Parliament: 17,000 new childcare places added in past 2 years

Pre-school children from "My First Skool", a childcare arm of NTUC First Campus Co-operative Limited, being lead by their teacher near a block of HDB flats in Toa Payoh. About 17,000 childcare places have been added over the past two years, said Mini
Pre-school children from "My First Skool", a childcare arm of NTUC First Campus Co-operative Limited, being lead by their teacher near a block of HDB flats in Toa Payoh. About 17,000 childcare places have been added over the past two years, said Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Thursday. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG 

SINGAPORE - About 17,000 childcare places have been added over the past two years, said Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Thursday.

He was responding to Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who had asked about the progress on the setting up of 200 new childcare centres, or 20,000 childcare places, from 2013 to 2017. Mr Chan said the authorities are "on track" in achieving this target.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) also noted the lack of childcare places in her ward - Nee Soon South - which has over 100 new Housing Board blocks and where about 60 per cent of the residents have moved in.

"The fact that every week I have residents come to Meet-the-People Sessions to ask for places in childcare centres, shows that there is an inadequate number of childcare places," she said.

Mr Chan said the Government has worked to ensure that the required space for childcare centres is taken into consideration in the design of new Housing Board blocks. He added that he will give more details, at the upcoming Budget debate in March, on other ways to address the lack of childcare places in estates which may not have enough void deck space to site the centres.

He also gave an update on the take-up rate of several schemes which aim to attract and retain pre-school teachers, after Ms Lee asked for these numbers. Over 200 positions have been filled through the Early Childhood Career and Education Fair last year, and 50 people have completed a traineeship programme launched last year. The programme gives mid-career entrants a first-hand taste of what it is like to work in a pre-school, with 40 to 80 hours of on-the-job training.

"ECDA (Early Childhood Development Agency) will continue to work with the sector to put in place structured career progression pathways and develop early childhood professionals," he said.