I wanted to write this article for a long time but I just did not have the heart or courage to relive the event. However, there must be a voice for our children. In July 2013, a 51-year-old childcare teacher was arrested because a video of her dragging a 3-year-old boy was shown on youtube.com and the video went viral. Due to her abusive actions, the little boy suffered a broken shin. The school involved was a well-known pre-school called NTUC My First Skool.
I have 2 sons ages 2 and 5, thus I know how difficult it is to take care of little children especially when they are active and disobedient. Nonetheless, I could not comprehend what triggered the teacher to drag the boy across the classroom. Was he so naughty and non-compliant that she had to use such force on a 3-year-old boy?
The alleged abuse happened on 5th July 2013 at the NTUC My First Skool Childcare Centre in Toa Payoh. I read the article online with fear and panic. I also researched and found that the teacher-to-student ration released by The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) showed that the 3-year-boy was in class with 11 other children. For his age, the teacher-to-student ratio was 1:12.
I am not speaking on behalf of the teacher but 12 energetic children can be quite a handful. However, the 51-year-old teacher should know much better because she was a trained childcare provider and abusing a child would not get her anywhere. In my own opinion, the teacher-to-children ratio of 1:12 might be a little too much for one teacher to handle. The proper and fair teacher to student ratio should be 1 teacher handling 8 students in a pre-school class.
Obviously in this case, the teacher had been charged in Court. However, I envision that MSF should review on the teacher-to-student ratio. I have 2 year old son. He goes to school and he follows the teacher around the whole day. I believe Teacher Susan will be irritated by him but she loves him dearly and goes around telling everyone that this little boy follows her everywhere.
In my son’s pre-school, there are 2 teachers to a class of 12 students and I think this ratio is fair because children at the age 2 to 3 years old might have some difficulty comprehending or listening to instructions. The teacher might have asked them to sit and form a circle to play games or listen to a story but there would be one or two children who would wonder off.
I used to be a relief teacher before I left for post-graduate studies at a top primary SAP school. I was asked to teach Physical Education or PE to a group of 7-year-olds. Happily, I changed into my PE outfit and went to class. They listened and the class of 7-year-olds formed two rows, held hands with their buddies and we marched on to the field. We did some simple warm-up exercises and played some games. After about 15 minutes, the students went berserk and ran around the school. The canteen aunties and I ran after the children and you could imagine how chaotic the situation was. I was mortified and after we rounded up the children, I told them that the PE lesson was over and they had to go back to class.
I was so glad to go back to my 11-year-olds, who listened and understood my instructions though they could be quite annoying at times. They behave like young adults and would make passing remarks such as, “Teacher, why are you wearing a long skirt today?” and “Teacher, why didn’t you become an air-stewardess?” I found the 2nd question quite flattering though. When the time came for me to leave the 11-year-olds, they even bought me an expensive pen as a present.
Being a teacher, you mold and shape the lives of your students. They listen, learn and mimic your actions, especially the younger children. Therefore, if you are not ready to work with young children for a long time, then I implore that you do not attend classes to be certified as a pre-school teacher. After such an awful incident, I hope that MSF has taken action to provide more subsidies to childcare centres and pre-schools to reduce the teacher-to-student ratio. Schools should be advised to employ more teaching assistants to help the teachers take care of the children. In this way, the teacher will have more time to engage with the children and impart more knowledge to the children. At my sons’ pre-school, I am seeing the employment of more teaching assistants and that is a good sign that improvements have been made.
The children are our future and Singapore has a very low birth-rate, thus our children should be treated with due diligence and care. When a parent hands over his or her child to the childcare centre or pre-school, they hope that the school can and will take good care of their children so that they can focus on their work and not worry so much about childcare. This is a serious matter and I certainly hope MSF has already resolved the matter and put all measures in place since it happened so long ago.