Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered his National Day Rally speech yesterday (August 18), discussing Singapore’s current challenges and the moves the Government will be undertaking to revive the city.
Here’s what you need to know about the Government’s plans to introduce more early childhood education support for low-income families with young children.
Making Preschool Education Affordable
PM Lee noted that a good preschool education can make a big difference to children’s development.
He believes that opportunities to succeed begin young, and shared the Government’s plans to “give our young the best possible start in life”.
“So that anyone who works hard will have a chance to succeed, regardless of starting point or family background,” PM Lee said.
Because this is what meritocracy in Singapore is about.PM Lee, National Day Rally 2019
This can be achieved by enabling disadvantaged families through the enhancement of preschool subsidies.
Starting next year, the current income ceiling for families to qualify for the additional means-tested subsidies will be raised from $7,500 to $12,000.
This will benefit 30,000 more families.
Additionally, the Government plans to increase the quantum of preschool subsidies, across the board.
In the medium term, the Government aims to lower full-day preschool expenses to around $300 a month, the same as the cost of primary school plus after-school student care.
A survey on young parents on preschool conducted by PAP women MPs found that parents were “understandably… concerned about affordability”.
PM Lee concurred “that preschool should be like housing and healthcare, where we have a good and affordable government-funded option for all Singaporeans”.
He added that Singapore currently has just over 50% of government-supported preschool facilities and they plan to raise it up to 80% over time.
The Government now spends $1 billion a year on early childhood education and expects the number to double over the next few years.
“Hopefully with all these improvements, parents will no longer think of preschools as an expensive phase of bringing up their children,” PM Lee said.
He added, expectantly, for the number of babies born to go up.
Extra Help For Children From Disadvantaged Families
In 2016, the Government ran a pilot programme called, KidSTART, providing additional help to 1,000 children from disadvantaged families.
Following the success of the pilot, PM Lee announced that they will expand the programme to reach another 5,000 children over the next three years.
KidSTART, led by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), provides support for holistic child development, advising families on parent-child relations and nutrition, among others.
The programme aims to build an ‘ecosystem of support’ around the child, bringing together professionals and the community to work with the parents.
The programme targets children up to six years old from low-income families living in Kreta Ayer, Bukit Merah, Taman Jurong, Boon Lay, and Geylang Serai.
ECDA has partnered with Social Service Offices, Family Service Centres and hospitals to identify and reach out to mothers and families who can benefit from KidSTART.
The KidSTART programme consists of regular home visits, weekly community-based playgroup sessions, and enhanced preschool support.
According to The Straits Times, $20 million was invested in the pilot.
Over 800 children are benefitting from the KidSTART programme as of May 2018.
Families who live outside the pilot regions are advised to tap on other existing programmes and services that support children and families in need.
They can approach the Social Services Offices or contact preschools if they require a preschool place, and apply for a preschool subsidy to help defray the cost of preschool.
On the KidSTART programme, PM Lee said he’s confident they are on the right track.
“We still need to follow up for a few more years, to assess more exactly its benefits.”
“But for each new cohort of babies, there is no time to lose. […] Then we will take stock again how to expand KidSTART further.”
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Featured Image Credit: Gov.sg