The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) cautioned against implementing mandatory psychological test screening for preschool educators to not exclude those with mental health conditions from entering the preschool sector.
This was in response to People's Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP) Carrie Tan, who questioned why MSF "does not currently impose" psychological screening on educators and if the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) see the value of placing a form of assessment or screening to every preschool educator or the business owners and principals who are running such centres.
Should not exclude individuals who have mental health conditions from entering the preschool sector
Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling shared that ECDA verifies all educators' professional qualifications and conducts background and reference checks.
She added that if educators are assessed to pose a risk to children's safety, they would not be allowed to enter the preschool sector as an educator.
As for mandatory psychological screening, such a screening is not done in other jurisdictions and other professions, she said.
"But I will caution against mandatory psychological screening," Sun explained, as individuals may struggle with mental health conditions, and their conditions can be managed with proper advice and medication from their doctors.
"I do not think that we should exclude these individuals who have mental health conditions if those mental health conditions are well managed from entering the preschool sector."
Potential educators also have to fill up a self-declaration form, which requires them to declare their mental health conditions if they have such conditions. If potential educators declare they have mental health conditions, they need certification from a psychiatrist to work with young children.
"I think that is the balance we have to put in place to ensure child safety while ensuring that we do not stigmatise mental health conditions in our society."
Preschool teacher remanded to IMH for examination after arrest
33-year-old preschool teacher Lin Min was charged with the ill-treatment of a child on Aug. 30, 2023.
Lin, who worked at Kinderland preschool centre in Woodlands, was dismissed by the school before her arrest.
According to charge sheets, she forced a 23-month-old girl to lie down and poured water into her mouth.
After her arrest, Lin was remanded for two weeks at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for medical examination, and was released on bail after.
Top photos via MCI/YouTube