How will mega childcare centres affect kids' development?

Mega childcare centres solve the practical issue of meeting the growing demand for childcare ("New mega centres to meet growing demand for childcare"; Jan 19).

But what impact will being cared for in a mega centre of 300 to 500 children have on the pre-schoolers' growth and development, compared to those who attend smaller centres of 50 to 75 children?

The pre-school years are crucial ones, where children's brain development is highly influenced by the environment and experiences.

Pre-schoolers, unlike older children, are not independent and cannot survive on peer support if adult attention is compromised. They require secure and responsive relationships with adults.

While mega centres may be well-furnished with the latest architectural designs and facilities, the key concern is whether there are effective leaders and teachers to manage the pre-schoolers, parents and community.

Will the quality of care be compromised if there is a high teacher turnover rate or if the teacher is absent?

Do the centres' leaders have the skills and knowledge to manage, lead and maintain staff morale and motivation?

Teachers working in childcare centres must be highly professional in discharging their responsibility with minimum supervision.

This is even more important in mega centres, since it is almost impossible for the principal to oversee the entire operation, even with assistants.

There is a need to strike a balance between hardware and software.

Children need interaction with adults and peers, and an unhurried and uncrowded environment that promotes their social and emotional well-being.

Considering that young children are still developing their social and linguistic competencies, it may be challenging for them to navigate in a crowded, complex and diverse environment.

Rebecca Chan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2017, with the headline 'How will mega childcare centres affect kids' development?'. Print Edition | Subscribe