SINGAPORE - More parents are opting for kindergartens run by the Ministry of Education (MOE), which is setting up new branches to meet demand.
There were more than 2,000 applications for 2,700 Kindergarten 1 places in 24 centres when registration for next year's intake closed earlier this month, a spokesman said.
This is up from 650 applications for 10 centres' intake in 2015.
Parents said they were attracted to the schools' curriculums, low fees and priority admission to co-located primary schools.
By 2023, there will be 50 MOE kindergartens across the island.
An MOE spokesman said existing centres saw an increase in applications from last year and demand in non-mature estates like Punggol and Sengkang was typically healthy.
Registration for MOE kindergartens with vacancies will continue. Parents will be informed whether their applications were successful by April 25.
The monthly fees for Singaporeans is $160, and most kindergartens are situated within primary schools with full-day childcare up to 7pm.
About 2,900 children are enrolled across both K1 and K2 levels this year at the 18 existing MOE kindergartens in areas such as Sembawang, Jurong West, Tampines and Sengkang. Six new kindergartens will open next year.
Mrs Marian Lee, centre head for the MOE kindergarten at West Spring Primary School, said one of the distinctive features of the centres is the local flavour of its curriculums.
For instance, as part of learning about their neighbourhood, children dramatised a scene featuring a rag-and-bone man from a local storybook called Adil's Dining Table .
"While there's literacy content in there, there's discovery of the world content in there. We try to set some of these things in a local context so that children can identify a lot easier with it," said Mrs Lee.
The centres also adopt a fresh approach to exposing children to ethnic cultures, such as through teaching them about the mango motif, typically used in Indian design.
They go on field trips to Little India to find these motifs, visit the Indian Heritage Centre and explore patterns and designs in the process.
Parent Madam Rachel Ong, 34, who works for a chemical company, signed up for a K1 slot next year. She is willing to switch her son Lukas from a private kindergarten to the MOE kindergarten at West Spring Primary as it is a five-minute walk from their home and offers childcare services.
She said: "I heard that the teachers in kindergarten and primary school talk to each other and there are activities to help the children adapt to Primary 1."
Mrs Mohanraj Vasantharany, 35, an infocomms technology trainer, registered her daughter Akshekha for a place at the same MOE kindergarten next year as she likes its "learning through play" approach and the fact that it offers Tamil language as a mother tongue.
Her older son used to attend the kindergarten and is now at West Spring Primary School.
"The (MOE kindergarten) programme prepared him very well, in terms of reading skills and numeracy," she said. "By the end he was able to focus for a longer time and listen to instructions."