IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


The gap between Singapore’s goals for inclusion and current capabilities of early childhood workers

9 May 2019

Early childhood practitioners in Singapore should be strengthened with knowledge of inclusive pedagogical practices to support children with special needs or from socially disadvantaged backgrounds more effectively, research by several universities has revealed.


The study ‘Vital Voices for Vital Years 2’, which is a collaboration between the University of Helsinki, UCL Institute of Education (IOE), Singapore University of Social Sciences and funded by the Lien Foundation, gathered the perspectives of 35 leaders from the early childhood development sector.

It found that a systemic review of early childhood teachers' and early intervention teachers' minimum entry level requirements, salaries and career development opportunities should be considered in order to improve parity between these two professions, which often draw from a similar pool. This should be bolstered by partnerships and training programmes that merge traditionally separate “mainstream” and “special education” boundaries to produce a new generation of early childhood practitioners who are better prepared and able to work together with professionals from other disciplines.

The qualitative study comes seven years after its predecessor, ‘Vital Voices for Vital Years’, which found the quality of preschool services to be highly variable and called for more cohesive governance in the sector. 

Vital Voices for Vital Years 2 revealed a clear consensus on the positive developments that have taken place in Singapore’s early childhood education in recent years, including the government’s more proactive stance in the sector.

However, practices and mindsets in the early childhood education sector are slow to catch up in addressing issues of inclusion, workforce competency and staffing demand. The report identified these key areas for improvement:

  • An urgent need to increase the early childhood sector’s workforce
  • More expertise and human resources are needed to keep pace with the demand for early intervention services
  • The need to upskill the competencies of leaders across both early childhood and early intervention sectors
  • The lack of structured and supported transition from preschool to primary school

Lynn Ang, Co-Principal Investigator and Professor of Early Childhood at the IOE, said: “I believe every child deserves the very best quality care and education. Get this right and we can change the course of a young child’s life and set them on the right trajectory. As Vital Voices 2 has shown, it is an exciting moment in the preschool sector. The stakes are high, especially for children who have had a poor start in life due to their economic circumstances or special needs. We must be unrelenting in our quest for high quality learning for all children and value the professionals who are dedicated to providing the best they can for young children. It is only then that we can make real transformative change for future generations.”