Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cross-Cultural observations of Asian & Australian education & work behaviour in action.

For the purpose of this entry, I will write of my observations of what I have observed of the Asians (in general from countries like Malaysia, Singapore and the surrounding countries), and of Australia only.

In my experience, many Asians, and this includes Malaysians, have the incorrigible practice of looking up too much on the "western" way of doing things. When I say western, it comes to mean as the typical "causasian way" of thinking and doing things.

The general attitude as what I have observed in most asian countries are that we look down on ourselves and don't give ourselves enough credit for our accomplishments and achievements. I say that in particular as I am guilty of doing the same thing. This seems to be a particular common Asian trait, and our upbringing from Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and probably to as far as South Korea & Japan.

A friend of mine from India recently observed that most of his Australian workmates at a prestigious operating systems company had only completed their education in computing studies to undergraduate level. They are almost always surprised when he mentions that he is pursuing post-grad studies.

From my experience in Australian childcare, I was led to have the initial impression from my lecturers that there would be many qualified staff in childcare, whether in Australia or the U.K. However, what I have come to know from working in so many centres is that even finding three-year degree qualified teachers is difficult. However, there were more diploma qualified, or Cert III qualified staff. (Cert III doesn't qualify a staff to be considered as train, only the Diploma).

Many of the locals I have come to know do not show much interest in pursuing further studies. Among the other factors I have come to know is that the highest post one can move up to is to be a Centre Director, or perhaps Area Manager. Once these individuals have moved up to this post, they can no longer move up any further. Other factors I have found are low pay for long hours of work, and that many do not feel that the practical work is more important than the paper qualification.

Most Asians will prefer to complete their studies full time before commencing on their jobs, whereas in Australia, traineeship is an option openly well known & available. Most Australians would work and study at the same time. As a result of such study behaviour & patterns, many Asians who have completed their studies come to work completely inexperienced. This is true in asian countries like Singapore & Malaysia. However the reverse seems to hold true to Australians, as they seem to pay higher importance to the practical work experience than to the paper qualification.

In Malaysia, employers will hire a fresh graduate with the right qualifications and good attitude, whereas in Australia, it is the opposite. The Australian employers here prefer to overlook the lack of qualifications and hire an individual with the practical work experience.

A Malaysian friend of mine noted that perhaps where Australians prefer to try working before pursuing further education if necessary to progress, Asians in the reverse may feel that having a higher qualification, even without having the work experience may give them the edge in securing a job.

The other reason to this point is (and you will notice that if you have friends of ANY asian descent) is that ASIANS pay high regard to pursuing EDUCATION. It will be highly impossible to ever hear a South Korean/Japanese/Chinese (and it is a well known fact) that they put play before work.

Many Asians have the impression that the developed nation's way of doing things are the best and should be emulated. Until one has actually experienced life in another country, many Asians often over rate the latter's ways & culture. However, and nonetheless, this does not say that we are not able to learn some of their ways.

Among some of the admirable practices that Asian families could inculcate in their way of living is:
1) to treat children like individuals and give praise when & where it is due. Doing so will do wonders for the children's self esteem and confidence in the long term.

2) Parents should also encourage their children to find work instead of point-blank giving their children allowance when they ask for it. Encouraging children to work for their allowance, or find work when they are legally able to do so will encourage the children to appreciate the difficulty of how difficult it is to work.

It also opens the children's minds to the world outside, and the intricacies and politics of the working life. I want my children to have respect for their elders, and yet are confident to step out on their own when the time is due.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Revisiting Montessori terms.

These are the terms that you will find used by a trained Montessori teacher in a centre that fully employs the Montessori teaching method.

Work Cycle: The three hour work cycle. Define what is that.

Cycle of Activity: From taking the task from the shelf to returning it to the shelf.

Cycle of learning:
It follows the Montessori three-stage learning process.
1. The learning challenge is given; a stimulus is presented.
2. The challenge is received; the student and teacher work together to complete a task.
3. The challenge is returned; the student presents for assessment.

