In this by-election for Punggol East SMC, the common topic among most of the candidates seems to be the lack of childcare centres within the SMC.
Yes, while having more childcare options in Rivervale is important, candidates should do their homework on the purpose of early childhood education, operation costs required as well as reasons causing the increment of fees in childcare centres and preschools before even thinking of bringing it up for their political agenda.
1. Reinforcing a wrong impression of the function of childcare centres
Childcare centres provide early childhood education to children between 18 months to 6 years of age. In some cases, there is also the option of infant care.
Anyone trained in the field of early childhood education will know that the early years are crucial for learning. This is because before neural shearing – the disintegration of unused neurons or brain cells – takes place between the ages of 8 to 10, neurons must make brain connections. Only brain connections that are repeated and used will remain permanent. With these brain connections, or memories, children will be able to develop new knowledge as they grow older.
To put it simply, children must frequently be exposed to concepts through concrete experiences and visual representations in the early years, which will in turn help them understand abstract examples later on in their lives. A good early childhood programme will look into providing a good environment where children can learn through their daily interactions with the materials, tools and people in that environment.
A good early childhood programme will also ensure opportunities for children to develop to their fullest potential by working hand in hand with their families. In other words, childcare centres being providers of early childhood education, exist to cater to the holistic development of young children which includes working with families. Childcare centres do not exist mainly to help lighten the parenting load of working parents. It is a two-way working relationship between parents and childcare centres, but the candidates who are calling for more childcare centres in Rivervale have missed this very important point. Instead, they are reinforcing the wrong message that childcare centres function as some sort of nanny care.
As this is an impression which I believe that the early childhood education sector has been trying to change, I suggest that the candidates stop insulting the early childhood educators working in childcare centres in this way and consider pushing for quality childcare programmes in their campaign messages. That is, if they really do have to use this as one of the selling points of their political campaigns.
There is seriously a huge difference between pushing for quality childcare programmes and pushing for more childcare centres so that parents can have the convenience of picking their children up while on their way home from work.
2. Fee increment in childcare centres and preschools
Indeed over the past few years, fees have increased.
This increment is necessary as childcare centres and preschools deal with the ever-increasing cost of utilities, food supplies and stationeries. Salaries of teachers who also have to deal with the ever-increasing cost of rent, utilities, food and other basic needs, have to increase as well because they have bills to foot too.
If childcare centres and preschools do not increase their fees, guess who will bear the brunt of the ever-increasing cost of utilities, food supplies and stationeries? TEACHERS. Yes, teachers who work up to 9 ½ hours a day, five days a week and 7 hours on Saturdays on a rotational basis.
While most other professionals are able to see their monthly salaries increase annually on at least a 10% rate, teachers see an increment (of their monthly salaries) between $10 to $100 or slightly more per year. Passion you say? Sure all of us in the field are passionate about the development of children but we have bills to pay, children to feed and families to maintain. However, should the cost of living become too high for our considerably miserable salaries to bear, will you, the candidates, pay our bills for us? Never. So quit harping on the increment of fees in the childcare centres and preschools, blaming only on the rent.
Ask yourselves instead, what can YOU do, to help childcare centres and preschools keep their fees low so that more operators will consider opening centres in the area.
3. Operating a centre is not as easy as you think
I am sure that the PAP candidate does not need to worry about this aspect because should he become an MP, he can always work with PCF or NTUC on that. That is his short-cut advantage which is of course, not fair to all the other candidates.
However before anyone considers opening a centre upon being elected, there are some requirements one has to fulfil. Click on the following link to find out more before making such a promise to the electorate. Your experiences in the financial or business sectors do not necessarily mean that you qualify to be an operator of a childcare centre.
That’s all I have to say for now. And I seriously hope that I won’t be hearing more naive talk about childcare centres in the next few days! Oh and… After-School Care programmes are not necessarily offered by childcare centres because the focus of childcare centres should ultimately be children between the ages of 18 months to 6 years of age. Try getting the primary schools to offer that instead.
Response from Kenneth Jeyaretnam, candidate from the Reform Party through Facebook (re-written in my own words):
According to Kenneth, he used to be a director of a childcare provider and his party’s plan regarding the proposal of having more childcare centres was drawn by a qualified early years professional. (Good to know, and hope to hear more about it soon!)
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