Friday, November 16, 2007

Educating the very young

Children at Pusat Anak Permata Negara (Permata) in Chini Timur 3, Pekan, have shown progress since the start of the centre's childhood education programme seven months ago. Friday November 16, 2007
Educating the very young

CHILDREN at Pusat Anak Permata Negara (Permata) in Chini Timur 3, Pekan, have shown progress since the start of the centre's childhood education programme seven months ago.

Permata policy working committee chairman Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor said a preliminary study carried out by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris indicated that children involved in the programme showed encouraging growth in self-confidence, communication and better understanding in Mathematics and Science subjects.

“We are indeed moving to the right direction,” said Rosmah, who is wife of Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

There are five Permata centres operating under a pilot project and the biggest is in Chini Timur 3.

Well organised: View of the centre in Pekan.
It is also the first centre with its own building and providing early childhood education to 41 toddlers.

It was officially opened by Najib on Nov 11 and among those present were Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob and Felda chairman Tan Sri Mohd Yusoff Nor.

Other Permata centres are in Bandar Baru Felda Mempaga 3, Kepala Batas, Putrajaya and Subang Jaya.

Rosmah said there were 125 children between the ages of one and five in the programme nationwide and 10 more centres would be set up to house another 300 children.

Useful facilities: A wooden playhouse built for children at the centre.
“The centres will be in Johor, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Perak, Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak.

“Centres in Malacca, Johor, Kelantan, Terengganu and Perlis will be operational by end of this month while the rest will commence before April next year,” she added.

She reminded parents that Permata centres were established not to replace the roles and duties of parents as the close relationship fostered between a mother and child was critical in moulding the child’s personality and character.

In view of this, Permata made it compulsory for parents to participate in activities at the centres for at least an hour a week, she said.

Inviting: Interior view of the centre.
“To date, the response of parents has been good and I hope they will continue to show such support,” Rosmah said.

At the centres, the children were taught to eat and bathe on their own, share toys, sleep at certain hours and encouraged to speak up or tell stories, she added.

Parents must reciprocate by encouraging them to do the same at home and try not to feed them or reprimand them if they asked too many questions, she said.

Najib, in his speech, said the Government would consider increasing the number of Permata centres if the programme proved effective in meeting its objective of providing children's education during their first three years.

He said that only 1% of children aged up to three received education, which meant that Malaysians had a lot of catching up to do to facilitate the process that was essential in moulding children to become useful citizens.

The figure was very low compared to developed countries such as Britain where more than 20% of those under three obtained education, while in South Korea, 2005 statistics showed that 20% of children under three and 68% of those between three and six received education, he added.

Speaking to reporters later, Najib said between RM200,000 and RM300,000 was spent annually to run the centres, adding that the success of the programme was largely due to the quality of the teachers who were either diploma or degree holders in related fields.

The teacher-student ratio was one to five, he added.