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ECDA: Quality of care will be maintained

When told about parents’ concerns, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) said the quality of care and education received by children will not be compromised.

Its spokesman told The New Paper: "These larger childcare centres will be subjected to the same regulatory requirements that ECDA has for smaller centres.

"These include staff-child ratios, space requirements for each child, and having contingency plans in place."

He also said that by sharing manpower and resources, the larger centres can operate efficiently.

He said: "For example, a large centre can have one supervisor, instead of several, that would be needed to oversee a few smaller centres.

"Teachers trained in specialised skills such as mother tongue language teaching can also serve more children. Teaching and learning resources, as well as other facilities, can also be shared."

More details on these large centres will be released later this year, he added.

Member of Parliament Lim Biow Chuan, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Education, said these larger centres can work, if planned properly.

ECONOMIES OF SCALE

He said: "First, there will be some economies of scale as we can have more shared facilities. Otherwise, each small childcare centre would have its own individual facility and this may not be an efficient use of resources.

"For example, we can have a pool of teachers or teacher aides on standby to cover situations when teachers fall ill or have to take urgent leave, or when they have to attend upgrading or training sessions.'

He also said that other resources such as a school administrator to deal with school fees and administrative issues, as well as office supplies like fax machines and photocopiers, can be shared.

But he stressed the need to ensure that the ratio of teachers to students is adequate so children are properly supervised.

Mr Baey Yam Keng, another MP who sits in the GPC for Education, said bigger centres offer better career prospects and progression for teachers, which in turn will aid in staff retention.

The teachers' responsibilities remain about the same, except that there will be more teachers to provide the same level of care, he said.

And with the critical mass of children and teachers, there is better synergy in organising celebrations such as National Day, he added.

He foresees that other concerns like traffic congestion and noise level can be resolved with the choice of location.

He said: "Instead of void decks, it will be in a stand-alone building with classrooms. I imagine it to be an old school building where you will have parking as well. It will be self-contained within a compound."