Proposal to Nationalise Pre-school Education

Published Date: 06 February 2017 12:00 AM

News Parliamentary Replies

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin, Nominated Member of Parliament

Question

To ask the Minister for Education (Schools) (a) what are the considerations for keeping pre-school education privatised rather than nationalised as an extension of the current nationalised education system; and (b) what are the continual barriers or current issues that impede nationalisation of pre-school education.

Response

1. Today, we have a diversified pre-school sector, comprising commercial operators, non-profit operators, publicly-funded operators, as well as a few government-run kindergartens. A key benefit of this market-based approach is that it provides parents with a diverse range of programmes to choose from, so as to best cater to their preferences and the different needs of their young children.

2. That said, given the large number of operators participating in this sector, it is not surprising that fees, resources and quality will vary across pre-schools. A nationalised system has the potential to provide more consistent quality and affordability, but this system may not cater to the preferences of every parent.

3. Internationally, countries have adopted different approaches to early childhood care and education depending on their specific contexts. While some jurisdictions have a state-run preschool system, places such as Hong Kong and Australia adopt a similar approach as ours where private operators and the community play a significant role prior to formal primary education.

4. We recognise that the private sector and the community have built expertise over the years, and we value them as partners in our endeavour to ensure a strong start for every child. Hence, our priority now is to work together to raise the accessibility, affordability and quality of pre-school.

5. One important strategy has been to establish and partner closely with Anchor Operators and Partner Operators in the sector, whose pre-schools are subject to additional conditions, such as fee caps and quality requirements. Today, close to half of Singaporean children are benefitting from quality and affordable programmes in these pre-schools. We hope that this will continue to grow.

6. In addition, MOE plays an active role in supporting and strengthening quality of pre-school education. We are piloting a few MOE Kindergartens as an added quality and affordable option in the landscape. They also serve as incubators for the development of appropriate teaching resources and best practices in kindergarten education, which are shared with other pre-school operators. This complements other efforts to raise the quality of pre-school education in the sector, such as strengthening teacher training and developing a kindergarten curriculum for the sector.

7. We have made good progress with our current approach to pre-school provision. Today, more than 90% of Singaporean children aged 5 to 6 years are enrolled in a pre-school. In addition, after subsidies, lower-income families can pay as little as $1 a month for their child to attend pre-school.

8. We will continue to monitor and review our policies for the pre-school sector to ensure that every child has access to good quality and affordable pre-school.

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