Make quality early education accessible to the poor

Pre-school scholarships can help level the playing field.

And KidStart is an admirable scheme that does just that - help disadvantaged children get quality early childhood education (Early action to break cycle of poverty in Singapore; July 17).

The idea is already in practice in the United States.

Certain prestigious pre-schools there partner with charitable organisations to identify young candidates for these scholarships.

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Sometimes, parents of other children in the school even chip in to help fund the scholarship recipient's education.

This structure creates a great sense of community, as all parents are then invested in the scheme.

They set up group playdates and support their own children in interacting with the scholarship recipients. So, their children absorb the message that no matter where we come from, we can all contribute.

Through exposure to people of diverse socio-economic backgrounds from a young age, children grow up with less class bias and a greater understanding of the wider world.

It is important that the scholarships are for disadvantaged children to be admitted to prestigious - often expensive - pre-schools. Such schools tend to have homogeneous student populations. These spaces are in the greatest need of increased diversity.

It is important that the scholarships are for disadvantaged children to be admitted to prestigious - often expensive - pre-schools. Such schools tend to have homogeneous student populations. These spaces are in the greatest need of increased diversity.

Some may argue that pre-school scholarship recipients may feel intimidated and unhappy about their relative lack of means.

But very young children are often lacking in prejudice. If adults show that this arrangement is natural, and that we all have various circumstances and strengths, no one is likely to feel left out.

For the pre-school scholarship recipients themselves, the benefits are not just cognitive, but also social.

The exposure allows them to dream big. It helps them understand just what can be achieved.

Chin Hui Wen (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2017, with the headline 'Make quality early education accessible to the poor'. Print Edition | Subscribe