9 FEBRUARY 2017
Er Dr Lee Bee Wah
MP for Nee Soon GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development
(a) what is the current range of waiting time for enrolment in childcare centres;
(b) whether there is a shortage of childcare teachers currently and, if so, what is the Ministry doing to increase the number of childcare teachers; and
(c) whether a comprehensive study has been done on the needs of childcare centres and how their capacity can be maximised.
Since 2012, the number of child care places has increased significantly by over 40% across Singapore, to over 130,000. Many child care centres now have available vacancies to enrol children at short notice. However, for a few housing estates with high child care demand, parents may still experience waiting times that range from a few weeks to a few months. In particular, parents may have to wait longer if they prefer a specific centre due to its location or operator. A fair proportion of the children in the queues for the more popular centres are already enrolled in some other centre.
To further reduce waiting times, we will continue to inject more child care capacity in housing estates with high demand. This includes the four recently announced large centres at Punggol, Sengkang and Bukit Panjang. Future HDB Build-To-Order housing developments have also been planned with larger child care centres to meet the needs our young families.
The manpower situation in the early childhood sector has been tight. This has been due to the rapid expansion of child care places in Singapore, as well as challenges faced by the sector in attracting and retaining experienced early childhood educators.
Over the past few years, the Early Childhood Development Agency has been working closely with operators and training agencies on various initiatives to attract, retain and develop our educators. For example, the Polytechnics have increased student intake for early childhood diploma courses by more than 70% last year, from 380 to 675 places. Last October, ECDA launched a comprehensive Early Childhood Manpower Plan to provide more professional development opportunities for early childhood educators, a more supportive working environment, and greater respect and recognition for our educators.
To understand and address ground challenges, ECDA conducts regular consultations with the sector, including townhall sessions, surveys and centre visits. For example, the Early Childhood Manpower Plan was developed in consultation with key sector partners such as unions, industry associations and operators. ECDA will continue to work closely and collaboratively with the sector.