Wheelock College in The Staits Times

Wanted: More men to do ‘women’s work’
Men can be good role models for young kids, but few want to become childcare teachers
The Straits Times – February 16, 2011
By: Sandra Davie

THIS is one issue where the numbers really do tell the story: Of the 10,000 childcare and kindergarten teachers here, less than 50 are men, and the leading local training college has yet to see its first male student.

To say that men are shunning the profession is an understatement. And their absence from the kindergartens and childcare centres is a problem, says early childhood education expert Jackie Jenkins-Scott, 60.

The president of Boston-based Wheelock College, which runs a well-known early childhood degree programme in partnership with Ngee Ann Polytechnic, says the shortage of male pre-school teachers in the United States is just as dire. There are no official figures, but she estimates that men make up less than 1 per cent of the pre-school education force in the US.

Men are vital in the classroom as they provide positive role models for both boys and girls. ‘They teach boys that it is part of the male job description to be gentle and nurturing,’ says Dr Jenkins-Scott.

‘When boys lack the experience of men who are caring and nurturing, the message they receive is that it is not an important trait for males to have.

‘On the other hand, girls learn that caring for children is their exclusive responsibility, and that they should not expect men to contribute. Think how different our society would be if young children’s experience included caring, nurturing men as well as women?’

And then there are the spin-off effects to consider, she adds.

Although there are no studies, pre- school centres with more male teachers tend to attract more involvement by fathers in the centre.

Despite the obvious need and the rewards the job can bring, men just will not go near the profession.

Well, one will. The first male polytechnic graduate has just been admitted to Ngee Ann’s Wheelock course – which has seen 120 students graduate so far – but he will not start training until next year.

Dr Jenkins-Scott notes that the number of male students at Wheelock in Boston is higher – 100 out of 800 undergraduates – but only a fraction will choose to become educators in pre-school. Most will go on to work in the juvenile justice system.

The problem, she says, is that male career aspirations have not kept pace with their increasingly involved role in their own families.

‘Men are more actively engaged in caring for their children, yet the early childhood workforce seems stuck in the 1970s family model,’ she says.

‘Fathers have been taking up hands-on childcare with their own offspring in droves, yet the situation that children encounter in childcare facilities is one where men are almost completely absent.’

This is because childcare and teaching, especially of pre-school children, is largely seen as ‘women’s work’.

‘That needs to change. Pre-school administrators need to send out the message that men can play a very meaningful role in nurturing and educating young boys and girls,’ she says.

Another issue is that some parents get unduly concerned when men care for young children, which has resulted in onerous state guidelines.

To allay their fears, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), which oversees childcare centres here, advises male staff not to participate in activities such as bathing, assisting with toilet duties and changing children’s clothes.

Centres that hire men must also submit guidelines on their roles for an MCYS review. The ministry says this is to ‘prevent unnecessary disputes between parents and centres on teachers’ behaviour’.

But Dr Jenkins-Scott questions these rules, which no longer exist in the US.

‘Men are also fathers and husbands, so why should they not help with care routines?’ she asks.

Another hurdle to recruiting more men – the low salaries and prestige accorded to the profession.

‘This does not just make it difficult to attract men into the sector, but women as well,’ says Dr Jenkins-Scott.

She notes that the salaries of pre-school teachers in the US lag behind those teaching in the higher levels. She estimates the gap to be about 20 per cent.

Singapore is no better – two batches of Wheelock College graduates with early childcare education degrees who went out to work in pre-schools since 2009 earn on average about $2,200 a month. This is about 25 per cent less than starting salaries for graduate teachers in schools, which is just over $3,000.

Much needs to be done to raise the image, standing and pay of pre-school educators, especially those at childcare centres, who are often viewed as nannies by parents.

An Education Services Union survey of 5,000 pre-school teachers done here in 2007 found that 34 per cent wanted to leave their jobs within 12 months. More than half cited low pay as the key reason.

One solution is to require pre-school educators to have minimum qualifications and training, Dr Jenkins-Scott suggests. ‘After all, you would not allow people without the necessary qualifications and training to teach in your primary and secondary schools. So why should it not be a requirement for pre-school?’

She says the Education Ministry, which oversees kindergartens, and MCYS, the agency responsible for childcare centres, are right to have imposed minimum qualifications. Currently, new teachers must have five O-level passes, including English, and a diploma in pre-school teaching.

But Singapore should raise the bar higher and target for all pre-school teachers to have degrees, she says.

This call is supported by growing awareness of the impact of early childhood education in later life, and research clearly shows that teachers’ qualifications matter.

‘Teachers with bachelor’s degrees and who hold certification in working with young children appear to have the highest quality classrooms and to be most capable of having a significant impact on the developmental progress of children,’ she says.

