Pre-school education is much like housing and healthcare, which were seen as private aspirations before the decisive hand of the state brought them into the common ambit of a good and affordable government-funded option for all Singaporeans. Although primary, secondary and tertiary education is very much a part of the learning journey for children and the young, in which the Government plays the central role, pre-school education was once seen as something of an antecedent choice that parents made depending on their circumstances. Many parents in the modern age are of the view that this phase is crucial in equipping and placing their children on the pathway to the larger education system itself.
The doubling of the full-day pre-school capacity, to almost 180,000 places since 2012, signifies the importance placed on the provision of a broad pathway. The setting up of Ministry of Education kindergartens inaugurated a pre-school model in which each such kindergarten is located together with a primary school. The National Institute of Early Childhood Development, on its part, is dedicated to upgrading training for pre-school teachers. These are worthwhile measures, but affordability remained an issue. That will become less of a challenge with the Government’s decision to raise the monthly income ceiling from $7,500 to $12,000, starting next year, for parents to enjoy additional subsidies for pre-schools. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s announcement of the change, at Sunday’s National Day Rally, will benefit about 30,000 more households.