Love for children
Nicole Leong, 22, spends up to ten hours a day at work, but she says that it’s all worth the while when parents tell her how much they see their children enjoy school.

The elder of two siblings, Leong shares that she has always enjoyed being with children. “When I was growing up, I would volunteer to take care of my younger cousins,” she said. When she completed her fifth form, it was a natural choice for her to look for a course that involved the care of children.

Leong is the principal of Cherie Hearts Preschool and she has been with the centre since her graduation from Dika College in 2016. She manages 16 staff members and leads her team in caring for children aged between two months and six years.

Inspiration
“The Early Childhood Education (ECE) diploma programme at Dika College gave me a deep insight into the theories and practicums of early childhood education; and this gave me the confidence to take on the challenge of heading a centre,” said Leong. She recalled a subject which she found especially interesting in her lecturer Mr Mohan Dallumal’s class relating to the concept of “rewards”. She elaborated, “We often think that rewards are only for adults, but you would be surprised to see how the element of reward can enhance a child’s motivation both individually and collectively as a class.”

“One other aspect that I really appreciate is the emphasis on research that our lecturers impressed upon us,” shares Leong. Leong explains that the familiarity with conducting research gives her an impetus to continuously explore and adopt the best methods to educate young children.

Steep learning curve
“Being 22 also means that I have an opportunity to learn. Even though I am the principal of the centre, I often refer to the teachers and the staff for their inputs and opinions,” explained Leong. She also shares that parents can be demanding but they are also a great source of reference. “Discourse is key if we are to raise the standards in early childhood education,” said Leong.

If there is one thing Leong is extremely passionate about, it is the importance of play in a child’s formative years. Leong explains, “To some parents, when a child is going on age five or six, he or she must be prepared for entry into primary school; and in doing so expect teachers to be more serious and focus on academic performance. I invest time to educate parents that the best way for a child to excel academically is to encourage him or her to explore and discover the world through play. Thankfully, parents are beginning to warm up to this approach, especially so when they see positive changes in their child,” she added.

Going all the way
“A degree is certainly on the table for me and I plan to return to Dika College to do it,” said Leong. Leong also shares that two of her cousins took to ECE after her, one of whom is also pursuing the course at Dika College. “What can I say, we are a family that is extremely fond of children,” she enthused.

Nicole Leong
Principal, Cherie Hearts International Preschool
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