THREE two-year-olds are on the floor, playing with pots, pans and cutlery, while two adults sit close by watching over them.
This is the scene at a day care facility set up by Institute CECE, a higher education institution specialising in early childhood education programmes.
When the institute moved to its new, purpose-built premises in Setapak, Selangor, last year it was a culmination of a 30-year dream. It also marked the beginning of a new chapter – the provision of day care and preschool education for children.
Institute CECE chief executive officer Dr Frances Lee is proud of the new building as it is a representation of the Institute’s mission to promote quality early childhood education.
After years of “squatting” in Wanita MCA’s Multi-purpose Training Centre in Kuala Lumpur, CECE finally shifted to the three-storey RM2mil complex opened by MCA president Datuk Seri Ling Liong Sik in May last year.
The Institute has grown from a Wanita MCA project to a full-fledged institution of higher learning. As far back as the 1970s the organisation was providing training to preschool teachers at a time when not many realised the need for it.
“CECE's goal is to ensure that every preschool child is taught by educators who are trained, certified and qualified,'' says Dr Lee.
Institute CECE now houses a childcare centre (nursery) and a kindergarten at its new premises, located near the Tunku Abdul Rahman College in Setapak.
Although the childcare centre and kindergarten is open to everyone, it caters for the children of staff from TAR College.
Having the centre on campus makes it easier for CECE students to do their practical, says Dr Lee.
“The shift to the new building is more than just moving from a concrete environment to a green campus. Our new premises means that we are here to stay, and also gives us scope to expand.''
The new complex has facilities for specialised training in expressive arts, visual arts, mathematics, science and computer studies, and a well-stocked library.
“ We are able to carry out a range of activities that was not possible in the past,'' says Dr Lee.
CECE uses a thematic, integrated child-centred curriculum which centres on themes rather than subjects. This is in line with the National Preschool Curriculum.
“The emphasis is on purposeful play, rather than tests and homework. Children learn through activities like cutting, pasting, drawing and painting. Although there is no formal timetable, children who go through our curriculum will be able to read, write and compute.”
Preschool coordinator Tenny Lee says babies aged four months and above are accepted in the childcare centre.
Opening hours for the childcare centre are 8am to 6pm. Fees range from RM220 (education programme for five and six year olds) to RM600 (full day care programme for children under two).
For kindergarten, parents can choose one of two sessions – 8.30am to 12.30pm or 1.30pm to 4.30pm, says Lee.
Since its establishment, CECE has awarded preschool certificates to 1,568 teachers, 31 of whom have graduated from Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia with a Bachelor's degree. There are at present 45 preschool teachers doing the ECU degree.
Dr Lee said CECE is involved in many community outreach programmes that assist in training preschool teachers in a rural setting. One such project is the training of orang asli to become qualified preschool educators.
“This initiative is in line with CECE's aim of helping the disadvantaged and deprived through education. We are also helping padi growers in Keningau, Sabah, through a similar initiative.” says Lee.
Orang asli Tijah Yok Chopil, who has graduated with a CECE certificate, is encouraging other orang asli to take up the course to become qualified preschool teachers.
Thirteen orang asli have completed the basic course and eight have gone on to the intermediate level. Their fees are sponsored by Huaren Education Foundation.
Institute CECE offers three main courses – basic, intermediate and advanced certificate. The entire programme takes about two years to complete.
The medium of instruction for the nine-month basic course is English, Bahasa Malaysia or Chinese. There are five intakes a year.
Students do the courses on a part-time basis, either through weekend classes or block training sessions held during the school holidays.
The minimum entry requirement is SPM. Fees are RM1,400 to RM1,700 for the basic course, RM2,000 to RM2,600 for the intermediate course and RM2,800 for the advanced course.
Although teaching for the intermediate course is conducted in English, students can choose to do some assignments in other languages.
“However, the advanced course is only offered in English because of the link with ECU,” says Dr Lee.
The qualification is also accepted by ECU for entry into its degree programmes.
Kindergarten teachers are not the only ones who take up the course. It is also popular with parents who want to enhance their parenting skills. This year, a record 60 preschool teachers will graduate in June with the advanced certificate, which gives them advanced standing into the Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Studies at ECU.
They receive nine credit exemptions out of a possible 25 for a three-year degree programme. The cost is about RM900 per unit and CECE provides tutorial support.
Institute CECE's official website is www.mydotcom.my/cece . For information on enrolling your child in the preschool programme, call 03-4142 6089. Those interested in acquiring a preschool qualification, call 03-4142 6362 or e-mail email@example.com