New rules not likely to lead to higher fees at kindergartens

Children at St James' Church Kindergarten. Its senior principal Jacqueline Chung said her staff have been going for health check-ups, which were previously not required. But she added the Government has helped to subsidise these costs.
Children at St James' Church Kindergarten. Its senior principal Jacqueline Chung said her staff have been going for health check-ups, which were previously not required. But she added the Government has helped to subsidise these costs.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Operators say they have guidance on areas to improve on and the extra costs are minimal

Kindergartens will have more requirements to adhere to, after a new law regulating pre-schools was passed on Tuesday.

But those whom The Straits Times spoke to said they already meet most of the requirements and have had guidance from the authorities on what needs to be improved.

While they acknowledged that they would incur additional costs to comply with the rules, they noted these are minimal and unlikely to lead to fee increases for parents.

The new Early Childhood Development Centres Bill governs about 1,300 childcare centres and about 500 kindergartens. Currently, these come under the Child Care Centres Act - which will be repealed when the new Bill takes effect - and Education Act respectively.

Under the new law, kindergartens, which are now registered in a one-off process, will have to get licences that are renewed regularly, as is currently done for childcare centres. The new Bill also gives the authorities more investigative powers and flexibility in handling less serious offences, by providing a wider range of regulatory sanctions.

Kindergartens said having a single regulatory framework for the two types of pre-schools is a step in the right direction. Khalsa Kindergarten principal Santi Devi noted: "The new Bill is comprehensive and will help to upgrade the standards of kindergartens... It'll give parents more peace of mind and confidence in kindergartens."

  • 1,300 

    Number of childcare centres the new Early Childhood Development Centres Bill governs.

    500

    Number of kindergartens it governs.

Kindergartens said they do not have to make many adjustments, and in areas where they have to, on-site guidance from staff of the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) over the past two years had been helpful.

Paper Scissors Stone Montessori Kindergarten director Cheryl Ng said: "I was initially unclear if a foldable sofa bed in a corner is suitable for a sickbay.

"I clarified this during ECDA's visit and learnt that it is. I was also given a draft of the new licensing requirements, which gives us a feel of what it will be like when the licensing checks take place."

Chinese Kindergarten principal Wong Lay Choo said she previously gave particulars of only teaching staff to ECDA. But she learnt that under the new requirements, all staff would have to be registered.

St James' Church Kindergarten senior principal Jacqueline Chung said her staff have been going for health check-ups, which were previously not required, but added that the Government has helped in subsidising these costs.

The principals said the extra costs to be incurred to comply with the requirements are likely to be minimal or one-off so these are unlikely to be passed on to parents.

However, Dr Chung suggested that pre-schools with the quality certification from the Government should be automatically licensed.

She said: "This would save time and resources for both pre-schools and ECDA. The requirements to get the quality certificate are already stricter than those to get a licence."

The new law is expected to take effect over the next year after other detailed regulatory requirements are gazetted by early next year.

Kindergartens will have up to a year, after the gazetting, to get licensed under the new law.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2017, with the headline 'New rules not likely to lead to higher fees at kindergartens'. Print Edition | Subscribe