Enhancing the quality of teacher-child interactions in Singapore pre-school classrooms

Keywords: Teacher-child interactions, Instructional support, Teacher education, Professional development, Singapore pre-schools


This exploratory study was aimed primarily at developing baseline data on the quality of teacher-child interactions in Singapore pre-school classrooms. Data were collected through observations of teacher-child interactions in 80 pre-schools, using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) in the three key domains which are 1) Emotional Support, 2) Classroom Organisation, and 3) Instructional Support (Pianta, La Paro, & Hamre, 2008). It was found that the overall quality of teacher-child interactions in the Singapore pre-school classrooms was low to moderate, with Instruction Support being the lowest. This finding is similar to that found in studies conducted in many other countries including China and the U.S. (Slot, 2017). Possible reasons and explanations will be presented, and suggestions to improve or enhance the quality of teacher-child interactions will be proposed. This study has implications on pre-school teacher education and professional development as well as government policies and regulations for the Singapore pre-school sector.


Download data is not yet available.


Bach, D., & Christensen, S. (2017). Battling the tiger mother: Pre‐School reform and conflicting norms of parenthood in Singapore. Children & Society, 31(2), 134-143. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/chso.12162

Berthelsen, D., Brownlee, J., & Karuppiah, N. (2011). Teachers' beliefs and practices in early childhood education in Singapore. Singapore: Pearson Education.

Bertram, T., Pascal, C., Cummings, A., Delaney, S., Ludlow, C., Lyndon, H., & Stancel-Piatak, A. (2016). Early childhood policies and systems in eight countries: Findings from IEA's early childhood education study. International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.

Bogdan, R. C., & Biklen, S. K. (2003). Qualitative research for education: An introduction to theories and methods. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Burchinal, M. R., Peisner-Feinberg, E., Pianta, R. C., & Howes, C. (2002). Development of academic skills from preschool through second grade: Family and classroom predictors of developmental trajectories. Journal of School Psychology, 40(5), 415-436. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0022-4405(02)00107-3

Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2011). Research methods in education. London: Routledge Falmer.

Creswell, J. W. (2008). Educational research, planning, conducting and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (3rd Ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Education.

Early Childhood Development Agency [ECDA]. (2020). Teacher Certification. 15 February 2021 retrieved from https://www.ecda.gov.sg/Educators/Pages/Teacher-Certification.aspx

Fukkink, R., Helmerhorst, K., Deynoot Schaub, M. G., & Sluiter, R. (2019). Training interaction skills of pre-service ECEC teachers: Moving from in-service to pre-service professional development. Early Childhood Education Journal, 47, 497-507. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-019-00928-6

Hamre, B. K., Pianta, R. C. Burchinal, M., Field, S., LoCasale-Crouch, Downer, J. T., … Scott-Little, C. (2012). A course on effective teacher-child interactions: Effects on teacher beliefs, knowledge, and observed practice. American Educational Research Journal, 49(1), 88-123. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831211434596

Hoang, N., Holopainen, L., & Siekkinen, M. (2018). Quality of teacher-child interactions and its relations to children's classroom engagement and disaffection in Vietnamese kindergartens. International Journal of Early Years Education, 26(4), 387-402. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09669760.2018.1478281

Karuppiah, N. (2015). Childcare staff's and parents' beliefs about quality care for infants/toddlers in centre-based programmes in Singapore. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 30(4), 105-113.

Ladd, G. W., Birch, B. H., & Buhs, E. S. (1999). Children's social and scholastic lives in kindergarten: Related spheres of influence? Child Development, 70(6), 1373-1400. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00101

Langeloo, A., Mascareno, M. L, Deunk, M. I., Klitzing, N. F., & Strijbos, J. W. (2019). A systematic review of teacher-child interactions with multilingual young children. Review of Educational Research, 89(4), 536-568. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654319855619

Lim-Ratnam, C. (2013). Tensions in defining quality pre-school education: The Singapore context. Educational review, 65(4), 416-431. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00131911.2012.707641

Mashburn, A. J., Pianta, R. C., Hamre, B. K., Downer, J. T., Barbarin, O. A., Bryant, D., … Howes, C. (2008). Measures of classroom quality in prekindergarten and children's development of academic, language, and social skills. Child Development, 79(3), 732-749. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01154.x

Ministry of Education [MOE]. (2012). Nurturing Early Learners: A Curriculum for Kindergartens in Singapore. 10 August 2021 retrieved from https://www.nel.moe.edu.sg/qql/slot/u143/Resources/Downloadable/pdf/kindergarten-curriculum-framework.pdf

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Early Child Care Research Network [NICHD ECCRN]. (2004). Does class size in first grade relate to children's academic and social performance or observed classroom processes?. Developmental Psychology, 40(5), 651-664. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.40.5.651

Ng, S. C., & Bull, R. (2018). Facilitating social emotional learning in kindergarten classrooms: Situational factors and teachers' strategies. International Journal of Early Childhood, 50, 335-352. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13158-018-0225-9

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD].(2018). Engaging young children: Lessons from research about quality in early childhood education and care. 15 February 2021 retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/education/engaging-young-children-9789264085145-en.htm

Pianta, R. C., & Stuhlman, M. W. (2004). Teacher-child relationships and children's success in the first years of school. School Psychology Review, 33(3), 444-458. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02796015.2004.12086261

Pianta, R. C., DeCoster, J., Cabell, S., Burchinal, M., Hamre, B. K. , Downer, J., … Howes, C. (2014). Dose-response relations between preschool teachers' exposure to components of professional development and increases in quality of their interactions with children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 29(4), 499-508. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2014.06.001

Pianta, R. C., LaParo, K., & Hamre, B. K. (2008). Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) manual. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.

Ramey, C. T., & Ramey, S. L. (2004). Early learning and school readiness: Can early intervention make a difference? Merrill Palmer Quarterly, 50(4), 471-491. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/mpq.2004.0034

Schachter, R. E., Gerde, H. K., & Hatton-Bowers, H. (2019). Guidelines for Selecting Professional Development for Early Childhood Teachers. Early Childhood Education Journal, 47(4), 395-408. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-019-00942-8

Slot, P. (2017). Literature review on early childhood education and care quality: Relations between structural characteristics at different levels and process quality, Internal document. OECD, Paris. 15 February 2021 retrieved from https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/9789264085145-6-en.pdf?expires=1613379403&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=A5BB59ECE56C794FE9DEF6605F6A729F

Tan, C. T. (2017). Enhancing the quality of kindergarten education in Singapore: Policies and strategies in the 21st century. International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, 11, 7. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40723-017-0033-y

Thomason, A. C., & LaParo, K. (2009). Measuring the quality of teacher-child interactions in toddler child care. Early Education and Development, 20(2), 285-304. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10409280902773351

Zan, B., & Donegan-Ritter, M. (2014). Reflecting, coaching and mentoring to enhance teacher-child interactions in Head Start Classrooms. Early Childhood Education Journal, 42(2), 93-104. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-013-0592-7

How to Cite
Karuppiah, N. (2021). Enhancing the quality of teacher-child interactions in Singapore pre-school classrooms. Journal of Childhood, Education & Society, 2(1), 58-68. https://doi.org/10.37291/2717638X.20212187

Funding data