Mr Murali Pillai asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) in each of the past five years, what is the average preschool enrolment rate of families residing in HDB public rental flats; (b) how does this rate compare with the national average enrolment rate; and (c) whether the Ministry will consider making preschool education compulsory.
1 The preschool participation rate of Singapore citizen children aged 5 to 6 years residing in public rental flats is comparable to the national average of 95%. The preschool participation rate of children aged 3 to 4 years residing in public rental flats is slightly lower than the national average, with about 80% enrolled in preschools compared to about 88% nationally.
2 The early years are important to a child’s development, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. ECDA works closely with the community to help lower-income families enrol their children through KidSTART and the Preschool Outreach programme. We have also enhanced our preschool subsidies such that families under HDB’s Public Rental Scheme and MSF’s ComCare schemes are automatically eligible for maximum preschool subsidies, regardless of the mother’s working status. Lower-income families pay $3 per month for full-day childcare and $1 per month for half-day kindergarten at Anchor Operator preschools.
3 Rather than a broad policy of compulsory education at the preschool years, our approach is to ensure the provision of accessible, affordable and good quality preschool services across the board. Together with proactive outreach and targeted assistance for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, we address the practical barriers to preschool education that lower-income families face. ECDA will do more in the coming years to raise preschool participation among lower-income families, such as via the nationwide roll out of KidSTART.