Kirsten Ho - Senior Early Childhood Officer at Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), is a Singapore Government Scholar with a Bachelors in Psychology from Yale-NUS College and a Master in Child Development from University College London.
Complementing various nation-building efforts, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) looks into building the "heartware" for Singapore. Through its policies, community infrastructure, programmes and services, MSF aims to nurture resilient hearts, strong family bonds, and a caring Singapore society.
"Heartware" development by the MSF starts as early as pre-school. The Early Childhood and Development Agency (ECDA), an agency under the purview of MSF, serves as the regulatory and developmental agency for the early childhood sector in Singapore, overseeing key aspects of children's development below the age of 7, across both kindergartens and child care centres.
ECDA performs a range of roles and functions which include setting policies, manpower and infrastructure planning, regulating centres and administrating subsidies. It also coordinates support for children with additional needs, including children with developmental needs and children from low-income families.
Kirsten Ho works at ECDA as a Senior Early Childhood Officer. The Singapore Government Scholar sat down with us to explain just what makes MSF and its work so special.
Firstly, how did you get interested in Child Psychology?
When I was young, my father worked with graduate students from Singapore and Asia. I would frequently help to babysit their children. Then, I discovered that I didn't just enjoy playing with these babies and toddlers – I loved taking care of them, teaching them, and watching them explore the world.
Looking back, I believe this was the beginning of my interest in child development, particularly in parenting and education.
How did you discover the Singapore Government Scholarship, and why did you shortlist it?
I decided to apply for MSF's scholarships as I had a keen interest in the social service sector and had a positive experience during my internship with MSF's Children-in-Care branch.
Fascinating! Why the single-minded dedication to MSF?
Through MSF's Student Internship Programme, I had the opportunity to intern with MSF's Children-in-Care branch for three months before starting university. As I was not aware of the needs and profile of children in out-of-home care before taking up the internship, I learnt a lot during my internship.
I found the work engaging and meaningful, and the camaraderie within the team along with the nurturing environment created by my supervisors left a deep impression on me. The experience gave me confidence that I would enjoy working at MSF and have many opportunities to learn and grow.
As MSF's work is also aligned with my passions and interests, it was not a difficult decision.
Moving on to your studies, tell us about the support MSF provided for your learning.
Under the MSF scholarship, I pursued developmental opportunities such as a semester-long exchange programme in the United States (US) in my third year of university, and overseas training trips with sports teams. The time spent in the US for my exchange programme and in London for my Master's programme was formative in broadening my understanding and perspective on child development and education beyond Singapore.
In addition, MSF provided an internship opportunity that exposed me to a different clientele served by MSF, which gave me a deeper appreciation of its breadth of work. I also had a mentor assigned to me during my time in university, who provided helpful advice to guide my career path.
This support went all the way up to a Master in Child Development. How do you apply what you have learnt to your current work?
The content knowledge on child development, education and psychology has guided my thinking in reviewing and recommending policies to support children's development.
I find it easier to understand the perspective of researchers and doctors who specialise in various aspects of child development, and this allows me to collaborate more effectively with these stakeholders in the course of my work.
So, tell us about your job!
With pleasure! As a policy officer, I develop and review policies and programmes to strengthen early childhood development and support for children. This includes formulating and analysing policy options, recommending strategic policy actions, and evaluating and reviewing the effectiveness of existing policies and programmes. To do this, I conduct research and data analysis, and collaborate regularly with internal and external stakeholders.
And what other possibilities are there for people working at MSF?
There are opportunities to take up different roles at MSF, ranging from direct work with clients, to planning of programmes and services, policy formulation, and corporate support. MSF divisions also work with different groups of clients, who have distinct needs and profiles and require different types of support.
The wide-ranging nature of MSF's work, along with a comprehensive suite of programmes and opportunities for training and development, offers officers ample opportunities to hone different competencies and skillsets, and explore their interests and aptitudes.
Thank you for your time. Lastly, what would you say to convince someone to join MSF?
MSF is the place for you if you enjoy working with people and are passionate about making a difference in the lives of others.