Press Releases

Advancing Support for Children in Preschools - Greater Accessibility, Affordability, Quality and Inclusion

05 Mar 2021

As part of the Government’s continuing efforts to give every child a good start, initiatives under four thrusts were announced at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) Committee of Supply (COS) 2021:

a. Enhancing accessibility, affordability and quality of preschools for all children;
b. Expanding support for children from low-income families;
c. Enhancing support for children with developmental needs and inclusion within preschools; and
d. Driving digitalisation in the preschool sector as a core enabler.

These initiatives build on existing efforts to give every child a good start in life and better support families with young children. More details are at Annex A.

Enhancing Preschool Accessibility, Affordability and Quality for All Children

Enhancing access to affordable, quality preschools

2.   To improve access to affordable, quality preschools, PM Lee had announced at National Day Rally (NDR) 2019 that government-supported places would be increased so that the proportion of preschoolers in these places would increase from just over 50% of preschoolers to 80% by around 2025. Through the development of more Anchor Operator preschools and MOE Kindergartens, including the recent expansion of the Partner Operator scheme, the proportion of preschoolers in government-supported preschools has increased to almost 60%. Families are paying less for preschool after subsidies were enhanced in Jan 2020. Industry median fees for full-day childcare also fell when fee caps were lowered along with the appointment of more preschools onto the Partner Operator scheme in Jan 2021.

Enhancing support for Mother Tongue Language training of educators

3.   In tandem with raising accessibility and affordability, the Government is also implementing measures to raise the quality of preschools. One such measure is enhancing the skills and capabilities of early childhood (EC) educators in teaching Mother Tongue Language (MTL). To encourage more in-service EC educators to acquire the skills to teach MTL, ECDA and the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) have been running the Certificates in Preschool MTL Teaching for Malay and Tamil Language teaching since 2019. A $2,000 training bonus was provided to EC educators who underwent training by 31 Dec 2020 and subsequently taught MTL. To sustain efforts, the qualifying window for the $2,000 training bonus for Malay and Tamil Language teaching will be extended to 31 Dec 2022. ECDA and NIEC will also introduce a new Certificate in Preschool MTL Teaching for Chinese Language teaching later this year. In-service EC educators who are enrolled in this course by 31 Dec 2022 and are later deployed to teach the Chinese Language will also be eligible to receive the $2,000 training bonus. More details are at Annex B.

Expanding Support for Children from Low-Income Families

Expanding KidSTART to more regions

4.   Under the KidSTART programme, ECDA goes upstream to provide added support to children aged 0 to 6 from low-income families. KidSTART supports parents with the knowledge and skills to nurture their children’s early development, including their physical and socio-emotional health and well-being, and works with community and corporate partners to support families holistically. Since 2016, KidSTART has benefitted over 1,000 children living in the pilot regions of Kreta Ayer, Bukit Merah, Taman Jurong, Boon Lay and Geylang Serai. PM Lee had announced at NDR 2019 that the Government will expand KidSTART to more regions to benefit another 5,000 children by around 2023.

5.   In 2020, we started expanding KidSTART to Woodlands and Bedok. In Oct 2020, we had also announced plans to expand to Ang Mo Kio, Sembawang and Yishun in 2021.We will now expand KidSTART further to Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Batok and Bukit Panjang to benefit more families. A dedicated KidSTART Singapore office has been set up to partner an anchor Social Service Agency (SSA) in each region, to support coordinated outreach to families and the implementation of KidSTART programmes.

Expanding Growing Together with KidSTART to more partners

6.   Through the Growing Together with KidSTART initiative launched in 2019, the Government will continue to deepen and forge partnerships with the community. Besides deepening partnerships with existing partners such as Prudential Singapore and EtonHouse Community Fund, we have forged new partnerships with organisations such as SP Group and The LEGO Group. Since 2019, interested corporates and individuals have contributed $1.85 million in donations and over $343,000 of in-kind sponsorship items to benefit KidSTART families. We also plan to grow our pool of volunteers to reach more families. More details are at Annex C.

Advancing Support for Children with Developmental Needs within Preschools

7.   Through the Inclusive Preschool Workgroup (IPWG), the Government has been working with partners across the health, education and social sectors to study how we can better support children with developmental needs (DN) within preschools. Based on the IPWG report, which will be released in Apr 2021 together with the other Third Enabling Masterplan (EMP3) workgroup reports, the Government will be implementing several recommendations over the next few years. These efforts will also benefit typically developing children in preschools.