Stage 1: 3-6 years old (multi age classroom).

Absorbent Mind:
Children learn through their senses. The babies put things in their mouths to taste, touch and feel.

What are the SENSITIVE PERIODS for children aged 3-6 years old?
1) Sensitive Period for Language.
2) Sensitive Period for Order (Especially in young children).
3) Sensitive Period for Sensory Refinement
4) Sensitive Period for Development of Fine Motor Skills.
5) Sensitive Period for Small Objects
6) Sensitive Period for Social Behaviour.

Areas of learning:
1) Practical Life
2) Sensorial
3) Language
4) Mathematics
5) Cultural
6) Creative
- Name some of the common activities found for each area of learning.

Materials in Montessori learning:
1) The teaching & learning materials have 'inbuilt' control-of-error.
- The development of concentration is essential to normalization. How is concentration developed?
- Use of Three Period Lesson: in teaching of names & nouns.

Answers taken from Michael Olaf's website:
I recently observed a Montessori classroom for a day. I was very very impressed, but I have three questions.

A. I can give you three very incomplete answers to your perceptive questions:

1. There doesn't seem to be any opportunities for pretend play.
(1) When Dr. Montessori opened the first Children's House it was full of pretend play things. The children never played with them as long as they were allowed to do real things - i.e. cooking instead of pretending to cook. It is still true.

2. The materials don't seem to allow children to be creative.
(2) the materials teach specific things and then the creativity is incredible. Like learning how to handle a good violin and then playing music. It is not considered "creative" to use a violin as a hammer, or a bridge while playing with blocks. We consider it "creative" to learn how to use the violin properly and then create music. The same goes for the materials in a Montessori classroom.

3. Children don't seem to be interacting with another very much Any help you give me would be appreciated. Thank you very much.
(3) there is as much interaction as the children desire, but the tasks are so satisfying that, for these few hours a day, children want to master the challenges offered by them. Then they become happier and kinder—true socialization. Also, since concentration is protected above all, as all "work" is respected, children learn early on not to interrupt someone who is concentrating.

Have fun!

Senior First Aid Course completed!

Hi people... I have the cough again. SIGH. Been breaking my vocal chords the past few days. I do know that on those days that I have a cough (or impending one), I would perform poorly at work. Being a casual, that is detrimental to work performance. Well, what can I say?

Anyways, under the Australian legislation (well most of individual states will mandate it anyways), a staff in a permanent position (whether trained or untrained) should possess a First Aid qualification. Nevermind the fact that in NSW it is only for trained staff that should possess it.

I had finally completed my Senior First Aid training with St. John's Cross Association on Tuesday. It was a two day training session. Although I would like to have opted for a one day course (and a self study of 8 hours), the thought that came to me was that since I am paying the same price for whether one or two days, I might as well have a face-to-face interaction with my trainer rather than study alone without feedback from other people. Nevermind if that means I work one day less, (since I didn't work today or yesterday for that matter!).

There was a 45 Multiple Choice Question which we had to fill in and could only get 10 out of 45 questions wrong = 35 was the minimum we needed to score to receive our Statement of Attainment from the workshop!
Thankfully I passed! For the practical assessment, we were assessed using a real life scenario and bandaging procedures on a male mannequin! The first aid credentials are valid for up to three years.

Among the units we discussed and learnt about was CPR procedures, basic training with the AED machine (Automated External Defibrillator), the emergency numbers to call within Australia, Asthma action plan, Poison action plan, the emergency procedures & measures to take in the case of an individual who has just got involved in an accident, or is not breathing, and snake & poisonous creature bites.

An AED is one of those machines (similar to those electrical shocking thingamajig that you would find in an ambulance that is used to deliver an electric shock to someone whose heart has stopped breathing, or ventricular fibrillation).

We were also given some information about Anaphylaxis, which is an allergy reaction (which could be anything, but in Australia, it is predominantly nuts, eggs, seafood and pollen). Most individuals who suffer from Anaphylaxis have their own Action Plan (as in management plan) should their allergies act up.

