Key Moves to Further Transform the Early Childhood Sector
20 Aug 2017
20 August 2017
1. At National Day Rally 2017, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong outlined key moves to significantly uplift the early childhood (EC) sector, so as to give every child a good start in life and support families with young children.
2. These moves build on the significant progress the sector has made since 2012 when the Government made a decisive commitment to uplift the quality, accessibility and affordability of pre-school education, including the establishment of the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) to drive efforts in developing and regulating the sector (see Annex A for progress in the sector since 2012).
3. Building on this momentum, the Government will, over the next five years, (i) continue to significantly expand the provision of affordable and quality EC services, and (ii) transform the EC profession.
Significantly Expanding Provision
Over 40,000 new full-day pre-school places will be added
4. Parents can look forward to over 40,000 new full-day pre-school places by 2022. This would be 30% more than the number of places available today. Most of these additional pre-school places will be sited at new HDB residential developments, so as to be accessible to young families. ECDA will work with HDB to pre-build these new centres so that they can be operational earlier. The new centres will be twice the size of an average centre today, with a capacity of 200 children in each centre. Children enrolled in these centres can also enjoy more seamless access to outdoor learning spaces and playgrounds.
New Anchor Operator Early Years Centres, MOE Kindergartens, and Partner Operator centres
6. To provide a smooth service continuum for parents, these EYCs will tie up with nearby MOE Kindergartens, which will provide EC services for children in the five to six years age group (i.e. Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2). There will be about 50 MOE Kindergartens by 2023, from 15 today. More details will be shared by MOE.
7. Apart from AOPs and MOE Kindergartens, other operators continue to play an important role in meeting the demand for affordable and quality pre-school services. Since 1 August 2017, ECDA has appointed an additional 29 centres, operated by the existing Partner Operators (POP), to the POP scheme (details in
Annex B). Parents with children enrolled in these centres will benefit from a one-off fee reduction and improvements in the quality of EC services. There are now about 200 POP centres, and more centres are expected to come under this scheme.
8. Through the expanded provision by AOPs, MOE Kindergartens, and POPs, two in out of every three pre-schoolers will have a place in a Government or Government-supported quality pre-school by 2023. This is an increase from about one in two pre-schoolers today.
Transforming the EC Profession
Establishment of the National Institute of Early Childhood Development
9.A new National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) will be set up under the ambit of the National Institute of Education, with a national mandate to develop EC professionals for the sector. More details will be shared by MOE.
Stronger attraction and employment support
10. To meet the manpower demands of this growing sector, the establishment of NIEC will also be coupled with new efforts to attract and develop the pipeline of EC professionals. All NIEC pre-employment students will be offered Training Awards that consist of a full sponsorship with an allowance. In addition, ECDA will work with the sector to engage and groom promising NIEC students in their final-year, to give them a smoother and strong start in their career. Mid-career switchers enrolled at NIEC will continue to be supported under the Professional Conversion Programme by SkillsFuture Singapore.
11. ECDA will also embark on a three-year national campaign to attract more individuals into the EC sector. The campaign aims to raise public awareness on the importance of providing our children with quality education in the early years, thus boosting the image of the sector to reflect the invaluable role of EC educators. By 2020, 20,000 EC professionals will be required to meet the sector’s needs, from around 16,000 today.
12. In conjunction with this, continued improvements will be made to enhance the working experience of EC educators in practical ways. For example, an integrated package of IT solutions (“SMART solutions”) co-developed by the industry and government agencies is being rolled out to pre-schools to streamline daily processes so that teachers can spend more quality time with the children.
More structured development pathways for EC educators
14. At the same time, ECDA will work with partners to expand the professional development opportunities and curriculum resources for the sector. This includes more structured development programmes for EC leaders, so as to support and build the leadership fraternity in the EC sector.
Significant Increase in Government Spending
15. To support these major moves, annual government spending in the EC sector is projected to double from $850 million today to $1.7 billion annual spending by the next five years. It reflects the Government’s commitment to ensure a strong start for every child, assure parents of quality, accessible and affordable EC services, and provide a fulfilling and rewarding career for EC educators.
