To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development in each of the last five years (a) how many Singaporean families have been eligible for the Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS); (b) how many Singaporean families have received assistance under KiFAS; and (c) whether the Government has plans to extend KiFAS to all eligible Singaporean families irrespective of chosen childcare provider, with the same subsidy to be provided to all eligible children.
1. The Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS) is a means-tested subsidy for families with (i) household incomes within the qualifying income ceiling, and (ii) children enrolled in half-day kindergartens run by Anchor Operators and the Ministry of Education (MOE). Families are prompted to apply for the subsidy during enrolment, and all families who meet the criteria for KiFAS will receive KiFAS support upon enrolment and subsidy application.
2. From January 2020, we had raised the qualifying monthly household income ceiling for KiFAS from $6,000 to $12,000 and increased the subsidy amounts, so that more families benefit from KiFAS. The number of children receiving KiFAS has thus increased by one-third, from an annual average of around 9,000 between 2016 and 2019, to 12,000 this year.
3. Anchor Operators and MOE Kindergartens offer accessible, affordable and quality programmes, and are well-distributed across various locations in Singapore. Anchor Operator kindergartens are further required to charge no morethan $160 per month for half-day kindergarten to ensure affordability, and must meet ECDA’s quality requirements. MOE Kindergartens charge similar fees and operate under strict MOE oversight to ensure quality.
4. While we have made efforts to enhance affordability of kindergartens, the priority is to enhance affordability of childcare centres as the majority of children increasingly attend full-day childcare programmes, which better serve families’ needs. Childcare subsidies are provided to children enrolled in all ECDA-licensed childcare centres. Children enrolled in childcare programmes receive a universal Basic Subsidy and, if eligible, a means-tested Additional Subsidy. For the Additional Subsidy, we had raised the qualifying household income ceiling to $12,000 from January 2020 to benefit more families. Over the medium term, we aim to further enhance affordability in childcare centres by lowering fee caps.
5. Taken together, all childcare centres and Anchor Operator and MOE Kindergartens currently serve more than 85% of Singaporean children enrolled in preschool. The vast majority receive subsidy support.
6. Beyond preschool subsidies, parents can tap on the Baby Bonus Cash Gift, as well as the Child Development Account (CDA) First Step grant of $3,000 and government matching contributions, to offset their children’s preschool fees.
7. The Government is committed to investing in early childhood education. Within the next few years, we will double our spending on preschool to over $2 billion per year, up from about $1 billion in 2018. We will continue to improve preschool quality, affordability and accessibility, to ensure that every child has a good start in life.