Singapore

Budget 2019: More being spent on education to give children a good start in life

Finance Minister says Govt spending more on early childhood education, care programmes

A child entering primary school last year would have received more than $130,000 in education subsidies by the time he finishes secondary school.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said this in Parliament yesterday as he outlined initiatives to help Singaporeans access opportunities and fulfil their potential through education.

"The Government subsidises over 90 per cent of the total cost of educating our children," he said, adding that more help is given to lower-income families.

These efforts, he said, are part of the long-term plan to build a more caring and inclusive society by giving children a good start in life and providing Singaporeans access to opportunities throughout their lives, amid challenges such as maintaining social mobility.

He said the Government invests heavily to provide a "world-class education for young Singaporeans" to bring out the best in every child.

Noting that support for children in need is an area of deep concern for many Singaporeans, he said this starts with ensuring quality pre-schools remain accessible and affordable for all families.

"Pre-schools support parents in laying a strong foundation for children - by helping to develop children's cognitive, language, social and emotional skills," he said.

And the Government is spending more on early childhood education and care, he added.

It pumped about $1 billion into the pre-school sector last year, more than 21/2 times of the $360 million it spent in 2012.

He said more has been done to support those from disadvantaged backgrounds by allowing more students to benefit from financial assistance, earlier intervention and new forms of help.

An example, he said, is KidStart, a government scheme to help disadvantaged children through health, learning and developmental support.

Since the pilot programme started in 2016, more than 900 families have been on it.

Last year, another initiative called Uplift, short for Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce, was set up to study issues that affect children from poorer homes and their families, said Mr Heng.

The Uplift scholarship, announced in December last year, will provide $800 a year for eligible lower-income students in independent schools to cover out-of-pocket expenses, he said.

"The task force is also looking at how to strengthen after-school care and support for disadvantaged students in school-based Student Care Centres," he said, adding that more details will be disclosed during the debate on the Education Ministry's spending plans.

To help parents with schoolgoing children, Mr Heng also announced that Singaporean primary and secondary school students will receive a $150 top-up to their Edusave accounts this year.

This is on top of the annual Edusave contributions that the Government already provides - $230 for primary school pupils and $290 for secondary school students.

In addition, Singaporeans aged 17 to 20 will get up to $500 in their Post-Secondary Education Accounts, which they can use to pursue post-secondary courses in the universities and polytechnics, for instance.

"This will go towards helping parents to save for their children's tertiary education," said Mr Heng.

Singapore Politics