Almost all of the kindergartens in Singapore are privately run, if one disregards the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) kindergartens run by the Government.
Parents have to pay more than $1,000 a month for each child at privately run kindergartens. Such fees are high compared with the fees for primary school education, which are slightly more than $10 per month.
With the enhanced Baby Bonus Cash Gift and Baby Bonus Plus, parents having their first child can get a total of $8,000 until the child is 18 months old.
If a child is enrolled in a playgroup class at the age of three and finishes Kindergarten 2 at six, his parents would have paid a total of $57,600 for those four years, assuming there is no increase in the $1,200 monthly fees.
The baby bonuses will not be used just for education, but will also be used to purchase milk powder, diapers and other necessities.
Of course, parents can choose to enrol their children in PCF kindergartens, which charge lower fees of less than $1,000. However, not every child is able to get a place.
The kindergartens are currently not big. Many of them have long waiting lists.
The Government could set up kindergartens with the campus size of a primary school.
On average, a primary school has a pupil population of 1,800. A kindergarten of such a size may provide spots for 5,400 toddlers, assuming it is operating with three three-hour slots a day.
Such large-scale kindergartens can alleviate the demand-supply problem. Resources could also be consolidated under one roof, with economies of scale.
With kindergartens of such a size, the Government could also charge fees that are much lower than the current rates. Some parents do not send their children to kindergartens, or send them much later, because of the high fees, which means not every child here has the same starting point. By setting up big government-run kindergartens with subsidised fees, every child will have the same starting point and an early childhood education.
This will also lower the cost of bringing up a child and encourage couples to have babies.
Tan Gee Chee