Friday, 29 March 2013

MOE's First Five Pilot Kindergartens In Primary Schools And The Community will begin in 2014

Priority plan for places at new MOE kindergartens
One-third of places will be reserved for kids from lower-income homes
By Sandra Davie, The Straits Times, 28 Mar 2013

THE first five Education Ministry-run kindergartens to open next year will break away from the common practice among pre-schools of giving out places on a first-come-first-served basis.

Instead, one-third of the places in the kindergartens will be reserved for children from lower- income homes.

The rest will be allocated to Singapore citizens with priority given to those who live near the centres. If there are any places left after that, they will be allocated to permanent residents.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat revealed these details at a press conference yesterday, signalling the Government's commitment to help children from disadvantaged homes level up.

Four of the five kindergartens will be sited in primary schools in the Housing Board heartland and the fifth will be located in a void deck at Tampines Street 45.

Mr Heng reiterated yesterday that the Government was setting up its own kindergartens in order to develop the best approaches and new materials, and share them with other pre-schools to spur improvements all round.

The children will be taught by both diploma and degree holders, as well as some primary school teachers who will use purposeful play to build their social, literacy and numeracy skills.

All centres will also teach the three mother tongue languages - Chinese, Malay and Tamil.

"Quality pre-school provides a good foundation for future learning. This is particularly so for children from the more disadvantaged backgrounds," he said, noting that grassroots leaders will be roped in to reach out to families.

Explaining the admissions policy of the centres, Mr Heng said many of those who had attended the Our Singapore Conversation dialogues had urged the Government to provide more opportunities for children from low- and middle-income homes.

Even the locations of the five centres were planned so that the kindergartens can draw in a good mix of children from low- and middle-income families.

He stressed it was important to include children from different backgrounds so that the methods developed at the centres can be scaled up and implemented in other kindergartens.

The Ministry of Education (MOE), which gave out the other details, said there will be 120 places available at each of the school kindergartens and 80 places at the Tampines centre.

The fee will be $150 for Singaporeans and $300 for permanent residents, but there will be subsidies for lower-income families.

For example, children from families with incomes below $2,000 will pay a subsidised rate of only $10 a month.

Registration will begin on April 8 at two centres and already, some parents living near the five locations have marked their diaries.

"This is really good news for my two children as I cannot afford a church kindergarten," said Madam K. Kamala, 30, a divorcee whose rental flat is a five-minute walk from Blangah Rise Primary, one of the five locations.

MOE will start 10 more kindergartens by 2016.

Mr Heng said when the full complement of 15 centres are up and running, there should be a good mix of them sited in primary schools and community spaces.

Those co-located with primary schools will look at how to improve the transition from preschool to primary school, while the centres at community sites will allow MOE to try out fresh approaches.

Mr Lee Poh Wah, chief executive officer of Lien Foundation which recently launched a pre-school project aimed at levelling up poor children, supported the move to reserve places for children from lower-income homes.

He said: "The future of these children has just brightened. Those in poverty require and deserve extra support."

MOE kindergarten sites: Good social mix a factor
By Stacey Chia And Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 28 Mar 2013

MANY Singaporeans want a good social mix in schools, and this was one of the factors the Ministry of Education (MOE) considered when deciding where to site the new kindergartens.

The registration system was also designed in a way which would attract a mix of children from low- and middle-income families.

Many participants of the national conversation discussions have said schools should offer the opportunity for children of different backgrounds to interact, said Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah yesterday.

"You also don't want to have your kindergarten branded as 'this is for a particular income group', because we have an inclusive approach and that's the approach we've taken with these kindergartens," she said at a press conference to announce details on the first five MOE-run kindergartens.

Four of them will be sited in primary schools in the Housing Board heartland. These schools are: Dazhong Primary in Bukit Batok, Punggol View Primary, Blangah Rise Primary in Telok Blangah and Farrer Park Primary.

The fifth will be located at a void deck in Tampines Street 45.

Together, they will take in 560 children when they open next year. One-third of the places will be reserved for children from lower-income homes.

Even though some of the kindergartens will be sited in primary schools, children attending these centres will not get priority when it comes to securing Primary 1 places in these schools.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said: "If we start a through-train (programme), we're going to start the queue for entry into Primary 1 a little earlier, which is not our intention."

