Uplifting children through art
Driven by her passion to provide quality early education to children from vulnerable backgrounds, Pearlyn Tan introduced visual arts to the children of My First Skool preschool centre at Block 997 Buangkok Crescent. Under her direction, children from lower income families expressed themselves more confidently, and attended school regularly. For her strong leadership, Pearlyn was conferred the Outstanding Early Childhood Leader award by the Early Childhood Development Agency in 2021.
Pearlyn Tan, Executive Principal of My First Skool at Block 997 Buangkok Crescent, received the Outstanding Early Childhood Leader award by the Early Childhood Development Agency in 2021.
Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi who once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” Pearlyn Tan sees the provision of quality early education as a key in helping children from vulnerable backgrounds achieve greater success in the later part of their lives.
To fulfill her belief, she joined NTUC First Campus’ My First Skool (MFS) in 2015.
“MFS provided me with more opportunities to reach out to children from diverse backgrounds, and to ensure that quality preschool education is accessible in the neighbourhoods,” said Pearlyn, who is now the Executive Principal at MFS preschool centre at Block 997 Buangkok Crescent.
Developing children through art
Originally based at MFS Parkway Parade preschool centre as a principal, Pearlyn was tasked to set up and lead a new preschool centre at Buangkok Crescent in July 2018.
“Visual arts was chosen because children from lower income families are likely to have lesser opportunities to engage in such experiences due to the high cost of the materials,” she said.
“Through participating in the visual arts activities, these children could express themselves through an alternative form, which in turn increased their self-confidence. They also developed the ability to take initiatives and make decisions on their choice of materials and tools.”
Pearlyn also integrated Visual Teaching Strategies in the centre’s Art Programme to further support these children in language development, as the teachers used a variety of open-ended questions to facilitate the discussions with the children.
Pearlyn’s team also works with National Gallery Singapore to promote children’s awareness and appreciation of different art pieces and art forms through virtual art tours. Her centre also collaborates with the National Art Council to expose children to music, and Sport Singapore to develop children’s gross motor skills.
In addition to helping children from low-income families develop confidence, Pearlyn regularly works with different stakeholders to provide a safe and conducive learning environment for these children. Together with the centre’s Child Enabling Executive, she helps families apply for subsidies for school fees and uniforms, and ensures the children have regular meals and attend their classes. The attendance rates of these children have improved since.
“Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’ I see the provision of quality early education as a key in helping children from vulnerable backgrounds achieve greater success in the later part of their lives.”
– Pearlyn Tan
My First Skool (Block 997 Buangkok Crescent) (2018-2021)
Overcoming the challenges caused by COVID-19
During the Circuit Breaker period in 2020, Pearlyn realised that many parents found it difficult to engage their children in learning at home.
She then led her team of teachers to plan and produce 145 pre-recorded videos to support parents in helping their children continue their learning at home on a daily basis. Pearlyn also rallied the cooks at her preschool centre to share cooking demonstrations so that the children can still enjoy healthy and nutritious food at home.
Pearlyn strongly believes in partnering with parents as they are children’s first teachers. “At MFS Buangkok Crescent, we believe that a holistic approach that caters to the needs of families is key to support the learning and development of our children,” she said.
Pearlyn’s efforts have been recognised by parents, and her centre received a high score of more than 94 per cent for its Parent Satisfaction Survey in 2020 and 2021, especially in areas such as Programme, Environment, Principal & Teachers. This is aligned with MFS’ core focus on children’s holistic development and learning, teachers’ practices, and parent partnership.
Pearlyn Tan, Executive Principal of My First Skool at Block 997 Buangkok Crescent, discusses the lesson plan with a fellow teacher.
Grooming a new generation of early childhood educators
When the Buangkok Crescent preschool centre was established in 2018, most of its teachers were new, or had little teaching experience.
To support these teachers in their professional development, Pearlyn organised classroom observations to help them identify their learning and training needs. In addition, she held curriculum meetings to equip teachers with the skills to implement the various curriculum and review teaching practices. To allow teachers to share useful art techniques with one another as the centre implemented its Art Programme, Pearlyn also held professional sharing sessions, which promoted a culture of collaborative learning and sharing among teachers and strengthened their skills.
“To be a successful leader lies in the development of new leaders. Having a new centre gave me the opportunity to identify and groom potential leaders,” said Pearlyn, who has since groomed a Deputy Centre Lead and three Lead Teachers, who are now leading their respective teams in the provision of quality care and education for young children.
“I am happy to share my skills and knowledge with my colleagues and other early childhood education leaders as we strive to uplift the quality of preschool education in Singapore. I also aspire to develop new and potential leaders in making a difference in the lives of young children in Singapore.”
For her decade of experience in early childhood education and curriculum development, as well as her strong leadership in establishing a new preschool centre with a young team of teachers, Pearlyn was conferred the Outstanding Early Childhood Leader award by the Early Childhood Development Agency in 2021.