To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what are the plans in providing grants for kindergarten education beyond the MOE kindergartens; and (b) whether he can provide an update on the provision of more educational support and resources for children with special needs in the preschool sector.
1. The Government’s foremost objective is to ensure that parents have access to quality and affordable preschools for their children. This will provide a good start for every child and better support families with young children. To this end, the Government supports Anchor Operators, Partner Operators and MOE Kindergartens with recurrent funding, to uplift preschool quality while providing affordable options.
2. We will also continue to provide broad-based support for the sector as a whole, to benefit all operators and early childhood educators. These include funding schemes such as the Professional Development Programmes which all kindergarten and childcare centres can apply for in order to support educators’ professional development, as well as grants to improve productivity using technology solutions, and to foster more innovative teaching practices.
3. Overall, the market remains open to give parents a choice in selecting a suitable preschool for their children. I encourage all operators to make use of the schemes available to invest in uplifting the quality of their centres and teachers, in tandem with the overall improvements in the preschool sector.
4. Children under the age of 7 with mild developmental needs can get support from the Development Support and Learning Support Programmes in some 550 preschools. Learning Support Educators (LSEds) and therapists collaborate with preschool class teachers to equip these children with skills within a classroom setting.
5. Through the new Development Support Plus programme, which will be progressively rolled out from July 2019, children with mild to moderate developmental needs who have made sufficient progress at Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) centres will be able to receive intervention support directly at the preschools they are enrolled in. For children with moderate to severe developmental needs, they are supported through EIPIC, provided at early intervention centres.
6. With effect from 1 April 2019, we have made such early intervention services more affordable for Singaporean children by enhancing the subsidies and broadening the income criteria for means-tested subsidies so that more families qualify.
7. I will be co-chairing a cross-sectoral workgroup with the National Institute of Education (NIE) Associate Dean of Education Research, Associate Professor Kenneth Poon. The workgroup, comprising people, private and public sector partners, will study the experiences of centres which serve children with moderate to severe developmental needs, to develop approaches that may be extended to more preschools.
8. Finally, to enhance coordination of early childhood development and support services for families and children, MSF will integrate the oversight of early intervention services for preschool-aged children under ECDA, progressively from July 2019. All early intervention services will come under ECDA by end-2020.
9. The Government will continue to improve the access to quality and affordable preschools, for every child to have a good start in life.