Preschool educators under pressure to meet deadline

Schools such as these would have to ensure they have proper qualified educators for preschoolers. — Malay Mail pic
Schools such as these would have to ensure they have proper qualified educators for preschoolers. — Malay Mail pic

PETALING JAYA, Nov 5 — For preschool educators, having to secure a paper qualification — the least being a diploma — is unrealistic.

“Educators are under pressure to get the required qualification before 2020,” said Rozita Kamil, president of the Kindergartens and Daycare Educators Association of Malaysia.

Lauding the policy for all preschool educators to have at least a diploma certificate, Rozita said the timeframe set was unachievable.

Citing financial reasons and even time management as issues, Rozita said the appropriate timeframe should be 10 years instead of five, since the policy was announced in 2016.

“We welcome the policy as daycare school educators in the country are well behind many developed nations.

“The qualification would help with their proficiency in handling children and improving their wages.

“However, the timeframe for preschools — from 2016 to 2020 — is too soon. We can get it done in 10 years, not half that period.”

She is now focusing on veteran educators, many of whom have worked in kindergartens for more than a decade, to be certified.

“However, it will be tough as they have families and other commitments to fulfil. Furthermore, they only earn on average RM1,000.

“It would be hard for them to continue their studies as many of them cannot afford it.

“We also wish the government would review the policy to include more incentives to allow educators to take the courses without putting too much pressure or financial burden on them,’’ she said.

Rozita, who has been in the business since 1990, said the early education courses today were more robust and holistic.

“Now, many colleges and universities offer early childhood education courses, from diploma to masters and even doctorate degrees. However, the price for the courses varies but more than any educator can afford.

“While some of the more renowned and financially capable kindergartens operators have sent their employees for such courses, the majority are not able to sign up,” she said.

Rozita agrees with the paper qualification requirement.

“It is also important for the teachers to understand how to deal with the needs and social dynamics of children under their care. This is indeed the way forward for modern daycare and preschools,” she said.

Norsheila Abdullah, president of the Association of Registered Child Care Providers Malaysia, also applauded the move for a diploma requirement, but wondered whether graduates could be properly paid.

“We need such requirements to move forward as an industry, but the question remains whether operators are able to meet the average salary for diploma holders.

“On average, they are paid RM1,300, however, there are operators who can barely meet the minimum wage salary of RM1,000.

Acknowledging the requirement for paper qualification was long overdue, preschool employers believe the move would see the industry move ahead and also enhance its credibility and image.

Anisah Ahmad, 51, who owns three preschools — Rose and Bees Childcare Centre (Kinrara), Tulips Tots Childcare Centre (Shah Alam) and Taska Aina Sabrina (Puchong) — said she was delighted to hear the push for more qualified and well-educated caretakers within the system.

“A well-trained educator is much needed within the industry, however, they must be exposed and informed of what the job requires from them.

“The reality is that what they learn is not entirely reflected within a classroom or a childcare centre,’’ she said.

“Minimum wage puts caretaker salary at RM1,000 and those with diploma starting out at RM1,300 on average. Childcare services charge RM100 for children under two and RM450 for above.

“It would an uncomfortable subject to raise with parents each time we bring up the issue of higher cost, but it will be inevitable,’’ she said.

Suryati Jaafar, 41, who runs Abatha Genius Kids Centre in Puncak Alam, said the move is much needed by the industry as a means to raise its image and credibility as an educational institution.

“This is the way forward for us to professionalise the industry and improve public perception and confidence.”

She also hopes the higher standards would attract more competent candidates.

On the 2020 deadline, Suryati said it made sense.

“It was supposed to be this year but they extended it to 2020 to give more time. It is understandable to accommodate teachers who are still pursuing the subject in learning institutions,” she said.

Datuk Hashim Ibrahim, 55, who runs Pucuk Emas Sdn Bhd which run 30 preschools nationwide, said the 2020 timeline is more than enough and should not be extended.

“The move is a necessity and we hope educators have taken the chance to meet the requirements by 2020.

“Abroad, early childhood education is serious business and educators are even paid as much as doctors or even lawyers.

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