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A Journey Beyond Involvement: Redefining Parental Roles in Singapore’s Early Childhood Education

By Elizabeth Wu



In the world of Early Childhood Education (ECE), the significance of parents goes beyond just participation – they are crucial allies. Influenced by insights from the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) and thinkers like McKay, my path in ECE advocates for a vital shift in Singapore: evolving from basic parent involvement to authentic parent engagement. This isn’t just about semantics; it's about building real, two-way partnerships between families and ECE centres.


True Parent Engagement


In Singapore, the terms 'parent involvement' and 'parent engagement' are often used interchangeably, causing confusion in our ECE settings. True engagement, however, is deeper, involving parents as key players in their child’s learning journey, as highlighted by researchers like Goodall and Montgomery.


In my roles as adjunct lecturer at National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) and cofounder of Trehaus, I’ve observed firsthand the disconnect between theoretical understanding and practical implementation of parent engagement. Despite strides in professionalizing ECE, there’s still much work to be done in integrating parent engagement strategies.


Aligning Perceptions and Cultivating Genuine Connections


Differences in how teachers and parents view engagement can lead to conflicts. It’s crucial, as Lawson points out, for both sides to have a common understanding of what engagement really means. At Trehaus, we employ a co-parenting and co-teaching model, encouraging teachers and parents to work as collaborators.


The heart of real engagement lies in authentic interactions. It’s about shifting from doing things for families to doing things with them, as Ferlazzo suggests. This philosophy is embedded in our daily practices at Trehaus, ensuring our activities truly reflect a partnership between home and school.


Moving Forward: Making Parent Engagement a Reality


To truly enhance parent engagement in Singapore's ECE sector, we need to redefine and agree on what it involves. This means focusing on collaborative interactions, as championed by the NAEYC’s ethical guidelines. My experience at Trehaus has shown the positive impact of these principles in action.


I propose a dual approach: re-educating educators to actively embrace and facilitate parent engagement, and redesigning ECE spaces to support this engagement. This aligns with global best practices, ensuring a comprehensive and inclusive education for our children.


As an advocate in Early Childhood Education, I envision a future where parent engagement is a core practice in every ECE centre in Singapore. By reshaping our approach and implementing effective strategies, we can foster an environment that benefits children, parents, and educators alike.


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Ferlazzo, L. (2011). Involvement or Engagement. Educational Leadership, May, 2011.


Lawson, M. A. (2003). School-Family Relations In Context: Parent and Teacher Perceptions of Parent

Involvement. Urban Education (Beverly Hills, Calif.), 38(1), 77–133. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042085902238687


McKay, T. S. (2022). Effective family engagement policies [electronic resource] : a guide for early

childhood administrators. Routledge.


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