Progress of the Early Childhood Sector from 2012 to 2017
- At the 2012 National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the Government would invest substantial resources in early childhood (EC) sector and play a more active role. The key measures announced included: (i) setting up a dedicated agency to oversee pre-school education; (ii) providing and upgrading pre-school teacher training to raise standards; (iii) bringing in new Anchor Operators, in addition to PCF and NTUC, and upgrading requirements for Anchor Operators to raise quality; (iv) piloting a few Government-run MOE kindergartens to test new concepts in kindergarten education; and (v) giving more support to lower- and middle-income families for pre-school services.
- Since then, significant progress has been made to enhance the accessibility, affordability and quality of EC services.
- The number of full-day pre-school places have expanded by 50%, or almost 50,000, since 2012 to meet parents’ needs (see Table A-1).
Table A-1: Number and Capacity of Pre-schools (2012-2017)
1This capacity refers to centres offering full-day services, such as child care and infant care.
2 This capacity refers to the approved capcity for a single session for centres offering half-day services, i.e. kindergartens, which may meet additional demand by offering more sessions.
- In particular, for younger estates like Punggol and Sengkang, the proportion of pre-school places have doubled, with 10,000 more places available, since 2012. Most of these pre-school places are conveniently sited near new HDB homes. To further cater to parents’ needs, new centres have also been developed in other locations, such as commercial buildings, vacant state land, and sites co-located with other community facilities.
- These measures to improve accessibility have supported the steady growth in demand from parents (see Table A-2).
Table A-2: Pre-school Enrolment (2012-2017)3
- Means-tested subsidies for child care and kindergarten were enhanced in 2013 and 2015 respectively, benefitting about 45,000 lower- and middle-income families today, or more than double the 17,000 families in 2012.
- In addition, the AOP and POP schemes have helped to anchor industry fees, as these operators are subject to fee caps. After the POP scheme was implemented in Jan 2016, the child care industry median fee fell for the first time in over a decade, from $900 in Jan 2015 to $856 in Jan 2016, and has stayed around that level in 2017. See Tables A-3 and A-44 for industry median child care and kindergarten fees respectively.
Table A-3: Industry Median Child Care Fees (2012-2017)
Table A-4: Industry Median Kindergarten Fees (2012-2017)
- The Child Development Account, which can be used to pay for pre-school fees, was also recently enhanced in 2016 with the introduction of a First Step grant.
- The Government has made moves to raise both centre and EC educator quality.
- In 2017, Parliament also passed a new Early Childhood Development Centres Act to raise baseline standards across the sector.
- MOE has developed and shared with the sector the Nurturing Early Learners curriculum resources, with the aim of supporting EC educators in creating quality learning experiences for children aged 4-6 years.
- Parents can rely on an additional, objective measure of pre-school quality, with one in three (or about 600) centres today certified under the Singapore Pre-school Accreditation Framework (SPARK), up from 1 in 10 (or about 150) centres in 2012. SPARK accredits centres which have implemented sound processes and frameworks to deliver quality EC care and education for children enrolled in their centres. Notably, the number of SPARK-certified AOP centres has increased from under 250 in 2014 to almost 400 in 2016, or from under 40% of all eligible AOP centres to over 70%.
October 2016, the Early Childhood Manpower Plan, which was developed in consultation with key partners such as the union, industry associations and operators, was launched to support more meaningful and rewarding careers for EC educators.
At the same time, the Skills Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education was launched to support a sector-wide shift towards competency-based career progression for EC educators.
- The range of initiatives since 2012 to attract, develop and retain good educators in the sector have shown some results. Enrolment at polytechnic EC diploma courses has doubled since 2015, and starting salaries have also shifted upward. Table A-5 shows starting salaries for full-time EC diploma fresh graduates from 2012-2016, outpacing the market.
Table A-5: Increase in Starting Salaries of Full-time EC Diploma Fresh Graduates
Recently Appointed Partner Operator Centres
(with effect from 1 August 2017)