Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what is the current percentage of preschools that provide the Development Support-Learning Support programmes for children with special needs; (b) what is the current percentage of preschools that provide the Inclusive Support Programme to integrate early childhood and early intervention services at preschools for children aged 3 to 6, who require medium levels of early intervention support; and (c) how are preschools equipped to provide timely and systematic identification of developmental needs of children.
Mr Masagos Zulkifli B M M: The Development Support – Learning Support (DS-LS) programme provides support to children with developmental needs who require low levels of early intervention (EI) support in preschools. In 2021, about 650 preschools, which enroll over 40% of preschoolers aged five to six, offered the DS-LS programme. This is almost double the 350 preschools that offered the programme in 2017.
The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) is working closely with preschool operators and regional DS-LS providers to make the DS-LS programme available at more preschools. ECDA targets for the DS-LS programme to be made available at preschools covering 60% of preschoolers by 2025, and 80% in steady-state.
Arising from the recommendations of the Inclusive Preschool Workgroup (IPWG), ECDA launched a new Inclusive Support Programme (InSP) pilot in October 2021 to integrate the provision of EI and early childhood (EC) services at preschools for children aged three to six who require medium levels of EI support. To date, the pilot has started in six preschools, and is on track to be rolled out to the last preschool by June 2022. ECDA is commissioning an evaluation study to review the effectiveness of the InSP pilot and to assess the feasibility of scaling up the InSP in the future.
Over the years, the Government has strengthened support at various touchpoints to enable more timely and systematic identification of children with developmental needs. During health screenings and medical check-ups, healthcare professionals may detect delays in the child’s development. In such cases, the child will be referred to paediatricians for further diagnosis of developmental concerns. Parents are encouraged to refer to the developmental milestones in the Health Promotion Board’s Child Health Booklet as reference points, and take their children for regular childhood developmental screenings at General Practitioner (GP) clinics or polyclinics.
ECDA also works with the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) and other training institutes to equip EC educators with the skills to identify and support children with developmental needs. ECDA has also recently introduced a new ‘Inclusion Coordinator (ICO)’ role in preschools. Serving as another key touchpoint to support early detection and timely intervention, ICOs will work with their fellow EC educators to flag children with potential developmental needs for further assessment, and refer EC educators and parents to relevant EI resources and services. Training for ICOs is being rolled out and ECDA aims to have an ICO appointed in every preschool before the end of 2023.
Ministry of Social and Family Development
18 February 2022