Mr Cheng Li Hui
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development:
(a) in the last three years, what has been the number and percentage of each cohort of Singaporean children who have not attended pre-school;
(b) what is the typical profile of these children;
(c) what are the main reasons preventing them from receiving pre-school education; and
(d) whether the Ministry will consider making pre-school education compulsory.
Over the last three years, over 90% of Singaporean children aged five to six years were enrolled in pre-schools. By age six, close to 99% of Singaporean children would have some pre-school experience.
The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) works with the community to reach out to Singaporean children who are not attending pre-school by age five. Our community outreach partners conduct home visits to understand the family’s situation and work closely with the family to overcome the barriers to the child’s pre-school participation.
There are various profiles of children not attending pre-school, due either to their family’s circumstances or preferences. For example, there are those who are living overseas, or whose parents prefer other options for their child’s development such as home-schooling, enrichment classes or specialised interventions. There are also children from more disadvantaged backgrounds.
We recognise the importance of the pre-school years in a child’s development, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, it is also important to preserve some parental choice and involvement in the type of experience a child has at pre-school. Hence, rather than a broad policy of compulsory education at the pre-school years, our approach is to ensure the provision of accessible, affordable and good quality pre-school services, with proactive outreach and targeted assistance for those from more disadvantaged backgrounds.
In line with this approach, ECDA has started to progressively roll out KidSTART, a new initiative to reach out to and ensure that children from low income and vulnerable families have early access to appropriate health, learning and developmental support, including attending quality pre-school.