By Phyllis Lee
The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has claimed credit for the initiatives to enhance preschool education in Singapore that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong outlined during his National Day Rally speech on Sunday.
The party released a statement on Monday asserting that the measures PM Lee brought up were already proposed by their party in 2015 as part of their education policy, Educating for Creativity and Equality: An Agenda for Transformation.
The SDP presented excerpts, from both PM’s speech and their education policy, to highlight five points where PM Lee followed in the footsteps of SDP’s proposal.
The first excerpt touched on SDP’s thoughts on providing pre-school education for all children:
“Pre-school in Singapore will be nationalised to ensure that Singaporean children from all walks of life have access to pre-school education. We seek to level up society by providing our students equal opportunity to excel regardless of their family background.”
In his speech, PM Lee stressed that all children can get the best possible start in life as long as they attend a good pre-school. Similar to SDP, he also mentioned that this emphasis will maintain a fair and just society.
Additionally, SDP’s education policy had pushed for the support of low-income families.
“Many of the centres are expensive and cater to the richer segments of society, leaving out children from the low-income groups,” SDP reported.
The same sentiments were reflected in PM Lee’s speech, when he raised up the KidSTART initiative which identifies children aged six and below to provide them with early access to health, learning and developmental support. The programme piloted last year and has already benefited 400 families. According to PM Lee, there are promising prospects of it being scaled up to aid more low-income and vulnerable young children.
He also announced the set-up of the new National Institute of Early Childhood Development, which will train those in the pre-school job sector – a move quite similar to SDP’s initial suggestion to train early childhood educators in the National Institute of Education.
Another point in the speech comparable to SDP’s education policy is when PM Lee mentioned that education starts even before children enters Primary One.
SDP ended the article with a promise “to be the kind of opposition that Singaporeans want to see, that is, a responsible and constructive one” – which then brought about a final question:
“Why are we paying the PM $200,000 a month when he and his ministers keep on adopting the SDP’s ideas?”
Earlier this month, the SDP claimed that the ruling party appropriated another one of its policy idea, in response to the Returner Work Trail scheme that was unveiled by NTUC to provide financial assistance for retrenched professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).
They had previously claimed that the People’s Action Party had adopted their idea to raise taxes for the top 5% of income-earners. The idea which was conceptualised by the SDP in 2010 was criticised by PAP politician Dr Vivian Balakrishnan in 2011 before it was re-introduced as part of the nation’s budget in 2015.
In response to Dr Balakrishnan’s criticism that the SDP’s policies would bankrupt Singapore, SDP chief Dr Chee Soon Juan had said that the PAP has a habit of adopting SDP’s policies after criticising them.
He indicated that these policies include the minimum wage model, pooling of healthcare risks, priority for Singaporeans when it comes to employment and government schemes like the Fair Consideration Framework that he said was an appropriation of the SDP’s proposal that employers must try to hire Singaporeans first, before considering foreigner job applicants.
Dr Chee had said then:
“The PAP has a knee-jerk reaction that anything the SDP proposes cannot be good.”