As for Asthma sufferers, have you noticed that they use two kinds of medication? The first one is known as the Preventers (and are in Autumn coloured containers) and the second are the Relievers (which are in Winter coloured containers).

Anyways last but not least, today I finally decided to send an email to my agent to enquire about possibilities of work in Montessori centres. I am not sure what the outcome would be, or why I didn't think of that prior to this. (I should have, but it probably wasn't the right timing??). Am just crossing my fingers, and praying everything will turn out fine!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Gold Coast: Montessori Bashing

When I said that the Montessori method of education is just not popular in Australia, I didn't realise how much it would be. Most of the 'mainstream' childcare centres only state that is because its "too structured". Its funny, cause the sentiments of parents in Asia about Montessori who may not fully accept a "full on" Montessori learning program is because its would contain too much elements of play& not enough academic/structured content!

I just picked this from a websearch. Apparently a Gold Coast City Council had some idea of wanting to ban a childcare centre operator from running a kindergarten because some of the councillors consider it "too boutique". The council's city property executive co-ordinator, Brendan Madden, argued that Montessori was not 'mainstream' enough. A decision on the childcare contract will be made on Monday.

The Asians' Attitudes Towards the Importance of Education.

Asians view education as very important. That is my observation from what I have seen of my friends who come from across the globe. Malaysia, Singapore. India. South Korea. Japan. All whom I have met during my time at university in Toowoomba for the past three years.

An example would be a friend of mine, Avadhut, from India. He has observed that in India, it is very common for most young people to have had their first undergraduate/degree graduation. Many of them who come to Australia will come to pursue their postgrad studies, and rarely undergraduate studies.

A South Korean friend of mine, Claudia, who completed her undergraduate studies (she majored in Early Childhood) in Korea said that admission to universities in South Korea is extremely competitive. Koreans who have gone overseas to complete their undergraduate studies are looked down by their peers as it has been regarded that the level of studies in a foreign land is not considered as high as that of the status in Korea, as it has been the case that many of those local koreans would only go abroad to study if they could not enter local universities. Most however, would only go abroad to take up language studies (which is normally English) after they have completed their initial studies.

However the case is different for Malaysians. Many of the Malaysians who have pursued their studies abroad are normally of Chinese & Indian descent. The reason for this is due to competition with their own indigenous locals, as well as the "quota" imposed on the tertiary places in Malaysia. Also too, is the fact that many of the Malaysians who have completed their studies overseas are not keen to return to Malaysia for political reasons.

In Australia, students have the opportunity to be able to apply for government funding for their studies. The taxes for the common employee can be as high as 50% (the more you earn, the more taxes you pay!) and as such, many of the people expect much in return from the government. Another example I read recently, would be that sole parents who, once their children turn the age of 6 years, will no longer receive special parenting benefits unless they go and search for a minimum 15-hour job.

It is rare for any government in most Asian countries to provide any kind of government funding (unless you are eligible due to 'political' reasons), as well as the fact that taxes in Asian countries are very much lower.

As far as what I have observed from families in New Zealand, and Australia, even the asian parents do not feel obliged, do not have to provide for their children's education fees as many have the expectation that their children would be able to apply for funding.

Indeed, it would be the trend that most families too expect their children to work to fund themselves (for accommodation, entertainment and transportation fees).

In summary, it could be concurred that even Asians take on their current context i.e. political and ruling circumstances to provide financially for their offspring, but having just as high expectations from their children in terms of education regardless of the location

Cross Cultural Inter-Generational Gap of managing people.

Picture this scenario. Three men stood in the middle of the road to picket about something. Police cars could be seen with flashlights turned on, and the police personnel could be seen bringing these three men to the side of the road and taking down notes. If a similar situation were to happen in Malaysia, (or any part of Asia for that instance), the police would have just thrown the same three men into lock-up!

