Policies and Initiatives for Preschool Children from Disadvantaged Environments and Preschool Children with Disabilities in Singapore
Competence is defined as “a pattern of effective adaptation in the environment, either broadly defined in terms of reasonable success with major developmental tasks expected for a person of a given age and gender in the context of his or her culture, society, and time, or more narrowly defined in terms of specific domains of achievement” (Masten and Coatsworth, The development of competence in favorable and unfavorable environments: Lessons from research on successful children. Am Psychol 53, 1999, p. 206). Employing this definition, competence can mean examining quite different aspects of children at different levels of development. Aspects of competence identified by Masten and Coatsworth (The development of competence in favorable and unfavorable environments: Lessons from research on successful children. Am Psychol 53:205–220, 1999) for schoolchildren include school adjustment (e.g. attendance, conduct), academic achievement (e.g. learning to read, doing arithmetic), getting along with peers (e.g. acceptance, making friends) and rule-governed conduct (e.g. following rules of social for moral behaviour and prosocial conduct).
Within Singapore, competence among preschool children has been defined as the key stage outcomes of preschool education (Ministry of Education, Nurturing early learners. A curriculum framework for kindergartens in Singapore: a guide for parents. MOE. https://www.moe.gov.sg/docs/default-source/document/education/preschool/files/kindergarten-curriculum-frameworkguide-for-parents.pdf , 2012). These include a sense of being comfortable and happy with themselves; knowing what is right and what is wrong; being willing to share and take turns with others; being able to relate to others; and loving their families, friends, teachers and school which are foundational in the development of social relationships. In addition, the academic foundations of being curious and able to explore, being able to listen and speak with understanding and having developed physical co-ordination and healthy habits and participated in and enjoyed a variety of arts experiences have been emphasised.
Yet, these key stage outcomes are not achieved by every child, and children who likely have difficulties achieving these aspects of competencies upon entry into primary education are often identified as potentially benefitting from some form of early intervention. Who are these children? What is currently known about how best to support the development of their competencies? What are the directions forward? This chapter seeks to address the above questions within the context of international research and applying them against that of Singapore.
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