A government pilot programme to help disadvantaged children up to age six will be expanded to benefit another 5,000 in the next three years, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.
KidStart, led by the Early Childhood Development Agency, was rolled out in the second half of 2016, targeting children from low-income families in Bukit Merah, Kreta Ayer, Boon Lay, Taman Jurong and Geylang Serai.
The programme provides advice and support to families on such aspects as nutrition, child development and parent-child interaction, to enable their children to have a good start in life.
Research has shown that a child's early years can significantly influence his or her development. About 1,000 children have benefited so far from the $20 million trial.
"We are very happy with the results, and so are the parents," said PM Lee at the National Day Rally. "We still need to follow up a few more years, to assess more exactly its benefits."
After the expansion, "we will take stock again on how to expand KidStart further", he added.
The scheme, announced in 2016, is part of government efforts since 2012 to raise the quality, accessibility and affordability of pre-schools.
Two families who have benefited from KidStart were mentioned in a video shown at the Rally.
Mr Mustakem Mohamed, 46, has two daughters aged five and seven. They have learning needs such as slower speech development. The single parent said he used to struggle with disciplining his children.
"KidStart taught me to be more patient, keep eye contact with them and discipline them by telling them what is right and what is wrong," he added.
For Madam Jenny Ooi, 38, her sons Javier, six, and Kevier, three, could not adjust well in pre-school, often crying and refusing to take part in class activities.
Madam Ooi said KidStart has helped to increase her children's confidence and they are now settling in well in pre-school and attend school regularly.