CHILD CARE CENTRES AND KINDERGARTENS TO BE REGULATED UNDER A COMMON FRAMEWORK
Under the new Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDC) Bill that was passed in Parliament today, all child care centres and kindergartens will be licensed under a common regulatory framework to ensure more consistent and higher quality standards across the pre-school sector. This move is part of the Government’s overall efforts to enhance the affordability, accessibility and quality of pre-schools in Singapore.
Under the ECDC Bill, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA)’s oversight of the sector will be strengthened with a more comprehensive and graduated penalty framework, as well as enhanced investigative powers. In so doing, parents can be better assured of the safety and well-being of their pre-school-going children.
Currently, child care centres and kindergartens are separately regulated under the Child Care Centres Act and Education Act respectively, with each Act stipulating different requirements. Under the ECDC Bill:
- All centres will be licensed for a period, up to three years for centres with consistently good regulatory track records (from the current two years). Centres will need to renew their licences upon expiry and demonstrate that they have maintained their standards.
- All staff working in pre-schools, including enrichment vendor staff, will need to be approved by ECDA. This helps to ensure the suitability of persons who work with young children. Unsuitable persons will also be prohibited from managing the centre’s business.
- Centres will have clearer and more consistent requirements to guide their operations, including new centre closure procedures to minimise the impact of service disruption on children and parents.
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin noted that the new ECDC Bill highlighted the importance that the Government had placed on good quality and holistic education and care, and the important role that our early childhood teachers play in providing every child with a good start. He added, “The new ECDC Bill is an important milestone in raising the quality of early childhood development in Singapore and provides parents with greater confidence that the Government is making Singapore a good place to raise families.”
The ECDC Bill was introduced in Parliament on 6 February 2017, following extensive public consultation and engagement with stakeholders in the sector. ECDA received strong support on the need to raise centre quality and also calibrated the proposals based on the feedback received. The ECDC Bill is expected to come into operation over the next year after the detailed regulatory requirements are gazetted. Thereafter, existing child care centres will be licensed under the new ECDC Act while existing kindergartens will have up to a year to obtain their licences under the new Act.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why is the Government introducing a harmonised legislation for child care centres and kindergartens?
The Government is committed to providing a good start for every child, and made significant investments in raising the quality of child care centres and kindergartens, which play an important role in supporting families and the development of young children. The ECDC Bill is part of this effort to ensure more consistent and higher standards in the early childhood sector. It is also in line with earlier feedback from operators, teachers and parents for a harmonised regulatory framework to enhance development outcomes for children. This harmonisation also complements the formation of ECDA in 2013 as the authority overseeing child care centres and kindergartens.
- What type of support will be given to centres in the transition to the new regulatory framework?
ECDA has been working closely with centres on the new requirements, and will provide adequate time for the sector to transit to the new regulatory framework. Since 2015, ECDA has been conducting sector briefings to explain the new requirements, as well as customised on-site guidance for kindergartens, as they are new to a licensing framework. Kindergartens will also be given one year from the commencement of the Act to obtain their licences, and many have started making adjustments to prepare for the new framework.
- What are the standards of centres today? Are they ready for the new standards?
The majority of centres are well-performing today and have exceeded the baseline regulatory requirements. For example, four in five child care centres currently attain the highest child care licence standards with the maximum two year licence tenure (excludes new centres automatically placed on one year licence). ECDA’s preliminary assessment of kindergartens suggests that almost all kindergartens will also meet the new requirements. Separately, ECDA has been introducing measures to ease administrative processes and to streamline requirements.