NTUC’s My First Skool introduces first-of-its kind character-building programme
NTUC First Campus’ (NFC) My First Skool (MFS) has introduced a “first-of-its kind” Character-building Programme to over 7,000 pre-schoolers under its care. Since March this year, this programme has been rolled out to pre-schoolers aged between four and six, attending Nursery to Kindergarten classes at MFS, which has 120 centres to date.
Designed and developed by NFC’s Chinese Language Curriculum Department which is headed by Dr Connie Lum, this new curriculum framework is set to change the way teachers and parents nurture children to be caring and socially responsible individuals. The newly developed pedagogy not only enables teachers to take on a greater role in moulding children’s character, but also aims to inculcate values in children based on day-to-day activities, rather than in theory.
A Character-building Programme that Places Emphasis on Practice
Believing that the early years of a child’s life is the most critical period in shaping children’s character as this is when they are most receptive to guidance, the curriculum framework advocates and reinforces that the core values be applied in children’s day-to-day activities1 rather than have it taught in theory.
Emphasised Dr Lum, “Character development in children is most effective through daily practices that would help to cultivate good habits and social behaviours. In designing this framework, we were also mindful of the need to inculcate values through activities children are familiar with in the local context. This, I believe, would have a greater and more sustainable impact in shaping their value belief system.”
Greater Role of Teachers
Through this programme, teachers are also empowered to take on a greater role in children’s character development. Besides being trained in the curriculum framework, active engagement with the teachers had also led to the development of a proactive pedagogy approach that follows the 3Es strategy – Example, Environment, Experience. Teachers are expected to set good examples with positive behaviours. This in turn creates a conducive learning environment where children are able to experience how values (such as Responsibility, Respect, Care, Honesty) may be applied in their day-to-day lives.
Teachers have also contributed to the development of creative curriculum materials with hand-drawn illustrations that are relevant to the local context and suitable for pre-schoolers, something which is not commonly available in Singapore.
With over 300 teachers trained, the Character-building programme was successfully rolled out in all MFS centres in March this year. Incorporated as part of the centre’s curriculum, this programme is taught by teachers in Mandarin every Thursday, focusing on a different value every term. The strong cooperation that exists between English and Chinese teachers also helps to facilitate the objectives of the programme to be reinforced each day. Other values (such as perseverance, cooperation and tolerance) that are not easily practised in behavioural routines will be incorporated into lesson plans.
Recognising parents’ cooperation and involvement as key in sustaining positive character and social-emotional development in children, this programme further sought to engage parents in shared (parent-child) activities which can be done at home. Such activities, shared in the form of worksheets, not only allow parents and children to work together, but also provide useful tips to parents for self-evaluation and assessment of their children’s behaviours to track their progress.”
Two months into the programme, parents are already enthusiastically sharing positive observations about their children’s behaviours. One of them, Mdm Lai Mei Jen, whose son is in Kindergarten 2 said, “My child now greets the teachers whenever he sees them. He takes on the responsibility to pack his own bag and reminds me that he must not be late for school.” Another parent, Mdm Soh Xin Kai, whose son is in Nursery, added, “We are very fortunate that My First Skool places great importance in character-building by incorporating this into its curriculum and teaching themes. In just a few months, we have seen the effectiveness of the programme with my son’s improved behaviour. He now even helps us in our household chores!”
1Examples of day‐to‐day activities include taking daily attendance, queuing up to wash hands, taking care of bonsai and drawing up of their character pledge book.