Now, let me give you another scenario. When I was at work at a childcare recently near Bondi, this is what happened when the children were having their outdoor play. One of the children was carrying a camera, and she had ventured out into the playground.
Adult D: Hei, could you pass this camera to CY? (pointing to me).
Child then proceeds to pass the camera to me.
much later....the child comes out with Adult D. She has tears in her eyes.
Adult J: Oh, I am sorry, D. I had promised the child that I was going to give her the camera to take photos today.
Adult D: (who then proceeds to talk to the child). Oh dear, I am sorry. I didn't realise that Adult. J had promised to give you the camera to use, and I had asked you to give to CY. Perhaps you could let her have it for a while, and then she'll pass it back to you later..

Now, to an Australian, that scenario may be nothing out of the ordinary. However to someone of Asian upbringing (and in an Asian country), that is something peculiarly foreign! Of course, when I look at this situation, I am actually viewing it through the lens of an Asian, rather than as someone who is brought up and understand the philosophies & mindset of the Australian upbringing.

If most Asian teachers were to face the same scenario in an Asian context, the normal practice would be that apologizing would not be found in the books. Then again, this scenario would not even happen. For one, the asian teacher would not even allow the child to hold the camera, much less apologize to the child! At least that is what I know about most Asian parents & individuals for the experience. However, I would say to the least, actually the same may apply for Australians. Depending on their age group.

An example of personal experience would be when I was out last year on a primary school practicum where the teacher (who is a single lady in her late 40s-early 50s) who manages the classroom in a style which may not seem "politically correct" to someone who may be in her early 20s. The style that this elderly lady used to manage her classroom reminds me of the way a traditional structured Asian classroom would be managed (I can attest to that, since I am Asian!).

I have had a mate from India (he's in his 30s) who had an elderly Aussie man who struck up a conversation with him wanting to know if they did the same in India, and continuing to say that that in his time, they were allowed to trash the children but they are no longer allowed to do that anymore. Even young boys & some men in trains have been seen to openly swear and use bad language in front of young ladies, women and the elderly.

Recently I was chatting online with this white Aussie friend of mine who had just spent the last 7 months in Hong Kong what he perceived of the society there. His very words were "parents only give their children attention when their children do well in their studies". His perceptions are very true, as this not only applies in Hong Kong, but in most asian countries including India, Malaysia and most definitely Singapore!

People are not looked on as individuals in the asian society. The way that asian parents interact with children is generally not positive to begin with. An example would be viewing children's work of art. A typical asian remark from the parent/adult would of a scrawling of a 3-4 year old would not be "Wow, it's so pretty", but "what's that?" or "stop scrawling, and do some proper writing!".

In general, I do think its the different way that Aussies talk to each other, with that general & deprecating sense of humour. Even the parents do that with the children, and basically talk with the children like individuals or have fun joking with them. For someone who has been here for two over years, I still find it difficult to comprehend. Perhaps Asians are just more serious and reserved until they have known another person for a while before opening up.

Although this "individualism" is something that I do admire in the western way of approach to managing people, I did not realise the extent of how they actually demonstrated it. In a way, the western way of treating people like individuals can be admired, but by the same token of behaviour, it is MUCH MORE difficult for asians who have not had a similar upbringing to fully comprehend it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

NSW: Application for a Children's Services/ Child Care centre licence.

In the state of New South Wales, the Department of Community Service (DoCs) is responsible for regulating the categories children's services. This includes the responsibility of the licensing, compliance, enforcement & prosecution activities. The legislation that supports the Department of Community Services in their regulation of the children's services in NSW is the Children & Young Persons (Care & Protection) Act 1998 (the Act) and the Children's Services Regulation 2004 (The Regulation).

It is important that individuals obtain a copy of the Act and Regulation and seek both financial & legal advice before deciding if opening a centre/children's services is in their best interest.

Before the application on a children's services licence, the applicant must advertise their intention in a NSW or local daily, no earlier than two weeks prior to the application. The community has about three weeks to respond to the ad, after the lodgement of the application.

