More men becoming pre-school educators
View that the role is more suited for women is steadily being chipped away
As he sat down at the booth of pre-school operator PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots at a job fair last year, Mr See Weng Hong was filled with doubt.
After 20 years in the shipping industry, the father of two was looking to re-enter the workforce in a sector where less than 1 per cent of workers are men.
"I thought, 'Is it weird that I am here?'" Mr See, 44, recalled.
During a meeting with the principal who eventually hired him, Mr See expressed worries about his age, lack of experience and that he was a man. But once he started work on Nov 18 last year, the worries faded away.
He told The New Paper: "I walked into class and time just froze. I did not know what to do. But when the children held onto my finger, everything fell into place."
Mr See, who has an accounting background, was enrolled in a professional conversion programme in March and is now teaching at a PCF Sparkletots pre-school in Joo Chiat.
He is part of a small but growing number of men in the early childhood education sector, which is still looking to recruit amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Of the 21,000 pre-school educators here, about 160 are men.
This is up from about 130 in 2018, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) said.
However, the proportion of men enrolling in professional early childhood certificate or diploma courses remains small at 2.5 per cent, ECDA noted.
This is despite there being more than 1,900 jobs on offer in the sector, with eight in 10 for professionals, managers, executives and technicians, according to a jobs report by the Manpower Ministry this month.
One challenge in recruiting male pre-school teachers is the perception that the sector is more suited to women, said an ECDA spokesman.
Pre-school operator NTUC First Campus said it has seen an increase in male polytechnic students on internships in recent years, which could be from increased awareness and more attractive career paths.
Said a spokesman: "Though male educators do not do routine care (such as showering), they bring distinct strengths to the pre-school such as being a... positive male role model."
Mr See's decision to become a pre-school teacher came after his son, now 11, started to have learning difficulties and behavioural issues, and he was called in for counselling by his son's school almost fortnightly.
He quit his job in April last year to spend more time with him and saw progress.
Mr See said: "I felt I knew my son better... I wanted a career that would teach me to understand children and how to respond to them."
As a male pre-school teacher, Mr See sometimes raises eyebrows."As long as you are sincere, whatever misconceptions parents may have, they will slowly change. You have to earn the trust, you cannot demand it."