Insights on Early Childhood Development

By Glenda Foo

Discovery+ is a series of online industry panels which give students the chance to interact with working professionals and learn about the careers they aspire to enter. These panels provide youths and working professionals with the opportunity to better understand industry trends, hear first-hand perspectives from industry professionals, and gain valuable advice on entering or navigating these industries.

On 4 May 2022, Advisory hosted Discover+: Early Childhood Development, the 57th edition of the Discovery+ series. Speakers on the panel included:

  •  Sum Chee Wah (Moderator), Associate Professor, Singapore University of Social Sciences and Advisor, Pre-school Education, Early Childhood Development Agency
  • Cynthia Leow, Director, Policy & Sector Funding 1 and Corporate Development & Services, Early Childhood Development Agency
  • Dianne Swee-Seet, ECDA Fellow; Pillar Head, Early Childhood Development Centres, Anglican Preschool Services and Principal, The Ascension Kindergarten 
  • Kartini Bte Sudirman, Lead Mentor Teacher, PCF Sparkletots Preschool
  • Mohammad Aizat Bin Hashim, Principal, Mosaic Preschool

Below are some key points shared during the session:

With rising need for preschool services among dual-income families and growing awareness of the importance of early childhood (EC) development, demand for preschool services is increasing. More parents have also been enrolling their children into preschool at younger ages, resulting in a higher demand for infant and playgroup classes. The number of early childhood educators in the sector has grown from 18,000 in 2018 to over 23,000 in 2021. More educators are required at all levels to support the target expansion, as the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) aims to develop 10,000 more full-day places by 2023. Mother Tongue Language (MTL) preschool educators will also be in demand as provision of MTL in preschools increases over time.

EC educators play a critical role in shaping the future of our children. Hence, the Government has been enhancing the professional development opportunities and career pathways for EC educators, which saw the refresh of the Skills Framework for Early Childhood last year and the launch of  the Continuing Professional Development Roadmap in 2022. Salaries in the EC sector have also risen, as EC educators acquire deeper skills and take on larger job responsibilities. These have increased by 17% on average between 2016 and 2019, outpacing that of the general market for similar job sizes which grew by 6% over the same period. Salaries of EC educators are expected to increase further to reflect the deeper skills requirements, larger responsibilities and more complex job roles in the sector.

As we move towards greater inclusiveness and supporting children with developmental needs within preschools, educators will also be supported with relevant training so that they can better manage classes with children of different learning or development needs. For instance, ECDA has developed and rolled out a Certificate in Inclusive Practice in 2021 to help in-service educators acquire inclusive strategies to support children with varying needs within preschools. Pre-service training and training roadmap will continue to be enhanced with inclusive practice as one of the focal areas.

A career in EC is fulfilling as they play a key role in moulding our future generation and make a difference to their most impressionable years. One of the panelists, who is an EC educator, shared her sense of fulfilment when she sees children who used to be under her care continue to grow and develop to the best of their potential, be it becoming leaders or clinching scholarship awards in their schools. This satisfaction and fulfilment cannot be easily found in other jobs.

An EC educator recounted her experience managing children who displayed behaviour that was challenging and having to communicate with their parents. She noticed that when she spoke to parents with empathy, parents were more open to engage in the conversation and co-solution together. This process is meaningful for her, as she plays an active role in partnering the family to shape the child to be a better person.  

Having passion and the desire to nurture children would be vital in deciding to become an EC educator. Being able to empathise with the child and look at the behaviour of the child empathetically will allow you to see the child in a very different and more caring light. For example, when there is a fight in the classroom, instead of saying ‘stop doing that’, asking ‘what’s happening here, can I help?’ allows the teacher to become the facilitator to help children understand and think of the perspective of the other party.

Desired attributes of educators include RIPPLE, which means Resilience, In a Team (i.e., collaboration), Passion for Children, Professionalism, Love for Learning, and Empathy. What educators do today create ripples for tomorrow!

For instance, children may at times display challenging behaviour unexpectedly. This means that EC educators need to have passion for children and resilience to handle dynamic situations that can happen in the classroom. EC educators should be collaborative and work in a team, be it with other educators and parents, for the holistic development of children. As shared by the EC educators during the panel discussion, regardless of personality, as long as one has passion for children, and is flexible and open-minded, they can still perform their duties well.

Apart from being a preschool educator, EC educators can also choose to pursue a management track or direct practice track. The expanded Leadership career track, which can be in both management and direct practice, allows both horizontal and vertical progression, to cater to different aspirations. Therefore, senior educators can aspire towards new job roles, such as Deputy Centre Leader for those on the management track, as well as Lead Early Years Educator, Lead Preschool Educator or Curriculum/Pedagogy Specialist for those on the direct practice track. There is also a career track to become an Early Intervention Educator, to be involved in developing inclusive early childhood programmes in preschool settings, to communicate diversity and equity goals, and to change the mindsets of parents.

One challenge faced by male preschool educators is managing the concerns and expectations of parents. One of the EC panelists advised that male preschool educators should work with the centre principal from the onset to manage these concerns and expectations. In general, male preschool educators should be clear of their role as an educator, as well as the do’s and don’ts. For example, some preschools have guidelines that male educators avoid hugging or allowing children to sit on their lap.

As one of the EC educators shared, some parents may not be as familiar with the roles of a male educator in the sector. Hence, the male educator would need to clearly communicate with parents his role, the tasks that he would be involved in, and the physical boundaries when interacting with the children, to prevent any miscommunication.

Despite challenges faced, male educators can play a valuable role as they bring different strengths and perspectives to the sector. They can also offer male role models for children and emphasise the role men can play in supporting the development of children in their early years.

If you are keen to explore a career in the EC sector as an educator and be involved in moulding the lives of our future generation, you may wish to check out the ECDA Training Awards (TA). These are available to Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident students undergoing full-time professional early childhood courses at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) and the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC).There is a range of EC courses offered by NIEC in the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), Temasek Polytechnic (TP) and Ngee Ann Poly (NP) campuses. TA recipients are required to fulfil a year’s bond to the early childhood sector for every year of support received, upon course completion.

Mid-career jobseekers can tap on the EC Career Conversion Programmes (CCP) to be trained as early childhood educators. Trainees are sponsored by preschool operators for this programme and benefit from a structured work-and-study model by spending a part of their working hours attending classroom training, while receiving a salary. Under this programme, the Government provides subsidies for course fees and trainees’ salaries. 

If you prefer to be a self-sponsored Continuing Employment Training (CET) student, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) provides training course subsidies and SkillsFuture Credits to help to defray the cost of training.

A degree is not required to be a certified preschool teacher or to progress in the EC sector. However, there are degree courses provided by training institutions such as SUSS for preschool educators who are keen to deepen their knowledge in EC pedagogy.


You may refer to the ECDA website ( and Shape our Tomorrow ( website to find out more details on how to be an educator. The website also has information and contact of our Anchor Operators, who can provide more information on job opportunities.