Mr Melvin Yong Yik Chye asked the Minister for Social and Family Development whether ECDA has plans to meet the demands arising from any future increase in the number of babies born so as to ensure that there are sufficient (i) preschool places and (ii) early childhood educators to provide quality preschool education.
1. The government is committed to enhancing access to affordable and quality preschools. We have more than doubled the number of full-day preschool places in the last decade and there are now over 200,000 places, sufficient to cater to every resident child aged three and above. This is despite a fall in the number of babies born over the period. We are on track for 80% of preschool places to be government-supported by around 2025, up from over 60% today.
2. ECDA will continue to plan for future demand for preschool places, taking into account the projected resident birth cohort. ECDA works closely with HDB to develop new childcare centres in tandem with Built-To-Order (BTO) developments so that places will be built in areas where families with young children are concentrated. For older or expanding housing estates, ECDA will also work with HDB and existing operators to activate available void deck and communal spaces for centre additions and extensions if additional childcare capacity is necessary.
3. We estimate that another 1,500 more educators will be needed to support the sector’s expansion in the coming years. To attract and retain quality early childhood educators, ECDA has reviewed salaries to ensure they correspond with educators’ contributions and professional skills. We have also announced measures to improve conditions for educators, such as for preschools to move towards a five-day week from 2025. Parents can also help make the profession more attractive, by appreciating the work of the educators, and having reasonable expectations on educators, such as when to expect replies to messages sent at night.