Mr Darryl David asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) whether the Government has considered how the recently announced measures to reduce fees and enhance salaries for anchor and partner operators in the preschool sector can affect private preschool operators; and (b) whether there are any plans to work with private preschool operators to see how they can continue to operate in a sustainable manner.
1. The recently announced move to reduce fees and enhance salaries for Anchor and Partner Operators is part of the Government’s strategy since 2012, to provide families with access to affordable and quality preschools.
2. I would like to clarify that Anchor Operators (AOPs) and Partner Operators (POPs) are private sector players in the preschool market. In particular, the POP scheme allows more small- and medium-sized private operators to join. In return, AOPs and POPs follow prescribed fee caps and quality requirements, such as achieving Singapore Preschool Accreditation Framework (SPARK) certification and ensuring continued professional development of their educators.
3. ECDA recognises that there are private preschool players who are not on the AOP or POP schemes. They offer niche programmes and meet other needs and preferences of parents. If such services are valued by parents, the preschool would be able to price its offering higher. The reality is that the key competitive pressure faced by such private preschool players is from other sectors in the economy competing to offer good salaries and careers to the same potential pool of skilled manpower. If the Government did not continue to review the support for AOPs and POPs, the challenge of finding and retaining sufficient manpower would be felt by the entire preschool sector and by parents who would not have affordable quality preschool options.
4. Lastly, I want to assure the Member that preschool operators not on the AOP or POP schemes still benefit from ECDA’s other schemes. These include funding for smart solutions to raise productivity, and preschool support schemes to defray staff training, infrastructure and rental costs. Operators not on the AOP or POP schemes can also participate in sector-wide initiatives such as ECDA’s Scholarships and Training Awards, the Skills Framework for Early Childhood, and the Professional Development Programme. They can tap on SkillsFuture Singapore and Workforce Singapore’s course fee subsidies and programmes such as the Career Conversion Programme (CCP) to hire and train mid-career jobseekers.
5. The recent moves are important ones to signal the Government’s support to our families and early childhood educators. Overall, families will enjoy greater access to quality and affordable preschools near their homes as Government-supported preschool capacity expands. At the same time, the market will remain open to preschools not on the AOP or POP schemes. ECDA aims to encourage operators to innovate in response to changing market patterns, so that we have a vibrant and competitive sector that meets the different needs of Singaporean families.