The Straits Times checked some of these neighbourhoods in Bukit Batok and Farrer Park and found a mix of residential types.

At Dazhong Primary, The Madeira condominium is mere steps away from the school. But the area also has a mix of three-room and four-room flats .

At Farrer Park Primary, there is also a mix of three-room, four- room and five-room flats, as well as private houses and condos within a 500m radius of the school. There is also a rental block in nearby Owen Road.

Dr Janil Puthucheary, MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, said there is a "mix of room types" within blocks in newer estates like Punggol. Having a good mix of children from different backgrounds is important as it "helps children to learn how to be with people from different backgrounds from a young age", he said.

This point was echoed by some parents. Said Madam Teresa Tan, 44, who has a three-year-old daughter and lives in a rental block near Farrer Park Primary: "Right now, her only friends are children from this block."

The former hairdresser, who is now unemployed, said she is glad an MOE kindergarten will open soon in her estate. She failed to enrol her daughter in a pre-school nearby as they were all full.

"At this age, it's still quite simple and I can teach her. But I want her to go to school and make friends," she said.

Others keen on enrolling their children in the new kindergartens cited the "MOE brand".

Madam Jasmine Liong, 40, who is thinking of enrolling her son in an MOE kindergarten next year, said: "He would get to meet older children and have role models to look up to."

But Bukit Batok resident Chang Chiou Fong, 38, was worried of exposing children too early to the primary school environment. She said: "Kids can be very rowdy in primary schools. I'm not sure if it's a good idea to expose them to such an environment so early."

Who gets priority

1 Singaporean children from low-income families

One-third of the places will be reserved for children coming from households with incomes less than $3,500 per month or per capita income not exceeding $875 a month.

If demand exceeds places, balloting will first be conducted for all children living within 500m of the kindergarten; next, for those living between 500m and 1km of it.

2 Children living near the kindergartens

The remaining places will go to the other children who register at the centre.

Should demand exceed places, balloting will be conducted first for those living within 500m of the kindergarten, followed by those living between 500m and 1km of the kindergarten and then outside 1km.

Children from the lower-income group who fail to land a place in the earlier phase will be considered again with the children in this phase.

3 Permanent residents

Remaining places will go to permanent residents.
* For registration from next year, priority will be given to siblings of those already in the kindergarten.
Registration dates

April 8 to 12 for Dazhong Primary and Punggol View Primary centres. April 15 to 19, for Farrer Park Primary, Blangah Rise Primary and Tampines centres.Visit for more details.

Agency to boost pre-school experience starts work next week
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 28 Mar 2013

THE Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) will begin work next Monday, under a national effort to raise the quality of pre-school programmes.

The autonomous agency will oversee the regulation and development of kindergarten, infant and childcare programmes for children below the age of six.

It will be headed by chief executive Lee Tung Jean, 38, who will move from her current position as director of the energy division in the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).

Currently, the Ministry of Education oversees kindergartens, while infant and childcare come under the Ministry of Social and Family Development. But some pre-school experts and parents have called for a single agency to take charge of the sector for better coordination.

The new agency will be jointly overseen by the two ministries. "Parents, operators and early childhood professionals can look forward to dealing with ECDA as a single point of interface for their queries and feedback," the two ministries said in a joint media release yesterday.

The agency will take charge of the master planning for the entire sector, such as identifying sites for schools and the training of teachers.

Details about setting up the ECDA were given in the Budget speech last month.

Speaking to The Straits Times yesterday, Dr Lee said she will focus on three key tenets of "quality, accessibility and affordability". This includes raising the quality of teachers and "uplifting the image of early childhood professionals".

Dr Lee, who has two sons aged eight and 14 and a four-year-old daughter, said the early childhood sector may be different from her previous postings in the Singapore Administrative Service but there are "common threads". Among other things, she oversaw the review of regulatory frameworks for the electricity and gas markets at the MTI, and was involved in developing and promoting the water industry at the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources. Overseeing regulation and developing industry capabilities would be part of her work in her new role, she said.

"I'm excited about the new appointment. I'm also a parent, so it's something I can relate to. This is an area where my kids can give their opinions as well," she said.

Further information about the ECDA is available at which will go live next Monday.

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