Tuesday 21 August 2012

Building of preschools ramped up

Total of 78 to be built over next four years to cope with growing demand
By Leslie Kay Lim, The Straits Times, 20 Aug 2012

MORE than 70 preschools will be built over the next four years as the Government ramps up efforts to cope with growing demand.

Seventeen of the 78 will be up and running by the end of this year, mostly in young estates such as Jurong West, Punggol and Sengkang.

The rest will be in areas like Woodlands, Bukit Merah and Yishun. Most of the new centres will be run by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and PAP Community Foundation (PCF).

The locations were unveiled on the childcare services portal under the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

Young parents in newer estates have complained about long waits - sometimes up to two years - to secure a spot in a preschool.

The move to ramp up childcare services comes as the Government reviews its population policies and parenthood incentives. Young couples often cite the availability of good, affordable childcare services as a key factor when deciding whether to start a family.

The bulk of the upcoming centres is part of a plan announced earlier by MCYS to build 200 childcare centres and kindergartens by 2018.

Parents like Mr Kenny Neo, 35, are glad the wait may soon be over. It took Mr Neo, who lives in Sengkang, eight months to find a childcare centre for his daughter, four.

"I called Moriah, PCF at Fernvale, Kinderland at Yio Chu Kang, three My First Skools at Anchorvale," said the logistics supervisor. "All said their places were taken up."

His daughter now attends a PCF childcare centre in Tampines which is near his in-laws' home.

With help from his MP, Dr Lam Pin Min, he recently found a place in an upcoming NTUC childcare centre in Anchorvale, a five-minute drive from his home. Dr Lam, MP for Sengkang West, said waiting lists for preschools in the area currently number in the hundreds and he has received many appeals for help.

Other MPs overseeing newer estates have received similar feedback. Said Dr Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC): "Many feel a sense of frustration at not being able to find a place for their child near their new home."

Said MP Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC): "Parents tell me, 'Whatever money you give us is useless without childcare.'"

But with more centres on the way, finding teachers will be a challenge, say preschool operators. The sector already has problems attracting and retaining staff.

MCYS has taken steps to tackle the issue, such as by setting up new scholarships in early childhood education. Preschool operators are also ramping up recruitment.

Ms Geraldine Lee, chief human resource officer of NTUC First Campus, said the group is sponsoring mid-career switchers for diploma programmes. "We are on target with staffing the new centres, but having sufficient trained teachers has always been a challenge for the industry overall," said Ms Lee.

"Especially at such a quick pace of expansion, more teachers are needed to join the industry."

Bulk coming up in newer estates

BY 2016, a total of 78 preschools will be built across Singapore, with the bulk coming up in the newer estates:
- Sengkang: 15 
- Punggol: 14 
- Jurong West: 6 
- Bukit Panjang: 6 
- Hougang: 5

Others are in areas like Woodlands, Bukit Merah and Yishun.

For the complete list visit:

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