Singapore — In his National Day Rally speech on Sunday evening, August 18, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the Government will be increasing preschool subsidies by next year to cover the costs of preschool for families in the middle income economic bracket.
This is part of its endeavour to match support given in the areas of healthcare and public housing.
PM Lee also said that the Government will more than double allotments for early childhood education, which is at S$1 billion at present, for the sake of increasing the share of government-supplied preschool places from a little over 50 percent to more than 80 percent.
In his speech, he said that the income ceiling for families who wish to qualify for greater preschool subsidies would be raised.
At present, families with a total income of up to S$7,500 monthly, as well as those with single parent who work at least 56 hours per month may qualify for subsidies.
By next year, this income ceiling will be increased to S$12,000, which means that an additional 30,000 families can benefit from preschool subsidies.
The amount each family receives at present is S$300 in basic childcare subsidy, plus as much as S$440 in additional childcare subsidies.
While he did not specify by how much the subsidies would go up, the Prime Minister said that the amount of preschool subsidies across the board will increase.
PM Lee explained that the group of women Members of Parliament from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) who recently conducted a survey that showed that parents are spending between 6-15 percent of the household income on out-of-pocket preschool expenditures.
This group, he said, is responsible for urging the Government to consider preschool education in the same way as housing and general medical services.
The Prime Minister added that the country needs to have high-quality preschools supported by the Government, in a similar vein to healthcare and public housing, saying, “Today, just over half of all preschool places are government-supported. Over time, we will bring this up to 80 per cent, just like HDB (Housing and Development Board).”
Currently one out of every two preschool children study in government or government-supported preschools.
PM Lee said that the goal of the government is to lessen all-day preschool costs to match primary-school education and after-school student care. He said, “We need a while to get there, but we are working towards that.”
The Prime Minister also announced that Kidstart, an initiative aimed at helping children from vulnerable and low-income families will be reaching another 5,000 children through the next three years, after which, evaluations will be carried out to see how the programme can be extended further.
With Kidstart, trained workers go to expectant families to teach mothers regarding health, nutrition and child development, and extend support through the child’s birth, toddler years, and preschool levels.
The programme has aided 1,000 children since it began, but the Prime Minister said it will take some more years before the full benefits of Kidtstart will be known. -/TISG
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