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Kindergartens pre school students trip to a park. (Image by Jasni / Shutterstock)

MSF to set up integrated workgroup to provide more support for children with developmental needs

By 2020,  the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) will oversee both Early Intervention (EI) services and preschool services, with the transfer of EI from the Disability Office to ECDA beginning July 2019. In a statement, MSF said it will also be setting up a work group to help make sure that pre-schools in Singapore are more inclusive. ,The initiative followers an announcement made in January by Mr Lee to make early intervention services more affordable and cater to the needs of each child.

Speaking at NTUC’s My First Skool campus in Punggol, Ministe for Social and Family Development Mr Desmond Lee said that the work group will involve both public and private sectors to study how the government can better support children with mild to severe needs in mainstream preschools.

While the pilot mainstream pre-schools are already becoming more inclusive, MSF is looking to take that one step further. As such, the ECDA will progressively take over from the MSF to oversee early intervention programs in pre-schools beginning July 2010.

The work group, on the other hand, will study centres that serve children with moderate to severe developmental needs, looking at the approaches that could be extended into mainstream pre-schools, said the MSF. Developmental needs include developmental conditions that range from physical to sensory, cognitive, and learning needs that aren’t accompanied by other disabilities.

Referring to the ECDA, a spokesperson told Channel NewsAsia, “This will also give typically developing children in more pre-schools the opportunity to gain greater understanding and appreciation of children who may be different from themselves.”

The work group will be co-chaired by MSF’s Senior Parliamentary Secretary Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and National Institute of Education Associate Dean for Education Research Kenneth Poon. MSF is expecting that having the workgroup to oversee pre-school and early intervention services will lead to an improvement of early childhood development and support services on the island.

“Having these services under ECDA will give the agency a holistic view of the learning and developmental needs of all children under the age of seven,” MSF said.

Mr Ibrahim said, “These initiatives under the Third Enabling Masterplan affirm our commitment towards fostering a caring and inclusive Singapore.”

Group support officer at NTUC First Campus, Mrs Phoon Chew Ping, said that the integration – of having pre-school learning and developmental needs managed by the same agency – will be beneficial as programmes can be better focused on the needs of each child.

“That’s how we feel it works for us. We look at the child, that’s why we call it the child support model. Whether the child needs financial support, social support, learning support, we will pull it together,” she said.