Mr Leon Perera asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) in the last five years, what is the annual pre-school enrolment of children aged three years as a percentage of each cohort size; (b) what is the socio-economic breakdown of children aged 3 – 4 years who are enrolled in pre-schools; and (c) whether the Government will review its stance on making pre-school education mandatory for children.
Mr Masagos Zulkifli B M M: Over the past five years, more children aged 3 to 4 years have enrolled in preschool. In 2021, about nine in 10 Singapore Citizen children aged 3 to 4 years were enrolled in preschools, up from around eight in 10 in 2017. The children enrolled in preschools generally reflect the national profile in terms of household income. However, the preschool participation rate of children aged 3 to 4 years from lower-income families is lower than the national average. Among children aged 3 to 4 years residing in public rental flats, the preschool participation rate is about eight in 10, compared to nine in 10 nationally.
The early years are important to a child’s development, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. ECDA works closely with the community to help lower-income families through KidSTART and the Preschool Outreach programme. We have also enhanced our preschool subsidies such that families under HDB’s Public Rental Scheme and MSF’s ComCare schemes are automatically eligible for maximum preschool subsidies, regardless of the mother’s working status. Lower-income families pay $3 per month for full-day childcare and $1 per month for half-day kindergarten at Anchor Operator preschools.
Rather than a broad policy of compulsory education at the preschool years, our approach is to ensure the provision of accessible, affordable and good quality preschool services across the board. Together with proactive outreach and targeted assistance to facilitate preschool enrolment of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, we are addressing the practical barriers to preschool education that lower-income families face, rather than to impose a legal duty on them to send their children to preschool. ECDA will do more in the coming years to raise preschool participation among lower-income families, such as via the nationwide roll out of KidSTART.
Ministry of Social and Family Development
4 July 2022