Curious to know how Connecticut addresses early childhood development, delegates from the government of Singapore toured several facilities in Norwalk on July 24, 2007, as guests of the Commission on Children.
Delegates from Singapore's Ministry of Community Development, Youth, and Sports began the day at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children, where they were greeted by Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia, state Senator Bob Duff of Norwalk, and Commission Executive Director Elaine Zimmerman.
Commission Chair Emerita Laura Lee Simon explained the Commission's mission and history. Janice Gruendel, Gov. M. Jodi Rell's senior advisor on early childhood, gave an overview of the state's Ready by 5 & Fine by 9 by Nine program.
After a tour of the museum, the group went to Norwalk Community College for a look at NCC's Early Childhood Lab School, which gives students hands-on experience in child care: Three classrooms there serve 42 children, ranging in age from six months to five years.
Also on the tour was Room to Grow, a full-day
grant-funded preschool at St. Thomas the Apostle School.
After lunch, the delegates heard from Patti Keckeisen, past director of the Danbury site of the Parent Leadership Training Institute, a Commission initiative. She explained how PLTI gives parents the skills to participate more in local and state government, always with an eye toward improving services for children.
That participation can range from running for the Board of Education or some other office to simply gathering the courage to attend a PTA meeting or speak to a teacher, she said.
Tan Hwee Seh, coordinating director of the Family Development Group of the Ministry, seemed most impressed by the age-appropriate activities at the NCC school and Stepping Stones. "I think it's refreshing," she told the Advocate newspaper of Stamford. "You're looking at the holistic development of the child. It's not just academically, but the whole child. You're teaching the child to play and to develop values."
Another delegate, Richard Tan Kok Tong,
told the Advocate that Singapore's population is shrinking,
with the typical household having an average of 1.26 children. The
number is low, he said, because a lack of support systems like the
ones highlighted on the tour deters couples from having more
"In Singapore, we suspect it's the stress of working in an urban environment and maybe the lack of good programs for child care and good facilities to give the parents the confidence and the comfort of having children looked after when they go to work," Tong said.
"We learned that Connecticut, Norwalk in particular, has been very successful in providing these programs."