Over 40,000 new full-day pre-school places by 2022; further support to transform the early childhood profession
1 At National Day Rally 2017, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong outlined key moves to significantly uplift the early childhood (EC) sector, so as to give every child a good start in life and support families with young children.
2 These moves build on the significant progress the sector has made since 2012 when the Government made a decisive commitment to uplift the quality, accessibility and affordability of pre-school education, including the establishment of the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) to drive efforts in developing and regulating the sector (see Annex A for progress in the sector since 2012).
3 Building on this momentum, the Government will, over the next five years, (i) continue to significantly expand the provision of affordable and quality EC services, and (ii) transform the EC profession.
Significantly Expanding Provision
Over 40,000 new full-day pre-school places will be added
4 Parents can look forward to over 40,000 new full-day pre-school places by 2022. This would be 30 per cent more than the number of places available today. Most of these additional pre-school places will be sited at new HDB residential developments, so as to be accessible to young families. ECDA will work with HDB to pre-build these new centres so that they can be operational earlier. The new centres will be twice the size of an average centre today, with a capacity of 200 children in each centre. Children enrolled in these centres can also enjoy more seamless access to outdoor learning spaces and playgrounds.
New Anchor Operator Early Years Centres, MOE Kindergartens, and Partner Operator centres
5 The Anchor Operators (AOPs) will run the majority of these new centres to provide affordable and quality services for children aged two months to six years. To further meet the growing demand by working parents for EC services for younger children, AOPs will set up new Early Years Centres (EYCs) which will cater to children aged two months to four years. The first four EYCs announced in February 2017 are currently under construction in Punggol by NTUC My First Skool and PCF Sparkletots, and are expected to be operational in 2018.
6 To provide a smooth service continuum for parents, these EYCs will tie up with nearby MOE Kindergartens, which will provide EC services for children in the five to six years age group (i.e. Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2). There will be about 50 MOE Kindergartens by 2023, from 15 today. More details will be shared by MOE.
7 Apart from AOPs and MOE Kindergartens, other operators continue to play an important role in meeting the demand for affordable and quality pre-school services. Since 1 August 2017, ECDA has appointed an additional 29 centres, operated by the existing Partner Operators (POP), to the POP scheme (details in Annex B). Parents with children enrolled in these centres will benefit from a one-off fee reduction and improvements in the quality of EC services. There are now about 200 POP centres, and more centres are expected to come under this scheme.
8 Through the expanded provision by AOPs, MOE Kindergartens, and POPs, two in out of every three pre-schoolers will have a place in a Government or Government-supported quality pre-school by 2023. This is an increase from about one in two pre-schoolers today.
Transforming the EC Profession
Establishment of the National Institute of Early Childhood Development
9 A new National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) will be set up under the ambit of the National Institute of Education, with a national mandate to develop EC professionals for the sector. More details will be shared by MOE.
Stronger attraction and employment support
10 To meet the manpower demands of this growing sector, the establishment of NIEC will also be coupled with new efforts to attract and develop the pipeline of EC professionals. All NIEC pre-employment students will be offered Training Awards that consist of a full sponsorship with an allowance. In addition, ECDA will work with the sector to engage and groom promising NIEC students in their final-year, to give them a smoother and strong start in their career. Mid-career switchers enrolled at NIEC will continue to be supported under the Professional Conversion Programme by SkillsFuture Singapore.
11 ECDA will also embark on a three-year national campaign to attract more individuals into the EC sector. The campaign aims to raise public awareness on the importance of providing our children with quality education in the early years, thus boosting the image of the sector to reflect the invaluable role of EC educators. By 2020, 20,000 EC professionals will be required to meet the sector's needs, from around 16,000 today.
12 In conjunction with this, continued improvements will be made to enhance the working experience of EC educators in practical ways. For example, an integrated package of IT solutions ("SMART solutions") co-developed by the industry and government agencies is being rolled out to pre-schools to streamline daily processes so that teachers can spend more quality time with the children.
More structured development pathways for EC educators
13 Building on the initiatives outlined in the Early Childhood
Manpower Plan last year, ECDA will also work with AOPs and MOE Kindergartens to develop even more attractive career and professional development pathways for their EC educators. The growing scale of AOPs will provide more meaningful progression for their staff, with diverse job opportunities and more senior specialist or leadership positions to be created over the next five years. This will enable their EC educators to be paid more competitively, with salaries matching their growing competency and responsibilities.
14 At the same time, ECDA will work with partners to expand the professional development opportunities and curriculum resources for the sector. This includes more structured development programmes for EC leaders, so as to support and build the leadership fraternity in the EC sector.
Significant Increase in Government Spending
15 To support these major moves, annual government spending in the EC sector is projected to double from $850 million today to $1.7 billion annual spending by the next five years. It reflects the Government's commitment to ensure a strong start for every child, assure parents of quality, accessible and affordable EC services, and provide a fulfilling and rewarding career for EC educators.
Annex A: Progress of the Early Childhood Sector from 2012 to 2017
Annex B: Recently Appointed Partner Operator Centres