Three pre-school players have been appointed anchor operators, under a scheme that will see them set up more centres in Housing Board estates and charge affordable fees in return for government subsidies.
The three are: EtonHouse International's E-Bridge Pre-school, Kinderland Consortium's Skool4Kidz and Metropolitan YMCA's MY World Preschool.
The operators, which have been appointed for a tenure of five years, were selected based on their "track record", and their proposals showed "commitment and ability... to offer good quality and affordable programmes", said the Early Childhood Development Agency on Monday.
They were the first to qualify under the enhanced anchor operator scheme which was expanded for the first time to include private players. The scheme attracted 16 applications. As anchor operators, they will be required to keep fees below $720 a month for full-day childcare. In return, they will enjoy subsidised rent and a government grant which can be used to hire better-trained teachers, among other things.
Previously, the scheme was open only to non-profit organisations. The two existing anchor operators are NTUC's My First Skool and the PAP Community Foundation. Together with the three new operators, they are expected to provide about 16,000 pre-school places by 2017.
The move to rope in new anchor operators was intended to provide more options for low- and middle-income families as the Government ramps up childcare places to meet demand. Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said: "With more anchor operators on board, we can better serve the needs of our children and families. The fees will be affordable to parents as the anchor operators must keep to programme fee caps.
"The operators have also committed to help children from lower income or disadvantaged backgrounds through corporate social responsibility programmes."
Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah added: "With more anchor operators, parents can look forward to a wider range of good quality and affordable pre-school programmes for their children.
"The early childhood sector as a whole will benefit from the unique strengths of each of our five anchor operators, and teachers too can look forward to good development opportunities."