According to a report on Channel News Asia, PAP’s candidate for Hougang’s by-election mentioned that “his vision for Hougang is one where everyone shares a brighter future”, one of which includes making preschools more affordable.
Here are my personal thoughts on this particular component of his vision, from my 7 humble years of experience being an early childhood educator.
First of all, the issue on fees in preschools and child care centers that parents have to bear is not a local issue that is unique to residents of Hougang. It is a national issue that all Singaporean parents have to cope with. Secondly, the amount charged by preschools and childcare centers is not something that can be controlled by Desmond Choo alone. This issue can only be addressed if various ministries come together to talk about this issue.
A preschool or child care center in Singapore has to deal with monthly rent, utilities, salaries of teachers and other staff, teaching materials, disinfecting detergents and other miscellaneous costs such as mosquito repellent for children and the replenishment of the first aid box. Some preschool and all child care centers have to deal with the increasing cost of food for the children in the center and all child care centers have to deal with the cost of providing soap for children who are on a full-day programme. On top of that, many child care centers have engaged pest control companies to conduct regular fumigation and other services within the center to avoid mosquitoes and other pests from breeding. All of these are the factors that lead to increasing fees in some preschools and child centers.
Regarding the fees of child care centers, MCYS has clearly stated that they have no control over this matter because they see private child care centers as private businesses. I think it is the same with preschools under MOE’s charge. Of course, there are certainly other affordable options such as preschools and child care centers operated by PCF and NTUC but there will always be a limit in number of students they can enroll due to teacher and child ratio as well as due to the capacity of the space.
My personal view is that fees will continue to increase and that cannot be helped unless preschools and child care centers are exempted from being affected by the regular increase in water and electricity tariffs or the existence of a food programme whereby child care centers can be provided with affordable food supplies and not compromise on the nutritional quality of the food they provide to the children enrolled in their centers. On top of that, teachers do deserve their annual salary increment and year-end bonus, the way any other Singaporean employees do. Faced with inflation and the ever increasing cost of living, is it justifiable that early childhood educators (preschool and childcare teachers) continue to receive miserable salaries that seems in many cases to be a mere pittance than an appreciation for a profession that requires both intellectual and manual work and which includes unpaid overtime in most cases? Well, I don’t think so.
And how much can Desmond Choo alone solve the issues surrounding the fees of preschools and perhaps child care centers? Well, not much, to be honest. So in other words, he does have an unrealistic view of what he can do and I am not sure how such an MP will benefit Hougang, or Singapore.
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