50 MOE kindergartens to open by 2023
They will be co-located with primary schools for smooth transition of pre-schoolers to Primary 1
By 2023, one in five kindergarten-going children will have a place in a kindergarten run by the Ministry of Education (MOE).
These kindergartens will be located in areas with high demand, such as Punggol, Sengkang and Yishun.
The expansion of MOE Kindergartens (MK) from the current 15 to 50 by 2023 is part of the ministry's plans to have a wider impact beyond its own pre-schools and "uplift" the whole sector, as announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally on Sunday.
But this is by no means an attempt to oust the private operators or take a larger share of the pie, said MOE yesterday.
"When MOE expands MOE Kindergartens to 50, we are very conscious that it is not an attempt to steal the business away from other operators. But really, we want to work with the anchor operators to see how we can meet the overall unmet demand in the pre-school sector," it added.
For instance, MK@Punggol View has seen a 20 per cent over-subscription since it opened in 2014. Its centre head, Ms Panmeline Wong, said the three new MKs slated to open in Punggol next year will cater to this demand.
Seven more MKs will open in 2019 and another six in 2020.
All new MKs will be co-located with primary schools. The closer collaboration between kindergartens and primary schools on programmes and activities will "enrich the learning experience of pre-school children and support their smoother transition to Primary 1".
As such, three existing community-based MKs will be relocated to nearby primary schools from 2019.
But there is no intention to merge kindergarten and primary school education into an eight-year block in the same school, MOE said.
MK@Punggol View's Ms Wong said half of her students go on to Punggol View Primary, mostly because of proximity.
New MKs also have tie-ups with Early Years Centres (EYC), which will cater to those aged up to four years.
They will be run by anchor operators that get government grants but must meet fee caps and quality criteria.
PCF Sparkletots, the largest pre-school operator here, will take the lead by converting up to 30 childcare centres to EYCs.
A child who goes to an EYC will have a place reserved in the nearby MK.
Mr Lee said at the rally that more EYCs - on top of the first four announced in February - will be set up to address the shortage of pre-school places for children below four.
The first four EYCs, run by NTUC's My First Skool and PCF Sparkletots, are expected to open in Punggol next year. They will partner an existing MK and the three new ones due to open next year.
All the 13 MKs due to open by 2020 will also partner EYCs run by PCF Sparkletots. Some will be new, and others could be converted from existing childcare centres, said MOE.
These new EYCs and MKs will make up part of the 40,000 pre-school places that the Government plans to add by 2022.
But MOE's increased involvement in the pre-school sector is by no means an attempt to nationalise the early childhood sector, said Mr Ng Chee Meng, the Minister for Education for Schools.
"The effect of us opening MKs is to uplift the whole quality of the (early childhood) landscape. The number of MKs will still be only about 50.
"It will be a catalyst for raising teacher quality, providing curriculum and pedagogy research so that the teaching of early childhood curriculum can be professionalised," he said.
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