She cites studies such as the landmark Perry Pre-school Project in the US, which found that students receiving good quality pre-school education had better high school graduation rates, better job prospects and more earning power.

She says if Singapore wants to raise its game further and outpace its competitors, it should invest in improving access and quality of early childhood education. This means fully prepared teachers, smaller class sizes and a curriculum that prepares children for life.

‘Research, including longitudinal studies spanning 40 years, demonstrate that high quality early childhood education helps prepare young children to succeed in school and become better citizens; they earn more, pay more taxes and commit fewer crimes,’ says Dr Jenkins-Scott.

‘Governments must invest in early education. After all, our children are our future.’

Read the actual article, wheelock straits times article.


Preschool education: Why some kids are a class apart

The Sunday Times, Jan 9, 2011
By Irene Tham

These days, parents willingly fork out $20,000 a year – what one would pay in university – for preschool education, believing it gives their tots a head start in life.

Some parents even go to the extreme of enrolling their preschoolers in every enrichment class imaginable – from music, drama and ballet to mathematics and Mandarin.

After all, aren’t kids supposed to ‘absorb’ the most at that tender age? Understandably, parents would milk every minute that counts.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who would rather let their children roll in the mud and enjoy their childhood, only to discover later on that their little ones are severely disadvantaged in primary school.

In one example two years ago, Ms L (she declines to give her name), a housewife in her 40s, was told by her son’s Primary 1 teacher that he was lagging behind his classmates, as 28 out of the 30 students already knew hanyu pinyin, the romanisation system for Mandarin.

The teacher said she could not hold the 28 kids back for the sake of the weaker two – although she was supposed to teach hanyu pinyin in the months ahead.

Another parent, who wants to be known only as Ms Christine, said she was also told by her son’s Primary 1 teacher last year that he was falling behind in his reading in both Chinese and English.

The 31-year-old executive was advised to find a private tutor for her son. Both parents did not even send their children to elite schools, but neighbourhood ones in the eastern part of Singapore.

After the shocking wake-up call, Ms L shipped her son – now in Primary 3 – off for a private crash course in hanyu pinyin, cramming six months’ worth of curriculum into eight lessons.

Ms Christine too hired a private language tutor for her son, now in Primary 2.

‘During our time, we went to school to learn. Now, the school expects the kids to know the subject already,’ she laments.

These stories sent chills down my spine. Like many young parents, I am worried about not doing enough to provide for my child’s education. My daughter is turning two this September.

Also, I do not have funds on tap. Like many Singaporeans who feel the middle-class squeeze, I must confess that my limited resources forbid splurging on tier- one preschool and incessant enrichment lessons.

One question begs to be answered: How much preschool preparation work is enough?

Local parenting website Kiasuparents.com recommends that children entering Primary 1 should have the following proficiency:

•Blend phonetic sounds of a combination of letters in the English alphabet.
•Write all 26 letters of the alphabet in capital and small letters.
•Read and spell simple words. These words include run, car and orange.
•Construct simple English sentences.
•Verbalise answers to picture comprehension.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Education (MOE) said the Primary 1 curriculum is designed to meet the learning needs of ‘all pupils, regardless of their background and level of competency’.

The spokesman also told The Sunday Times that it is not necessary for children to be exposed to hanyu pinyin before Primary 1.

If that is the case, why are Primary 1 teachers allowed to raise standards arbitrarily, driving the uninitiated parent into a frenzy?

It is no wonder then that many parents succumb to the blatant advertisements of toddler enrichment centres.

The unregulated preschool scene – comprising 500 kindergartens and 800 childcare centres run by a range of operators from religious organisations to companies – is also fertile ground for these enrichment centres.

If you are looking to the Government for a preschool prescription, you can stop now. The Government said a year ago that there were no plans to nationalise preschool education.

Education Minister Ng Eng Hen explained in Parliament last January that there was no universally accepted model for kindergarten teaching. Imposing one would not only deprive parents of the choice of what to expose their children to, but also give rise to counter-productive comparisons between preschools, among other things.

Dr Ng was addressing concerns among educationists, politicians and parents that free-market forces with insufficient regulatory supervision may allow some preschool operators to compromise on standards and charge overly high fees.

There were also concerns that children were entering formal education on an unequal footing, depending on whether their parents can afford premium preschool education fees.

The Government’s philosophy is that preschool goals should not be assessment-based, but focused on social and communication skills development. Such thinking is sound and fair. I am for a free and creative preschool market for the same reasons put forward by Dr Ng. But such thinking must have continuity beyond preschool. Right now, there seems to be a huge disconnect between preschools and primary schools.

Lofty preschool goals are somewhat lost in translation when the time comes for the children to enter Primary 1.

