New tools to assess children’s skills early will help teachers understand developmental needs
A tool that helps teachers to better evaluate children’s language skills, social perception and other abilities has been rolled out at 18 pre-schools run by the PAP Community Foundation (PCF).
More than 500 children have benefited from the use of the tool, which was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong at PCF’s Family Day on Sunday.
The annual event was held at Bird Paradise, the 17ha park that opened in May 2023 following the closure of Jurong Bird Park in January.
Speaking to around 300 families at the park’s Sky Amphitheatre, DPM Wong said the assessment will enable PCF teachers to better customise their classroom activities and raise teaching standards.
PCF, which is the People’s Action Party’s social and charitable arm, is the largest pre-school operator in Singapore, with 40,000 children enrolled in its 360 centres.
The school-readiness tool, which was developed by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, serves as a pre-academic screener for the abilities of children from four to six years old.
The tool is part of PCF’s collaboration with SICS and NUS from July 2023 to June 2025 to ensure that children at its Sparkletots centres are ready for formal schooling.
Designed as a series of games and questions, the 30-minute screening tool can evaluate a child’s competencies across six vital developmental domains, including general knowledge, literacy, numeracy and executive function, before they are admitted to Primary 1.
Dr Evelyn Law, a principal investigator at SICS, said this approach addresses a critical gap in the current system, where at-risk children are typically identified only when they begin primary school. Thus, they may miss early intervention opportunities, which are critical in preparing them for school.
In a separate initiative, the abilities of children in nursery and kindergarten levels will be checked against a list of developmental milestone standards commonly used by clinical psychologists and paediatricians, to ensure that their capabilities are matched to the curriculum they will be taught.
On Sunday, PCF said it aims to offer three mother-tongue languages – Chinese, Malay and Tamil – at all its pre-schools by 2027. Currently, only Chinese is taught in all its centres.
Addressing this, DPM Wong said: “This is an ambitious goal. It is not going to be easy. It will take a few years to achieve because there are not enough educators with the right language qualifications in Singapore.
“But it is good that PCF is setting high standards, and we hope that over time, all PCF children will be able to get good exposure and strong foundation in their respective mother tongues.”
He announced that PCF will disburse around $4 million in 2023 to help children in lower-income families, providing them with financial assistance, access to enrichment activities and improvements to their home environment.