SINGAPORE - From 2019, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will open 13 new kindergartens in areas of high demand, such as Punggol, Sengkang and Yishun.
This was revealed by MOE at a media briefing on Wednesday (Aug 23), after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced at the National Day Rally on Sunday that the ministry will run 50 kindergartens by 2023, more than three times the current 15.
Of the 13 new MOE kindergartens, seven will open in 2019 and six will open in 2020, in areas with high demand for pre-school services. This is on top of the three new MOE kindergartens to open next year in Punggol, as announced in February.
The locations of the remaining MOE kindergartens will be announced later.
The ministry also said at the briefing on Wednesday that come 2023, a fifth of children aged five and six will have places in kindergartens run by MOE.
The Government is planning to add 40,000 full-day pre-school places by 2022 and the MOE kindergartens will provide some of these extra places. The rest will mostly be provided by operators that receive government funding.
MOE said at the briefing that the increase in the number of its kindergartens is to provide high-quality and affordable pre-school education to more children.
MOE added that the scaling up of its involvement in the pre-school sector will enable the ministry to influence and strengthen its support of the sector.
Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said at the briefing on Wednesday that the expansion of the MOE kindergartens is not an attempt to nationalise the early childhood sector.
"The effect of opening MOE kindergartens (would be to) uplift the whole quality of the (early childhood) landscape," he said. "The number of MOE kindergartens will still be only about 50. It will be a catalyst for raising teacher quality, providing research so that the teaching of the early childhood curriculum can be professionalised."
Currently, there are 450 kindergartens here.
All new MOE kindergartens will be co-located with primary schools, as the ministry has found that co-location enables closer collaboration between MOE kindergartens and primary schools.
This helps to "enrich the learning experience of pre-school children and support their smoother transition to Primary 1".
Three existing community-based MOE kindergartens will also be relocated to nearby primary schools from 2019.
MK@Fernvale Link will move to Fern Green Primary School in Sengkang in 2019, while MK@Yishun will move to Huamin Primary School in 2020. Details for the relocation of MK@Tampines will be released later.
All new MOE kindergartens will be part of a pilot partnership model with "early-years centres", which admit children aged up to four years, unlike most childcare centres, which admit children aged up to seven.
Eligible Nursery 2 children in the centres will be guaranteed a Kindergarten 1 place in a nearby MOE kindergarten.
The early-years centres will be run by anchor operators that get government grants but must meet fee caps and quality criteria. PCF Sparkletots will take the lead to open more such centres, said MOE.
Mr Victor Bay, chief executive of the PAP Community Foundation (PCF), the charity arm of the People's Action Party, said: "By focusing on the early years, PCF will be able to make a bigger impact on children's development and educational outcomes in the most critical phase of their development, from (age) zero to four."
Details of the specific centres that will partner the MOE kindergartens will be released on the MOE Kindergarten website (www.moe.gov.sg/moekindergarten) at 10am on Thursday.