Mr Chua Kheng Wee Louis asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) in each of the last five years in Sengkang, what is (i) the respective number for infant care and childcare places that are available (ii) the enrolment rate for such places and (iii) the average waiting time for enrolment; and (b) what is the expected number of (i) new preschools in Sengkang by 2023 and (ii) new infant care and childcare places, respectively.
1 Over the last five years, the number of infant care places in Sengkang has grown by over 80% from 570 in 2017 to 1,050 in 2021. Child care places in Sengkang have grown by nearly 60% from 7,700 in 2017 to 12,200 in 2021. Such growth is significantly higher than the overall increase nationally in infant care places (50%) and child care places (30%).
2 Between 2017 and 2021, the average enrolment rate for infant and child care services in Sengkang was about 68% and 83% respectively. This is slightly higher than the national average of about 67% and 77% for infant and child care services respectively.
3 Parents may register interest in a preschool via the Preschool Search Portal (PSP), ECDA’s online self-help search portal launched in 2019. While we strongly encourage all parents to use the PSP, this is voluntary and some parents may also directly contact their chosen preschools. Based on parents who have registered interest on the PSP over the past two years, the waiting times in Sengkang for infant care and child care places range between a few weeks to a few months.
4 There is a range of factors that affect waiting time. For instance, parents may have to wait longer if they prefer to send their children to specific centres. In addition, parents may register their interest early without an immediate need for places as they have alternative arrangements, such as home-based care. Parents can also register their interest for multiple centres at the same time, regardless of whether their child is currently enrolled in a preschool.
5 That said, the increase in infant and child care places over the years has helped address families’ preschool needs. Over the past five years, the number of unenrolled children whose parents have registered for interest in an infant or child care place in Sengkang has reduced by about 60% – from 930 in 2017 to 380 children in 2021, which constitutes less than 2% of all families with infants in Sengkang.
6 Providing access to quality, affordable infant and child care remains a key priority for the Government. We will continue to increase capacity where needed to meet demand for early childhood services, especially in new estates like Punggol and Sengkang, which tend to have many young families. By the end of 2022, ECDA plans to develop another four preschools in Sengkang, which will provide 60 more infant care places and 400 more childcare places. These preschools will be built in accessible locations such as in community centres, and in tandem with new Build-To-Order (BTO) housing developments so that they can be operational in time to meet parents’ needs. This does not include additional infant care places which may be developed by other preschool operators to meet local demand.