As families filed into the National Gallery Singapore for a day of fun and festivities, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged that his party's charitable arm - the largest pre-school operator in Singapore - will play a part in helping children develop their passion in areas such as the arts and sports.
The PAP Community Foundation (PCF), which runs 360 centres, will offer additional opportunities to develop such interests through enrichment programmes, including in painting, gymnastics, aikido and drama, Mr Lee said yesterday.
Over 10,000 PCF staff, children and their families roamed the halls, exploring works by the likes of Cultural Medallion recipient Chng Seok Tin and eccentric Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Also displayed were 50 colourful artworks by PCF pupils.
"Today's event here will give you a taste of the kind of things which we are encouraging kids to do, which are beyond the normal strict curriculum, and which you'll find fun and enriching and will expand your minds and your horizons," said Mr Lee. "So parents can be assured that at PCF, their kids will be well looked after and can learn from a wide variety of programmes."
This year's PCF Family Day was held at the National Gallery Singapore to coincide with the Children's Biennale.
In his National Day Rally speech last week, Mr Lee announced new steps to improve capacity and quality in the pre-school sector.
Good, affordable pre-school will let all children, regardless of family background, have equal opportunities to succeed in life, he noted.
Yesterday, he said that as an anchor operator, PCF - which today takes care of more than 40,000 children - will support the Government's plans, and build and operate "early years centres" in new Housing Board estates.
These centres will cater to children aged up to four, for whom there is still a shortage of places. He said: "Then, we will be able to concentrate more on the early years education, and fulfil our part to make a fair and just society in Singapore."
He also said that the Government will be supporting pre-school teachers and staff in training and upgrading their careers.
Noting that the number of pre-school places in Singapore will almost double to 200,000 in the next five years, Mr Lee said: "That means anybody who wants to put his child in pre-school even at the age of two months old - which is when people start pre-school nowadays - can do so."
He also said that while there may now be a bit of a queue for parents in young neighbourhoods like Punggol and Sengkang, "we're working hard to cut the queue down".
"Within the next two or three years, we will make very significant progress," he said.
Pest control technician Rosman Abdul Rahim, who has five children aged five to 14, said the push to expand and improve the pre-school sector would better help children get a head start, "especially since the pace in Singapore is very fast".
He added: "It's also good for families where both parents work, so they don't have to worry too much about their children."
At yesterday's event, over $500,000 raised by a group of PAP MPs led by South West District Mayor Low Yen Ling was given out to eight beneficiary organisations.
Mr Victor Bay, PCF chief executive officer, said he hopes these efforts will build a strong community spirit that can encourage children to grow into compassionate adults. "At PCF, we believe that no one is too young to contribute towards building an inclusive society."