The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) regulates and develops the early childhood sector in Singapore. Since its formation in 2013, great strides have been made to enhance families’ access to affordable and quality preschools.
The Government introduced the Anchor Operator and Partner Operator schemes, and MOE Kindergartens to expand the number of Government-supported preschool places. Full-day preschool places has doubled from 100,000 in 2013 to over 200,000 today. This is in response to growing demand for full-day childcare with more dual-income families and greater recognition of the importance of early childhood care and education.
The Government has ensured preschools remain affordable by providing preschool subsidies to all Singaporean children and imposing fee caps at government-supported preschools.
ECDA increased Additional Subsidy amounts across all eligible income tiers and raised the income ceiling for Additional Subsidy and Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme from $7,500 and $6,000 respectively to $12,000 in 2020. Around 95,000 children now receive preschool subsidies, almost doubled compared to around 48,000 children in 2019.
Fee caps for Anchor Operators were introduced in 2014 and for Partner Operators in 2016. These fee caps are supported by Government grants to operators. This has kept the median fees in the preschool sector stable and affordable despite the rising cost of preschool services. In fact, median fees for infant care and childcare are lower today as compared to fees in 2013.
Visit https://www.ecda.gov.sg/parents/subsidies-financial-assistance for more information on preschool subsidies.
Quality (Provider and Programme)
ECDA has also raised the provider, programme, and professional quality of the preschool sector.
The Early Childhood Development Centres Act and Regulations came into effect in 2019, bringing childcare centres and kindergartens under the same regulatory framework, to ensure consistent and high-quality standards across the sector. The Singapore Preschool Accreditation Framework (SPARK) was introduced to the sector in 2011 and it has continued to be enhanced to assist preschools in raising their quality. Today, more than 50% of preschools are SPARK-certified.
Preschools must follow national curriculum frameworks by ECDA and MOE to ensure preschool programmes are effective in supporting the holistic development of our children from birth to six years old. MOE recently updated the Nurturing Early Learners Framework (for 4-6 year old) to incorporate the latest developments in EC education policy, practice and research. ECDA also launched the revised Early Years Development Framework (for 0-3 year old) at the Early Childhood Celebrations & Conference 2023.
Over the last 10 years, the number of educators has doubled from 12,000 to over 24,000. Measures have been undertaken to better attract, develop and support our educators, as well as improve their career proposition.
The National Institute of Early Childhood Development was set up in 2019 as the national training institute to provide quality training and professional development for educators.
ECDA launched the Skills Framework for Early Childhood and Education in 2016 and refreshed it in 2021 to guide the sector in developing meaningful and rewarding careers for Early Childhood (EC) and Early Intervention (EI) professionals. Together with the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Roadmaps for EC and EI that were rolled out progressively from 2021, educators could chart out their professional and career development plans. The number of endorsed CPD courses has increased from just 20 in 2013 to over 150 today. For aspiring and existing leaders in the sector, ECDA introduced the Leadership Development Framework to help them develop desired leadership attributes, skills, and competencies.
ECDA also introduced initiatives such as the ECDA Scholarships and Training Awards, Professional Development Programmes, and the Early Childhood Learning Community in the last 10 years to attract more people to the sector, while supporting educators and leaders in their professional development.
Enhanced Career Proposition
To recognise outstanding early childhood educators and preschools, ECDA introduced the ECDA Awards for Excellence in Early Childhood Development in 2013.
In 2018, ECDA embarked on a three-year national campaign, “Shape Our Tomorrow”, to enhance the public’s understanding of the EC sector and further recognise EC educators as a respected profession.
ECDA enhanced the salaries of our preschool educators to be commensurate with their contributions and professional skills. ECDA will continue to periodically review other salaries to keep pace with the market. Since 2018, salaries of preschool educators and leaders in AOP preschools have increased by 20% to 30%. Over the next 2 years, educators and leaders in Government-supported preschools can expect 10% to 30% rise in gross monthly salary.
To promote a good working environment, the Early Childhood Occupational Health and Safety Assessment in 2021 recommended that preschools provide ergonomic furniture, set aside dedicated areas for staff to work and rest, and adopt digital solutions to enhance productivity. ECDA also launched the Early Childhood Industry Digital Plan (IDP) and the $4 million Early Childhood Digitalisation Grant in 2021. To-date, more than 60% of preschools have adopted IDP solutions. ECDA will introduce new digital solutions for centres’ adoption in 2024. Find out more at https://www.ecda.gov.sg/operators/early-childhood-transformation-initiative/early-childhood-industry-digital-plan.
To celebrate and recognise the contributions of our educators, ECDA mandated in 2020 for Teachers’ Day to be a closure day for all preschools. In 2023, ECDA further announced that from 2025, preschools will no longer be required to operate on Saturdays and starting from 2024, preschools may choose to close on Saturdays if there is no demand.
Targeted support for children who may need more help (KidSTART and Early Intervention)
While the Government continues to invest in our preschools to support all families, strengthening support to children from lower-income families and children with developmental needs are also priorities.
In 2016, ECDA piloted the KidSTART programme to support pregnant mothers and children aged 0-6 years old from lower-income families. The programme provides support for child development, coordinates holistic services for families and monitors the developmental progress of children from birth. It also encourages parents to enrol their children into preschool by age 3. Starting with 1,000 children in 2016, KidSTART has expanded to support more than 6,200 children today. KidSTART will continue to scale up nation-wide to support 80% of children from eligible lower-income families, up from around 20% today.
- Early Intervention
For children with developmental needs, there is a range of programmes available to support them. Since 2015, the number of children who benefitted from ECDA-funded EI services has increased from about 4,000 to about 7,100 in 2022. In addition, ECDA has ensured the continued affordability for EI programmes through government subsidies and introduction of fee caps for Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) in 2023.
Visit https://www.ecda.gov.sg/parents/other-services/early-intervention-services for more information on the range of programmes.
ECDA also started initiatives to enhance the inclusion and support for children with developmental needs, guided by the Inclusive Preschool Workgroup’s recommendations released in 2021. Read more about the recommendations at https://www.msf.gov.sg/docs/default-source/mediaroom-document/inclusive_preschool_report_v7b-30apr-hires-(speechassist).pdf?sfvrsn=8b423dfc_2.
Initiatives include expanding the Development Support-Learning Support (DS-LS) and DS-Plus programmes in preschools (2021), piloting the Inclusive Support Programme (InSP) (2021) to integrate early childhood and early intervention services at selected preschools, and appointing an Inclusion Coordinator in every preschool (2023) to provide baseline support for children with developmental needs. ECDA also developed a Parents’ Guide (2022), available online at https://go.gov.sg/ecda-parentsguide, for parents who have children with developmental needs.
EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT AGENCY
About the Early Childhood Development Agency
The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) was set up in 2013. The autonomous agency oversees the regulation and development of infant, childcare and kindergarten programmes for children below the age of seven. To achieve their vision of giving every child a good start, the agency works in partnership with stakeholders to ensure that every child has access to affordable and quality early childhood development services and programmes.