Children's Services fall under among these categories, namely,
- Centre based: which is provided at a fixed premises (which is not the home of the licensee).
- Mobile: where the service is "mobile" and visits specific premises or area at specific times.
- Family Day Care: a service that arranges for the care to be provided at the home of a carer other than the licensee of a Home Based service.
- Home Based service: where the services is provided at the home of the carer, by the carer, not being the home of any of the children receiving the care (other than a child related to the carer).
The most common children's services used by working parents would be the centre based children's services .

All Children's Services have minimum national standards to meet. More information can be found on the Australian Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs website. Child care centres register under the Quality Improvement and Accreditation System (QIAS), which is run by National Child Care Accreditation Council (NCAC).

The same licence application form (CSDA 01 Children's Service Licence Application) will apply in either of the three event:
- Opening a new children's services.
- Renewal of Licence.
- Change of ownership.
A different form (CSDA 03- Application to Vary a Licence) must be used in the event of any changes is required or want to be made to the current license in terms of maximum licensed place for the number of children allowed, hours of operation or name of service, etc.

The grant of a children's services centre license is valid for up to about three years. Services must lodge a licence renewal six months prior to its expiry date. The licence cannot be sold, or transferred in the case of the change of a licensee, a move to new physical premises, or changes to the existing licensed premises such as major renovations that substantially alter the physical environment (such as centre based, or home based licences).

Should a service provider intend to sell to another provider, the NSW DoCs recommends that a time-frame of 8-12 weeks in the application of a new licence, to ensure sufficient time for the assessment & approval for a new licence. In the case of the service operator that intends to cease the operations of the services, the licensee is required under the Regulations to provide written notice to DoCs of at least 21 days.

Different application forms with evidence are to be attached, depending on the type of children's services being applied for. Among the documentation required in the application of the CSDA includes:

Building Plans (including site plan) which is applicable ONLY to centre- based premises:
- includes a separate area for staff to consult with parents/administration/ room separate for staff away from the child areas.
- separate areas for children under 2 years of age.
- surfacing areas (soft fall) under playground equipment meet the requirements of AS/NZS 4422:1966
- Fire Safety Equipment is provided in accordance with AS1851.1.

Evidence of Business Registration. (for applicants who register under the Corporations Act 2001)
- Proof of Proprietorship.

Qualified Staff: (applicable to centre- based, family day care & mobile chldren's services):
- The nomination of maximum up to two Authorised Supervisor at one centre, who can be present at least 50% of the time. The Authorised Supervisor can be nominated to a maximum of working at two services at one time.
- At least one person trained in First Aid is present at all times.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

New South Wales, Australia: Qualifications for childcare centre staff

Recently I had my qualifications sent for assessment to the Department of Community Services in New South Wales and this is the information I have found relevant to the assessment of qualifications as required in this state.

The requirements are as per the Children's Services Regulations 2004, which falls under the Children & Young Persons (Care & Protection Act) 1998 No.157 and is relevant ONLY to the state of New South Wales.

In every centre, there has to be one, or more Authorised Supervisor. This normally includes the Child Care Director, and includes another staff who has the 'power' to supervise the centre when the Director is away & sign documentations. Of course, there won't be many Authorised Supervisors, as the centre needs to be cost effective and has a budget to maintain.

The positions of Authorised Supervisor , has the responsibility for overall supervision of a childcare centre, needs to have one or more of these qualifications being:
1) degree/diploma in early childhood education from a university of not less than 3 years (on a full time basis), or
2) a Childcare Certificate, Certificate of Child Care Studies, Associate Diploma of Social Science (Child Studies) from an (RTO) Registered Training Organisation, or
3) another approved qualification by the DOCS, AND

- has 12 months full time or equivalent in part-time experience gained after the qualifications referred to above as a member of the primary contact staff, (most centres looking to hire an authorised supervisor would prefer to employ one who has had more than one year's past experience) AND

- has successfully completed a course in child protection approved by the Director General.

