Priority for MOE kindergartens: Experts worry about pressure at K1 stage

By 2023, MOE plans to run 50 kindergartens, all of which will be based in primary schools. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

With Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergartens expected to become more popular - now that their children will get priority in Primary 1 admission - experts are concerned that this could lead to more pressure at K1 registration.

Some also wonder if private kindergartens would now be seen as a less desirable option.

Dr Khoo Kim Choo, who founded the Preschool for Multiple Intelligences, said: "Many parents want to have a straight route to primary school, and they also think that the MOE kindergarten may better prepare their child for primary school because of the internal liaison."

Ms Denise Phua, who heads the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said: "While the said priority admission provides familiarity and less transitional angst for kids who choose the co-located school, it may create other unintended consequences. It may later create more anxiety and stress having to queue at an earlier age for some of the more popular MOE kindergartens."

She added: "The new measure in effect provides additional benefits to the MOE kindergartens compared to other pre-schools, including anchor operators like PCF (PAP Community Foundation) and My First Skool and even private ones."

Some private pre-schools might face a challenge going forward. Said Dr Khoo: "It's an uneven playing field, no longer as before. With MOE kindergartens having an added advantage, it may make it more difficult for the smaller private players, especially those who have to differentiate themselves, to draw parents.

"All kindergartens - private, and those run by voluntary welfare organisations and religious organisations - should have some links with nearby primary schools, beyond the usual school visits, so that all children can have a smoother transition to primary school."

Said National University of Singapore economics lecturer Kelvin Seah: "Every policy throws up winners and losers. Since each primary school has a finite number of places, having kids from MOE kindergartens getting priority in co-located primary schools implicitly also implies that some other kids will have less priority in getting into these primary schools."

Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, said that parents might put pressure on MOE to have kindergartens within popular primary schools, or primary schools under this scheme could become popular.

"That will shift the competition for a seat at popular schools to the kindergarten level, which is undesirable," he said.

By 2023, MOE plans to run 50 kindergartens, all of which will be based in primary schools.

Dr Seah said if these primary schools are deemed by parents to be prestigious, they might switch to the MOE kindergartens.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2017, with the headline Priority for MOE kindergartens: Experts worry about pressure at K1 stage. Subscribe