High-end pre-school operators still confident they can attract parents

Pupils from Cherie Hearts at Upper Thomson during class.
Pupils from Cherie Hearts at Upper Thomson during class. PHOTO: ST FILE

Despite the Government's move to offer affordable quality pre-school education to more children, high-end operators that charge fees far above the average believe they will still be able to attract parents for the quality programmes they offer.

By 2023, pre-school operators run or supported by the Government will comprise two-thirds of the market share, up from half. They charge less than the median monthly fee of $856 for full-day childcare and $171 for kindergarten programmes.

Ms Jane Choy, general manager of business operations at G8 Education Singapore, which manages brands such as Cherie Hearts, told The Sunday Times that private operators still have a role to play in the industry.

"Early education is grounded in many different theoretical aspects of how children acquire knowledge and skills, and it is this very reason that makes the presence of alternative programmes, such as those offered by G8 Education, significant and necessary," she said.

Ms June Rusdon, chief executive of Busy Bees Asia - which manages high-end brands such as Brighton Montessori, Odyssey The Global Preschool and Pat's Schoolhouse - said: "We put our faith in the (Government) that they would consider holistically how both government-supported pre-schools and private ones - that have been doing a good job since the 1980s - can play an equal part in this new landscape... We see ourselves as one industry, not 'government and private', and our focus is on children and their needs.

"We're confident of what we offer parents: the value of our education that comes from research and our investments in driving quality."

Other high-end private operators said their clientele differs from that of operators that receive government funding, so they are not too concerned about the bigger government presence in the market.

Two by Two Schoolhouse director Li-anne Sia said: "We have a niche programme that emphasises the teaching of Mandarin, so our curriculum is unique, and we may not be that affected by the new government initiatives."

Chiltern House principal Iris Lim said: "Our centres are not in areas like Punggol or Sengkang, which will see more pre-schools set up by operators that receive government funding.

"Different teachers also want different things in their careers. There'll be some who don't mind following a set curriculum, and some who do. I think our teachers are attracted by our work culture in which they know that their teaching ideas are acknowledged and respected, and they have more freedom to explore them."

Priscilla Goy and Yuen Sin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 27, 2017, with the headline 'High-end pre-school operators still confident they can attract parents'. Print Edition | Subscribe