Make majority of pre-schools govt-run

The decision to expand subsidies for pre-school education is to be applauded, but care must be taken to ensure that the increased subsidies do not just end up lining the pockets of pre-school operators and investors.

Past enhancements in childcare and pre-school subsidies have often been followed by increases in fees, nullifying or at least diluting their impact on parents, for whom the subsidies were intended.

It is difficult to tackle this problem in a private childcare and pre-school sector driven by profits.

The solution must be for the Government to move into pre-school education in a massive way, as it has done in primary and secondary education, healthcare and housing.

In healthcare and housing, quality public and quasi-public providers take care of the needs of the majority of Singaporeans, leaving limited room for the private sector to play.

In primary and secondary education for Singaporeans, no private-sector involvement is allowed. While it is too late to do the same for pre-school education, the Government should aim to provide quality pre-school education to, say, at least 80 per cent of Singaporean children. The current efforts must be accelerated and expanded.

Healthcare, housing and education, including pre-school education, concern social justice. Market principles cannot be allowed to rein free.

Cheng Shoong Tat

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2019, with the headline 'Make majority of pre-schools govt-run'. Print Edition | Subscribe