Speech by Ms Margaret Thevarakom, SIF Volunteer Cooperation Programme Director, at the Enhancing Quality in Early Childhood Education and Fostering the Love to Learn Dialogue and Networking Session in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Singapore International Volunteers,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning and thank you for joining us at the “Enhancing Quality in Early Childhood Education and Fostering the Love to Learn” Dialogue and Networking Session - a collaborative effort by the Singapore International Foundation (SIF), Pratham Education Foundation (Pratham) and Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in Mumbai, Maharashtra. We extend our thanks also to Pratham for hosting this morning’s dialogue session.

It is our hope that this dialogue and networking session will serve to enable our Indian and Singaporean professionals in Early Childhood Education (ECE) to promote cross country learning, share ideas, build new friendships, be connected, and continue to stay connected.

This year marks 20 years of friendship between the SIF and India. We have been collaborating on various initiatives in cities such as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. With the support of our vibrant community of Singapore International Volunteers (SIVs) – who are working professionals holding specialised skills such as doctors, nurses, healthcare educators and whose expertise and resources contribute to positive and sustainable development in communities overseas – our work in India has primarily focused on education and healthcare. Sustainability is a core consideration in all our projects. This is the reason why the SIF has also focused on capacity-building projects based on our belief that if you train the trainers, the skills and know-how can then trickle down to many others, multiplying its benefits to more people within communities.

In India, the most recent healthcare project inked with the Government of Tamil Nadu comprised SIF extending our specialists volunteers - doctors and nurses, to help address infection related infant mortality at Chengalpattu Medical College and Hospital (CMCH). Following this four-year engagement between 2009 and 2013, the hospital has recorded better clinical outcomes. It registered a 15% reduction in infection-related infant mortality as a result of improved respiratory management practices and strengthened infection control standards. CMCH is now the preferred referral centre in the larger Kancheepuram district for new-born babies suffering from life-threatening conditions. It has also begun to receive referrals from private hospitals.

An example of an education-based project was one concluded in Kolkata, West Bengal in 2011, with partners AHEAD Rehabilitation and Research Institute for Mentally Challenged Children. The project was a collaboration with AHEAD to provide specialised education and vocational training to its staff. In a series of six workshops from June 2008, SIF volunteers helped enhance the knowledge and skills of AHEAD’s teaching and rehabilitative staff. The workshops covered subjects such as understanding autism, developing personalised teaching plans, and creating a culture of continuous learning. The workshops have benefitted 14 AHEAD staff, who in turn have been able to provide better services for the school’s 44 students. This was the SIF’s first project to enhance special education services in India.

These are also examples of how SIF’s journey has seen us gain many new insights, through each of our various international collaborations and partnerships. Leveraging on complementary strengths, we have learnt along the way, how to adapt and innovate new ways in addressing new challenges.

Today, we hope to share and contribute our experience of ECE with India. Our expertise and experience in this area was developed in partnership through a collaborative project with Myanmar. Launched in 2004, SIF concluded our 10-year training-of-trainers Early Childhood Care & Development (ECCD) project with the Government of Myanmar’s Department of Social Welfare. This project inspired cross country knowledge sharing between the ECE fraternities in Myanmar and Singapore and raised the professional standards of Myanmar’s Early Childhood Education sector nationwide. The project also saw the launch of an ECCD Resource Book which has been published in both Myanmar and English languages. The book has reached to more than 36,000 preschool teachers and more than 360,000 Myanmar children across the country.

With the success of this project in Myanmar, we hope to bring across and share what we have learnt with our Indian ECE educators and professionals. With this collaboration with our Indian partners, we are proud to have brought together so many Indian and Singaporean professionals and organisations committed to sharing their knowledge, expertise, skills and resources toward a common goal - making a positive and sustainable difference to India’s ECE system.

At SIF, we firmly believe in harnessing the power of such friendships to create positive change. And this very effort - bringing together institutions and people with the best skills and resources to build friendships and do good - is what we at SIF do best. Our programmes bring people together to share ideas, skills and resources to effect real change in areas such as healthcare, education, the environment, arts and culture, as well as livelihood and business.

We are most keen to continue to deepen our relationship with you, our close friend and partner – India, and we look forward to the many new friendships to be formed between the peoples of our two countries.

 

 

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