5 February 2020


ECDA will expand the Partner Operator scheme to benefit more families
Fee caps will be lowered from 2021 to enhance preschool affordability

1.   As part of efforts to expand the provision of government-supported preschool places, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) in November 2019 launched a new call for applications from childcare operators for the new term of the Partner Operator (POP) scheme. 

2.   Under the new term, ECDA seeks to appoint more centres onto the POP scheme. ECDA will provide funding support to appointed childcare centres to improve the quality, affordability and accessibility of their childcare and infant care services. Appointed POP centres will be required to meet the following enhanced requirements: 

a. Reduce fees to within the revised fee caps for Singapore Citizen (SC) children, and ensure any fee increases are kept affordable for parents. To further enhance affordability of preschools, the fee caps for POP centres will be lowered in the new term to $7601 and $1,330 per month for full-day childcare and infant care services respectively, compared to existing corresponding fee caps of $800 and $1,400 per month. 

b. Invest in improving centre quality through efforts such as attaining certification under the Singapore Pre-school Accreditation Framework (SPARK), and strengthening corporate capabilities. 

c. Support continuing professional development and sector attraction/retention efforts for centre leaders, teachers and educarers

1All fees cited in this media release are before GST.

Positive Response from the Preschool Sector 

3.   ECDA closed the application process on 31 Jan 2020 (Friday) and received 52 applications from operators to join the next term of the POP scheme. This is more than double the number of operators currently appointed on the existing POP term. Existing POP operators run 250 childcare centres and benefit more than 20,000 SC children. Applications were received from a mix of both commercial and not-for-profit operators, as well as operators on the existing POP term.

4.   “We are heartened by the positive response from childcare operators. As we review the applications carefully, we hope to be able to increase the number of government-supported preschools so that we can continue to assure families of quality, affordable and accessible preschools,” said Ms Jamie Ang, Chief Executive of ECDA.

5.   The new POP term provides an opportunity for private and not-for-profit centres to enter the government-supported sector. Successful applicants will be appointed onto the scheme for a new five-year term starting from January 2021. 

Enhancing Preschool Affordability 

6.   As the capacity of government-supported preschools grows over the medium term, ECDA aims to further lower fee caps at government-supported preschools so that working families with a child in full-day childcare will pay around the equivalent of primary school fees plus after-school student care fees, which currently total around $300 per month. This is before means-tested preschool subsidies are applied. 

7.   This builds on recent preschool subsidy enhancements. From 1 January 2020, more families now pay less for preschool, as the income ceiling for childcare and infant care Additional Subsidy was raised from $7,500 a month to $12,000 a month. Subsidy amounts were also increased across all eligible income tiers. More low-income families are paying $3 per month for full-day childcare at preschools operated by Anchor Operators, or $1 per month at kindergartens operated by Anchor Operators or the Ministry of Education. 

8.   The Government is committed to improving access to affordable and quality preschool services. Overall, the Government’s annual spending on the early childhood sector is expected to more than double over the next few years, from around $1 billion in 2018.



Frequently Asked Questions 

Preschool Affordability

1. What is the Government doing to enhance preschool affordability?

The Government is pursuing three sets of measures to enhance affordability. 

First, we will enhance means-tested childcare subsidies and the Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS) provided to parents, by increasing the monthly household income eligibility to $12,000, and increasing the amount of subsidies provided for each eligible tier. This will take effect from 1 January 2020.

Second, we are expanding government-supported preschool places, so that parents will benefit from greater access to affordable and quality preschool services. 80 per cent of preschoolers can have a place in a government-supported preschool by around 2025, up from just over 50 per cent today. This will involve expanding the number of places provided by Partner Operators, Anchor Operators, and a small number of MOE Kindergartens.

Third, we will lower the fee caps of government-supported preschools, starting with the next term of the POP scheme from January 2021. Over the medium term, as the capacity of government-supported preschools grows, we aim to further lower fee caps at government-supported preschools so that working families with a child in full-day childcare will pay about equivalent of primary school fees plus after-school student care fees, before means-tested preschool subsidies.

2. How long will the new fee caps be in place for?

The new fee caps will be in place for the entire upcoming five-year term of childcare POP scheme, from 2021 to 2025.

Childcare Partner Operator (POP) scheme

1. When does the current term of the POP scheme end?

The current POP term will end in December 2020.

2. Has ECDA set a target on the number of operators/centres to appoint to the new term of the POP scheme?

We aim to appoint a larger number of POP childcare centres for the new term, compared to the current 250 centres. However, the eventual number of operators/centres appointed will depend on the quality of operators/centres that apply. We encourage all affordable and quality childcare operators to submit applications to join the scheme.

3. Will ECDA allow appointed POPs to open new centres during the funding term in order to benefit more parents?

Addition of new centres will be evaluated by ECDA on a case-by-case basis.

4. Will all existing POP centres be automatically appointed onto the next term of the POP scheme? Is there any difference in the application process between operators on the existing POP scheme, and operators who are not?

No, all interested operators (new and existing) will be required to follow the same application procedure. ECDA will evaluate all applications objectively and fairly. 

5. What are the possible reasons for an existing POP centre to not be appointed to the next term of the scheme?

Some existing POP operators may choose not to continue with the scheme due to business considerations. All centres, including existing POP centres, must also fare well in the evaluation to be appointed onto the next term of the scheme.

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