Pilot programme at NTUC’s My First Skool enhances learning through the arts in partnership with National Arts Council

May 05, 2017

Teaching artists and teachers co-develop arts content and lesson plans for pre-schoolers

NTUC’s My First Skool (MFS) announced its partnership with the National Arts Council (NAC) in the creation and development of a high quality yet affordable arts education programme in a pre-school setting, at the official opening of its centre at Blk 119 Edgefield Plains today. Named “Holistic Education through the ARTS” (heARTS), the programme which has been piloted at this new centre since July last year, offers children varied opportunities for learning through the arts. The centre, which can take in 240 children, is one of a growing number of large childcare centres managed by NTUC First Campus (NFC).

Believing that quality arts experiences in the early years help to develop creative individuals from a young age, MFS initiated this partnership to advocate the impact and value of an arts education at pre-school level.  This was achieved with NAC’s support in the following ways:

  • Levelling up teachers’ professionalism to provide skills and knowledge in planning and delivering quality arts-based lessons.
  • Working with artists as co-teachers to facilitate and guide children in class on various art forms.
  • Engaging parents on the impact and value of arts education in their child’s learning.

Mr Kenneth Kwok, Director of Arts & Youth and Strategic Planning, National Arts Council said, “While NAC has been supporting various artist partnerships with schools and kindergartens, this is a very special project because the collaboration began even before the centre opened. This created the opportunity for artists and teachers to engage in more in-depth preparation and to build a truly meaningful learning experience for the children from the ground up. We hope to continue working with more artists and institutional partners to extend the reach of such rich arts education experiences to even more children.”

Empowering teachers in an arts-based education approach

With an arts-based approach in mind, this new centre in Edgefield Plains was specially designed and equipped to facilitate teaching and learning in the arts. Key centre features such as workshop spaces, courtyards in between classrooms and a gallery to showcase children’s artworks, create an inspiring environment for free thinking and creativity.

More importantly, this collaboration sees early childhood-trained teaching artists, selected by the NAC, training and mentoring teachers over a sustained period of time. Taking reference from a database of arts-related programmes that are mapped against the Ministry of Education (MOE)’s Nurturing Early Learners (NEL) framework, both the artists and teachers work closely together to co-develop arts content and lesson plans, to enhance and support children’s learning.

The support from artists not only equips pre-school teachers with arts knowledge and skills, but also empowers them with confidence to develop their own lesson plans, in consultation with the teaching artists. Beyond attending training workshops, teachers have the opportunity to benefit from professional development, offering greater sustainability to this arts-based approach. Since the start of the pilot programme, 24 teachers have been trained.

Increasing quality of arts education for pre-schoolers

Other than training teachers, this pilot programme seeks to study a cohort of children through their six years of pre-school. This centre offers opportunities for children to experience learning through arts following the 3 Es approach– Exposure, Experience and Expression. Children of all levels are exposed to myriad art genres appropriate for their age group, such as singing, dancing, storytelling, art and music making while they explore various curriculum themes and academic subjects. Teachers and artists co-teach children and get them to experience arts as part of their daily routine, classroom activities and core lessons.

These activities not only foster cohesiveness among teachers and children in the classrooms, it also creates value in learning with the children being able to showcase their creativity and express themselves freely through various art genres. Some 150 MFS children from the centre have since benefited from this programme.

Shared Ms Thian Ai Ling, Deputy General Manager of MFS, “Like the National Arts Council, My First Skool strongly believes in the value of the arts for the holistic development of our young children. As we become increasingly interconnected in a changing world, it is important to continually invest in arts and culture to the benefit of more open, inclusive and imaginative societies. Through this first and unique yet meaningful partnership, with a strong focus on teachers’ professional development and co-creation of arts-related learning and activities, our teachers become more confident and skilful, and our children in turn can be nurtured to showcase their innovation and creativity. We believe this is a first step to embedding the love and understanding of the Arts in our very young children, leading to a more gracious, expressive and collaborative society.”

Partnering parents in an arts-based learning journey

Beyond the centre, this partnership programme reaches out to engage parents in their child’s learning journey, with centre-parent partnerships being key to ensuring a holistic arts education for children. Through workshops for both parents and children, children benefit from a continuum of learning from school to home as parents get to learn art activities they can do with their child at home.

The programme has since garnered positive feedback from parents and teachers. Teachers observed that children have shown higher engagement levels in class and are able to meet the desired learning objectives. Parents too share that their children enjoy learning and are more expressive in their artworks.

Moving forward, MFS plans to engage more parents and the larger community to appreciate the value of learning through arts. Plans are in the pipeline as well for MFS at Edgefield Plains to be a showcase centre for teachers’ professional development in arts and a quality arts education provider for young children for other MFS centres within its network of 129 centres.