Shaping and Raising the Standards of Future Early Childhood Education
Chee Ling Pua, the CEO of Kolej Dika has a great vision for the early childhood and special education field in Malaysia. At the helm of one of the thriving early childhood education (ECE) institutions in the country, she is focused on shaping and raising the standards of future early childhood educators.
The key strategy towards that aim has been the focus of Kolej Dika since the beginning. It is committed to engaging highly qualified lecturers and providing industry relevant academic programmes. “It is very important to me that we prepare our students to do well in the industry. We facilitate this outcome through our Diploma and Degree programmes.”
The comprehensive academic programmes with its emphasis on practical placement that is offered at Kolej Dika is one of strategies of its success. Its curriculum is specially designed to emphasise on the professional development of the students. Also, their academic programmes are constantly reviewed to ensure its relevance to its industry. This is achieved by being in touch with the primary industry players to acquire practical feedback.
A majority of these industry players are select kindergartens where Dika students get their practical training. Here, students not only are kept abreast with the current practices in early childhood education, they also get the opportunity to experience teaching young children with the integrated modules learnt at Kolej Dika.
Kolej Dika’s other competitive edge is its academic staff. One of the distinct qualities of the pro-grammes offered at this college is in the way it is delivered. This is owed to the adept lecturers who don’t only instill knowledge but also set the bar high by challenging their students.
“Our lecturers are also very passionate about what they are teaching. They are constantly engaging with each other to ensure what they teach are current. The criteria to become a Dika lecturer are expectedly high. They must have at least five years of working experience. Lecturers are also predominantly Masters and Bachelors degrees holders. Mo st of the lecturers at Kolej Dika are also invested in the development of early childhood education in Malaysia.
As much as Kolej Dika leverages on the talent pool in the local front, it appreciates the expertise offered by more matured industries internationally. This is the reason Dika forged partnerships with four international institutions in New Zealand, United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore in order to give their students the exposure they need to fare in the competitive international market. Through its degree programme, students are given the option to study with an international partner in order to gain knowledge and experience of teaching trends at the international level.
“I have been seeking to collaborate with an international partner to offer a 3 + 0 programme at Dika to provide students with a professional education with international exposure in Malaysia.”
“As it turns out, this will be happening soon as Kolej Dika will be introducing a 3 + 0 degree in ECE programme partnering with NZTC. The course content and assessment will be set by NZTC. Diploma graduates from Kolej Dika are exempted for Year 1 and will proceed to Year 2 of the 3 + 0 degree pro-gramme. “
“This is a first for NZTC, to be partnering with a Malaysian institution in ECE. Dika has the biggest cohort in ECE of 320 active students, which is a good arrangement for NZTC. We are looking at a cohort of 25 students for the first intake.”
Another academic programme that is in the pipeline is the Diploma in Business programme. It is meant to complement the primary programmes offered. Students can pick it up as an elective to enhance their knowledge in setting a business in ECE. Moving forward, Dika is also looking to offer degree programmes in business, Special Education as well as Masters in ECE.
There is a great deal of opportunity and room for growth for Kolej Dika. In three years, Kolej Dika aspires to be located in full-facility campus where its focus will remain on the positive growth of student performance and diverse academic programmes.
According to Pua, there is more that can be done for ECE. Parents and the community at large should be driving the industry. They are the one with control. If you compare ECE in on the international front, high standards are set for educators in ECE. In countries such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand, to be an educator in ECE is a coveted position. “The whole paradigm needs to shift and then only we will see the industry transform here. If the society doesn’t see it, it will be a challenge.”
However, there have been a lot of positive changes in the ECE industry in Malaysia, which shows it is moving in the right direction. The National Educational Blueprint acknowledges and emphasises the importance of ECE. The Government has enforced for Diploma in Early Childhood be the minimum requirement for teachers in kindergarten. In fact they also intend to move up the enrolment of students from 6 years to 4 years old.
With the advent changes and awareness of early education, Kolej Dika has set a benchmark in the Early Childhood Education field. It is focused on continuously innovating to best prepare students for the real world and train early childhood educators with the knowledge, expertise and attitude to meet the changing dynamics of educating young children.