8.   First, ECDA will work towards having every preschool appoint an ‘Inclusion Coordinator’ (ICO) amongst existing staff, starting in the second half of 2023. In preparation for this, ECDA will work with preschools to support appointed staff with appropriate training to carry out their ICO role. ICOs will work with other preschool educators to flag out children with potential DN for assessment and help connect teachers and parents to early intervention (EI) support. This will enable children to access EI services earlier with greater ease. More details about the ICO training and implementation timing in the second half of 2023 will be released in due course.

9.   Second, the Government will expand outreach for the Development Support – Learning Support (DS-LS) and Development Support Plus (DS-Plus) programmes to more preschools to support children requiring low levels of EI support. In 2020, the DS-LS programme was offered in about 600 preschools, which enrolled over 40% of resident preschoolers aged 5 to 6. Coverage of the DS-LS programme will be expanded to more preschools, covering 60% of preschoolers aged 5 to 6 by 2025, and 80% in the steady state. We will also work closely with preschools and EI providers to expand the DS-Plus programme that was just introduced in Jul 2019.

10.   Third, ECDA will pilot an Inclusive Support Programme (InSP) at a few preschools, to integrate the provision of EI and EC services at preschools for children aged 3 to 6 who require medium levels of EI support. Today, the majority of children requiring medium or high levels of support attend multiple intervention sessions per week at EI centres, and concurrently attend preschools. By bringing together EI and EC services, the InSP aims to reduce the logistical strain of shuttling between preschools and EI centres, and provides opportunities for more integrated support for children. Under the InSP, preschools will be resourced with full-time EI professionals and visiting allied health professionals who will work closely with EC educators to enable these children to participate meaningfully in preschool. Besides supporting children with DN, the InSP will also benefit typically developing children through efforts such as the provision of differentiated instruction. International findings and experiences suggest that typically developing children also benefit from more helping and prosocial behaviours in a more inclusive setting. Further details on the InSP pilot will be released later this year.

11.   As part of the IPWG’s recommendations, ECDA will also study integration opportunities for children who require high levels of EI support and who are best served in a separate specialised EI setting1. These could include partnerships between EI centres and preschools to facilitate activities for social interaction. More details are at Annex D.

12.   We will also uplift the capabilities of EC educators in inclusive education by enhancing pre-service training and launching a Continuing Professional Development roadmap with inclusive practice as one of the focal areas. In line with these efforts, ECDA has been working with NIEC to introduce a new Certificate in Inclusive Practice (CIP) to help in-service educators acquire inclusive strategies to support children with varying needs within preschools. The CIP will be introduced later this year. As announced in Oct 2020, ECDA will also set out the skills and career pathways for EI professionals in the refreshed Skills Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education. This underscores the need for a strong partnership between EC and EI professionals, and paves the way for greater porosity across pathways as we make our preschools more inclusive.

1This group includes children who are medically frail and are not able to enrol in preschools, or children who require sustained one-on-one EI support.

Driving Digitalisation in the Preschool Sector as a Core Enabler

13.   Digitalisation is a core enabler that can help preschools improve processes and productivity, enhance service quality, overcome manpower constraints, and lower operating costs. In line with the Early Childhood Industry Transformation Map launched in 2018, ECDA is developing the Early Childhood Industry Digital Plan (IDP) together with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and the EC sector. The IDP provides a structured framework to guide preschools on the digital solutions they can adopt across three stages of growth:

  • Stage 1: Getting Ready for the Digital EconomyAdopt and Adapt. This stage calls for operators to adopt digital solutions such as e-enrolment and adapt centre processes for more efficient and digital-enabled work.
  • Stage 2: Growing in the Digital EconomyAnalyse and Automate. This stage calls for preschools to adopt digital solutions such as data analytics that can help them analyse and automate operations and educator training for more data-driven operations and digital-enabled training.
  • Stage 3: Leaping AheadAdvance Capabilities. This stage identifies solutions such as smart resource management and virtual training for teachers, so that operators can advance capabilities for smart centres and innovative learning.

14.   About $4 million will be set aside over the next three years to encourage preschools to adopt digital solutions in the IDP. More details on the IDP funding scheme will be announced in the second half of 2021. More details are at Annex E.

A Good Start for Every Child

15.   The Government is committed to improving access to quality and affordable preschools, to provide a good start for every child. 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.

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