17,000 new childcare places created over past two years: Chan Chun Sing

SINGAPORE: Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said his ministry has created 17,000 new childcare places over the past two years.

Childcare centres in Yishun and Sembawang housing estates were also operating at about 90 per cent capacity – typical for centres with sufficient staff – in 2014.

Mr Chan was answering questions in Parliament on the progress of the planned establishment of 200 childcare centres – providing 20,000 new childcare places – from 2013 to 2017, and whether there were sufficient qualified preschool teachers ready to be deployed to these centres.

Mr Chan said that Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) efforts included organising an early childhood career and education fair in 2014, where 200 positions were filled. Working with the Workforce Development Agency, ECDA also launched a traineeship programme to give mid-career entrants an introduction to the sector, with 50 trainees completing the programme to date.

“More recent initiatives include the introduction of a new ECDA Fellows programme, to provide good-performing early childhood professionals opportunities to take on sector-level leadership roles,” he said. “As well as a new training award for the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students undertaking the Higher NITEC in Early Childhood Education.”

Addressing the issue of high attrition rates in the sector, Mr Chan said a four-prong strategy was being implemented.

Firstly, the ministry is instituting new measures during the selection process to ensure that those who take the courses are genuinely interested in the early childhood sector, and would not subsequently leave.

Secondly, to continue encouraging anchor operators to lead by example and pull the sector along when it comes to fair pay for teachers.

Thirdly, to put in place professional development pathways for all teachers in the early years of their career. This includes a mentorship programme to guide young teachers in the critical first three years on the job.

Finally, the ministry will work together with the community to build a “sense of respect for early childhood sector professionals”.

Mr Chan said these measures have resulted in a gradual increase in the take-up rate of traineeship places.

On inadequate childcare places in new towns, Mr Chan said the ministry aims to ensure spaces for childcare centres are designed and built into new buildings.

“For the new precincts, we have worked with MND (Ministry of National Development) to make sure that these spaces are already inside so that we do not have to look for void deck spaces,” said Mr Chan, adding that he will reveal more details on how to alleviate the shortfall of childcare places in built-up precincts with insufficient space at the forthcoming Committee of Supply debate.

As for student care, he said the issue would be collectively handled by his ministry and the Ministry of Education (MOE).

“We are fully aware that today, the lifestyle needs of many families have changed. Many families have dual-income parents working, and what they need for childcare places today … will translate to a same need for lower primary student care, and upper primary student care places,” said Mr Chan.

“So MOE has a plan in place to expand the student care services available to all primary schools progressively,” he added.

Source Article from http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/17-000-new-childcare/1655076.html
17,000 new childcare places created over past two years: Chan Chun Sing
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