Centres have to nominate the Authorised Supervisor by filling in the Authorised Supervisor nomination form & attaching the required documentation to the Department of Community Services (DOCS).

On top of this, most centres in NSW when employing for the position of a Child Care Director require:
- Sound understanding of the NSW State Regulation Centre Based Care 2004.
- Extensive experience in planning and programming with the Emergent Curriculum or NSW Curriculum - Framework.

- Demonstrated financial management experience.

If the centre has more than 39 children, there has to be a staff who is an Early Childhood Teacher, and if more than 59 children, then two ECTs.
For the positions of Teaching Staff Member who:
a) has a degree/diploma in early childhood education from a university of not less than 3 years (on a full time basis),
b) has some other approved qualifications by DOCS, or
c) has other approved training and experience.

In the nursery, the positions of Primary Contact Staff Member for a child under 2 years of age is a person who:
a) is an enrolled nurse (mothercraft) within the meaning of the Nurses Act 1991 who has obtained:
1) a Cert IV from TAFE in Parenthood, or
2) a Cert III from an RTO in Children's Services, or

b) is a registered nurse in Australia, or

c) has obtained:
1) a Child Care Cert, Cert in Child Care Studies, Associate Diploma of Social Science (Child Care Studies) from TAFE, or
2) Diploma of Community Services from an RTO, or

d) has some other approved qualification.

Other necessary requirements for the employment of permanent staff include:
1) three forms of ID for the 100 Point Identity Check,
2) To be over the age of 18, as required by the Children's Services Regulation 2004.
3) Senior First Aid certification compulsory for TRAINED childcare staff.
4) Working With Children Check, as required by the Child Protection Act 1998 (Prohibitive Employment) and Reference Checked.

Australia: Brief on the childcare/children services accreditation process.

Recently when I was out at work, I found that at some centres, the staff spent more time on accreditation documentation. Saying that, I must say here that when I was out on one of my first few work assignments some months ago, a male staff (he was a Classroom Assistant) had remarked that as staff, they should be spending more time with the children, instead of writing up all the accreditation documentation that the centre expected them to.

At that point of time, it was something that I had yet to understand. I have now come to realise that there ARE centres that are particularly pedantic in observing the childcare centre accreditation process. Also too, some centres have staff & directors that are pedantic in observing ONLY the rules which are given in the legislation in handling the children, without leeway of anything less, which should not be the way when it comes to working with children.

I have been to many centres who DO understand that there is no fast & "one size fits all" when it comes to handling children, eventhough that may be the ruling in the books. In my time during my tenure as a relief staff, it has made me come to realise that there is much differences in the way that the childcare accreditation is translated, and every centre has its own way of translating it.

In Australia, every state is governed by their individual State and Territory Government and have different legislation under which child care services are licensed. The National Council Accreditation Council Inc. (NCAC) was appointed by the Australian Government to administer the following Child Care Quality Assurance (CCQA) systems in:
- Family Day Care Quality Assurance (FDCQA),
- Quality Improvement and Accreditation System for Long Day Care Centres (QIAS),
- Outside School Hours Care Quality Assurance (OSHCQA).

The NCAC sets standards to improve the quality of child care and accredit services that meets the standards. Factors in accreditation includes structural quality factors which are most readily measured, i.e space, range of equipment, number and ages of children, number of staff and the length of their training.

CCQA builds on licensing standards to look at factors that determine quality. NCAC's roles include administration of licensing or child protection issues in services that participate in CCQA.

A transcript: Child Care Profit (2004)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Yes, that is SICK with a capital. I've been caught busy with work (thoroughly blessed if I may say so!) and now caught the bug.

I've got a sore throat, running nose, cough & fever. Periodically reaching for the tissue paper to blow my nose!

This is my second week being sick, what with Winter coming, and working with children who have snotty noses all the time. It is contagious, if I may say so. Can't really work well under these circumstances. Going to have a 5 day weekend this week.

Have fun!

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