A Good Start For Every Child
Making quality preschools more affordable and accessible
1 At National Day Rally 2019, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong outlined significant enhancements in the early childhood sector to give every child a good start in life and to support families with young children. These moves build on the Government’s efforts since 2012 to raise the quality, accessibility and affordability of preschools (see Annex A for list of key moves).
More families to enjoy higher preschool subsidies
2 Currently, all families with Singapore Citizen children attending childcare and infant care programmes receive a Basic Subsidy. Families also receive a means-tested Additional Subsidy if the mother is working and the gross monthly household income is $7,500 and below. In addition, families with Singapore Citizen children attending kindergarten programmes by Anchor Operators and the Ministry of Education (MOE) receive a means-tested subsidy under the Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS) if their gross monthly household income is $6,000 and below.
3 From January 2020, the Government will raise the gross monthly household income ceiling for Additional Subsidy and KiFAS to $12,000. This is estimated to benefit an additional 30,000 families, up from 41,000 families receiving these means-tested subsidies today. Larger families with three or more dependants can continue to have their income assessed on a per capita basis, which may qualify them for higher means-tested subsidies.
The Government will also increase the subsidy amounts across all income tiers qualifying for Additional Subsidy and KiFAS. From January 2020, a dual-income family earning $8,000 per month will pay $280 per month for full-day childcare services at an Anchor Operator, compared to up to $470 per month today. A dual-income family earning $5,000 per month will pay $130 per month, compared to up to $370 per month today. Lower-income families will pay even less. Families earning $3,000 or less per month will pay $3 per month at an Anchor Operator preschool (details of the enhanced subsidies are in Annex B).
More access to quality and affordable government-supported preschools
5 Today, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) provides funding support to Anchor Operators and Partner Operators, so that they are able to provide quality and affordable preschool services, where fees are capped (details of these schemes are in Annex C). MOE Kindergartens catering to children aged 5 and 6 also serve as a platform for developing and delivering a quality preschool curriculum based on the Nurturing Early Learners framework, and to catalyse quality improvements in kindergarten education.
6 The Government will continue to expand its provision of government-supported preschool places to improve preschool quality, affordability and accessibility. 80 per cent of preschoolers can have a place in a government-supported preschool by around 2025, up from just over 50 per cent today. This proportion of government-supported preschools will be broadly comparable to what is provided in the housing and healthcare sectors. The expansion of government-supported preschool places will be driven mainly through the expansion of Anchor Operator and Partner Operator preschools.
7 The Government will continue its current approach of facilitating the establishment of more Anchor Operator preschools in tandem with new public housing and in areas of demand. In addition, ECDA will expand the Partner Operator scheme with a new call for applications from childcare operators, for a five-year term starting from January 2021.
8 ECDA will also develop a scheme for a small number of quality kindergartens to join as Partner Operators within 2021. KiFAS will be extended to children enrolled in kindergartens appointed as Partner Operators. Similar to childcare Partner Operators, kindergartens that join as Partner Operators will have to meet conditions to ensure affordability, quality, and full accessibility for all segments of the public. ECDA will be engaging operators over the next few months, and will provide more details in due course.
9 As part of the expansion of government-supported places, MOE will also set up a few more MOE Kindergartens, and aims to operate about 60 by 2025.
10 As the capacity of government-supported preschools grows over the medium term, we aim to lower fee caps at government-supported preschools so that dual-income families with a child in full-day childcare will pay around the equivalent of primary school fees plus after-school student care fees, which is currently around $300 per month, before means-tested preschool subsidies. In line with this, ECDA will maintain the fee caps for Anchor Operators and Partner Operators in the near term. Under the new five-year term for the Partner Operator scheme starting January 2021, ECDA will also lower the fee caps for Partner Operators. Preschools which are not subject to fee caps are encouraged to ensure that fee increases, if any, should not be excessive.
11 Overall, these enhancements are expected to more than double annual government spending on the early childhood sector over the next few years, from around $1 billion in 2018.
More support for children from low-income families
12 The KidSTART programme provides support for child development, coordinates and strengthens holistic services for families where needed, and monitors the developmental progress of children from birth onwards (details of KidSTART are in Annex D). KidSTART has been piloted since July 2016, and currently benefits about 1,000 children from low-income families living in the pilot regions of Kreta Ayer/Bukit Merah, Taman Jurong/Boon Lay and Geylang Serai.
13 Families and community partners have given positive feedback on the KidSTART pilot. ECDA will expand KidSTART to more regions to reach another 5,000 children over the next three years. Details will be announced when ready.
¹Gross monthly income is before CPF deduction, and includes bonuses, commissions, overtime pay, and allowances.