169 childcare centres run by 23 partner operators to cut fees from 2016

Pre-schoolers having fun in the indoor play area of Just Kids Learning Place childcare centre in Yishun. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

SINGAPORE - Thousands of parents will pay lower childcare fees from next year, with the appointment of 23 pre-school partner operators announced on Monday (Oct 19). These operators run 169 childcare centres which offer 16,500 places in total. Those appointed include major childcare chains such as Star Learners (22 centres) and Carpe Diem (16 centres).

Under the new partner operator (POP) scheme, participating centres have to cut fees - which must be capped at $800 a month (before GST) for full-day childcare. The partner operators, which are appointed for a five-year term, will implement a one-off fee reduction on Jan 1 next year and are required to keep any fee increases affordable.

They also have to attain government certification for quality and support their teachers' professional development and career progression.

The POP scheme was announced in March this year and attracted 40 applications, including joint proposals by different operators.

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) said on Monday: "The partner operators were selected through an open and competitive process, based on the strength of their proposals and track record." The new scheme also complements an existing scheme for anchor operators, which get priority in securing Housing Board sites for centres, and cap fees at $720 a month. The industry median is $907 a month.

About $250 million over five years has been set aside by the Government for the partner operator and anchor operator schemes.

Speaking on the sidelines of the ECDA Scholarship Ceremony on Monday, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said: "(The partner operators) will work with us to keep early childhood services affordable, raise the quality of pre-school programmes, and improve career development for our early childhood professionals. This will help us better support parents with young children."

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