The recent encounter of Mrs Chan, an accountant, with a neighbourhood school in the western part of Singapore is a case in point. A few days ago, the 36-year-old mother discovered that the school put her son and its entire Primary 1 cohort through a reading and comprehension and mathematics proficiency test during orientation – presumably for grouping pupils based on their abilities.

Mrs Chan found out from other parents that her son is in a ‘good’ class, but remains concerned as the school did not inform parents about the test.

If preschools are not meant to be academically driven, why then are kids tested on their numeracy and literacy skills when they enter Primary 1?

Pat’s Schoolhouse founder-director Patricia Koh, 59, said such tests serve only the teachers’ interest but do nothing for the students.

‘You can’t divide children into ability groups so early on in primary education. A child who is not ready can learn from one who is,’ said the veteran preschool educator, who started Pat’s Schoolhouse in 1988.

‘The problem is that some teachers are not enlightened enough to deal with Primary 1 children,’ she added.

Perhaps, it is time for MOE to look into preschool training for its primary school teachers too.

Newly Revamped Wheelock Board

Hi Gals!

I hope you have had a  well deserved break!


That is if you happen to find your way to school.

If not to miss out on the latest information, check it out when school reopens! 🙂

 On behalf of our dearest Rajes, please check your Wheelock Mail regularly for further updates from her.

Wheelock College, Alumni Event

DEAREST ALL (Cohorts 1,2 and 3)!!!

Our dearest Dr. Sue Kosoff is back in our hot and not-so-sunny Singapore!!!! Let me hear everyone scream “YEAH”!!!! Well, Sue is here to teach at SEED Institute. And there’s an arrangement for her to share at the Wheelock College Alumni Event!

This post is to invite ALL cohorts 1, 2 and 3 learners to see Sue and to hear from her about a topic that we can all learn from and probably relate to! The details are as follows:

Wheelock College Alumni Event

Topic: Enhancing Literacy Using Storytelling in the Inclusive Classroom

Date: November 21, 2009

Time: 1:00-4:30pm

Venue: SEED Institute (73 Bras Basah Road, NTUC Trade Union House #07-01, Singapore 189556)

RSVP: Ms. Pamela-Edith Han (E-mail to hansp@seedinstitute.com.sg)

If you are interested to be there at the Alumni Event, please RSVP by emailing Ms. Pamela-Edith Han as soon as possible. I presume that it would be good to inform her that we are learners or graduates of Wheelock College – Singapore.

Hope to see you ladies there!!!Till then, go forth and make differences wherever you’re at! 🙂

With Love, Yi En


Something a little overdue

Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success. ~ Henry Ford


The Three Officers

We extend our welcome to all the committee members into the Student Organization. We look forward to working closely with you.

Let me have the pleasure to introduce to the student body the leaders for the various committees

[Events Committee] Leader: Karryn Kam Co-Leader: Yan Yan

[Publicity] Leader: Charlane Lee Co-Leader: Samantha See

[Orientation] Leader:Isabella Ong Co-Leader:Cassandra

Treasurer Comm: Amanda Liew & Alina Poh from Cohort 2 🙂

There’s a saying that we like from JF Kennedy and

now we asked ourselves,

-ask not what Wheelock can do for you, but

what YOU can do for Wheelock!-

~Student Organization, adapted from J.F Kennedy.

With that, our best wishes to everyone and we hope you are enjoying the well deserved break! 🙂

A quick note

A quick note to the Wheelock learners:-

1)Dear Cohort 2 & 3 learners,Please be reminded to complete the learner’s evaluation forms by this FRIDAY, 09102009.

2)Cohort 2, please check your Wheelock email and reply asap. Thanks!

3) Comm Members, please check your email and confirm your attendance for the Mass Meeting by 10/10/09

Mass Meeting for all Committee Members

Date: 13th October 2009

Day: Tuesday

Time: 6.00-7.30pm

See you girls soon!

Announcement: Placing Orders for Wheelock Polo T-Shirt

Hi Girls, How have you been? I know that the next two weeks ahead is completely intensive and heavy. Don’t worry, we will survive this 🙂 Anyways, I am sure that you guys have heard about the winning design of the Polo T-shirt competition.

Just to inform you – that the publicity team is now taking orders and collect money for the Polo T-Shirts from 6 April, Monday till 7 April, Tuesday. Each girl will have to pay $5.00 (U.P.$13) for each shirt. Note that these shirts have been heavily sponsored by Wheelock College, thus ALL students are highly encouraged to purchase the shirt. If you are unsure about the sizes of the shirt, do drop by the Wheelock College office to take a look at the sample shirts.

*Note that you need to place your orders strictly by 7 April, Tuesday because we need to place our orders on Wednesday so that we can get our shirts out before the semester ends. Have a pleasant weekend. Thank you.