Mr Murali Pillai asked the Minister for Social and Family Development how the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) ensures that there are sufficient numbers of infant care centres, child care centres and kindergarten places in each constituency.
1. ECDA plans for preschool demand by urban planning divisions known as Planning Areas, taking into consideration factors such as demographics, local enrolment trends, and existing supply. To meet the preschool needs of young families, ECDA then works closely with agencies such as HDB and URA to develop new centres in tandem with new public housing developments, and set aside space for preschools in private housing developments through the Government Land Sales programme respectively. Where required, ECDA also facilitates the development of preschools in community and commercial premises, as well as in vacant state land.
2. As demand changes over time, ECDA regularly reviews plans and closely monitors the preschool enrolment and availability in each Planning Area. Should local demand shift and exceed earlier expectations, ECDA works with preschools and HDB to activate more void deck and communal spaces for centre extensions, where available.
3. To date, the rising demand for preschools has been primarily for full-day childcare. This is due to the growing prevalence of dual-income families, and more grandparents working. We have therefore significantly increased the national supply of full-day infant and childcare places by 50% since 2015 - from 125,000 to about 190,000 places today. These new preschool places are concentrated in areas with more young families. For example, in the two newer planning areas, Punggol and Sengkang, the number of infant and childcare places has increased by 90% since 2015.
4. For families that prefer half-day kindergarten services, we ensure that accessible, affordable, and quality kindergarten services are provided by Anchor Operators and MOE. These centres are distributed across various locations in Singapore. More MOE Kindergartens (MKs), which also offer an optional Kindergarten Care (KCare) service for parents who require full-day services, will be developed in areas of demand. The total number of MKs will increase from 36 today, to about 60 by 2025.
5. By 2023, ECDA will develop another 10,000 new full-day preschool places, mainly in Planning Areas with upcoming HDB developments for new families. As families' demand for infant care, child care and kindergarten change over time due to various factors, including COVID-19 which may alter working arrangements, ECDA will continue to regularly review its plans and strive to ensure adequate preschool provision in each Planning Area for families.