and to educators’ own professional development.
Guiding Principle 4:
Involving families as partners in the care, development and education of children
Guiding Principle 5:
Engaging the community as support and resources for home and centre.