Early Childhood Education for a Brighter Future

The culmination of a decade of collaboration between Singapore and Myanmar educators & experts - a resource book containing insights and knowledge exchanged over the years in early childhood education - was launched on 25 March 2015.

Ms Margaret Thevarakom, Director, International Volunteerism, presenting the Resource Book to a Preschool Principal in Yangon. The book will be distributed to over 3,000 preschools across the country.

Through a ten-year collaboration from 1994 to 2015 the SIF has, together with its Myanmar partner the Department of Social Welfare (DSW), enabled knowledge sharing between Singapore and Myanmar preschool educators to enhance the professional development of early childhood education in the local community. The programme has seen Singapore volunteers conducting training programmes for Myanmar trainees, who in turn have gone on to train over 13,000 preschool teachers and parents of preschool children. The programme also strengthened available infrastructure, refurbishing and setting up of two resource centres to make accessible resources to develop low-cost teaching tools.

On 25 March 2015, the cross-cultural collaboration bore yet another fruit of labour - The Early Childhood Care & Development Resource Book. Published in Myanmar and English languages, the book was launched in Nay Pyi Taw. The book covers a wide range of early childhood education topics and provides lesson plans which have been tried and tested by the Myanmar trainers. The book is estimated to equip more than 36,000 preschool teachers and benefit over 360,000 children across the country.

Over the 10 years of close partnership, many friendships were forged. Shared Ms Margaret Thevarakom, Director, International Volunteerism: “I have personally been involved in this project for many years and continue to be heartened by the friendships, trust and partnerships that we have forged through the years. I wish to share an experience that has touched me deeply.

In 2008, when Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar and wreaked so much devastation, our partner DSW was appointed one of the lead agencies to coordinate overseas aid efforts. I was humbled by the hard work and commitment they demonstrated to tackle this huge catastrophe. For many months, some of the key DSW leaders were engaged in the post-Nargis efforts. Yet their commitment to furthering ECCD never waivered. In 2009, we set up the resource centres and conducted the National Seminar on ECCD. I was amazed, deeply moved and filled with pride to call them my partners and friends.”

Dr Khoo Kim Choo, Singapore International Volunteer team lead added: “Being involved in this project has allowed me to understand Myanmar as a country. The trainees have been very generous in sharing their culture and bringing their local know-how to the table, giving me the valuable opportunity to make dear friends along the way. Working in a different country has also taught me to be more mindful and learn to appreciate that people learn in different ways. My experience with the project also affirms the belief that in order for the training to be effective; one not only needs to have the required knowledge, but also to have a good understanding of the local environment in order to integrate them for the benefit of the preschool teachers and children.”

Singapore and Myanmar early childhood educators at the ECCD Resource Centre.

Trainee Daw Thinn Thinn Sein from the Dharma School Foundation shared how inspired she was by the trainers’ commitment and dedication to livening up preschool classrooms. During the project, she worked closely with the SIF team to develop the resource centre in Preschool Number 1 to become a reference point for other preschools in Yangon. The experience allowed her to see first-hand the transformation of the school and the impact it had on the children. She has today successfully conducted over 50 training sessions, cascading the learning to over 300 preschool principals and teachers.

The SIF thanks each and every person who contributed every step of the way to this amazing journey of cross-cultural learning and friendship – all to enhance the standard of education for children in Myanmar, to further our shared vision of a better future.

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