Principals, teachers and supervisors from Catholic kindergartens gather for this first-time meeting with one another and with Archbishop Nicholas Chia, to share and discuss challenges they face in running kindergartens.

SINGAPORE – On Jul 23, principals, teachers and a few supervisors from 12 of the 19 Catholic kindergartens gathered for the first time to meet with Archbishop Nicholas Chia and to get to know one another and share the challenges they face.

Also presenting at this meeting were Christina Ying and Julie Ong who are both Montessori trained kindergarten educators and pioneers in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a way of leading young children to God.

Archbishop Chia welcomed the 24 kindergarten educators and stressed the importance of pre-school education today. He explained that on the one hand we have affluent Singaporeans who have little time for their children. These children who come from small families often lack social skills. On the other hand, at the other end of the spectrum, he said, there are children at risk in families where parents have become recently unemployed or are single-parent families. Archbishop Chia said that these early childhood educators are VIPs in the education family as they are dealing with children in their most formative years.

Christina Ying and Julie Ong spoke passionately about ‘protecting’ the spirituality of the child which can be quite easily crushed in the rush to get through a great deal of reading and writing skills, leaving little time for wonder and quiet. For the pre-school child, the capacity for wonder is even more powerful than for many of us adults who have become jaded by routine and daily grind. If we want children to relate to the spiritual and have a warm and loving relationship with God, they need time to wonder at creation, wonder at themselves and spend time with friends. The same of course is true in the family, not only in kindergarten.

In the latter part of the afternoon principals, supervisors and teachers discussed the challenges they are facing today in running kindergartens.

One challenge all agreed they faced was the ability to communicate the message of the love of God to children of different faiths in a way that is appropriate and sensitive. Another challenge was to recruit teachers who could support the Catholic ethos of the kindergarten. The principals called for more gatherings of this type where they could share their ‘best practices’ and support each other.

During the afternoon, resources were displayed and made available from Catholic bookshops, the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools (ACCS) and the Singapore Pastoral Institute.

The event was organised by ACCS.

By Wendy Louis