The PAP Community Foundation (PCF) has opened its first childcare centre in a mixed-use development.
The large centre, spanning close to 2,000 sq m and with a capacity of close to 300, was officially opened in Bukit Panjang yesterday. Classes have been running for a few months now.
PCF Sparkletots @ Cashew is the latest to be located in housing estates with young families.
While PCF centres are usually located at Housing Board void decks, the anchor operator has, this time, taken up space the equivalent of 18 four-room flats at the second level of Hillion Mall.
Anchor operators, which include PCF and EtonHouse International, get government grants and priority in securing sites in HDB estates. But they have to keep their fees for full-day childcare lower than other operators, among other conditions.
PCF chief executive Victor Bay said the Cashew centre has a capacity of 287, and will provide childcare and infant-care services for children aged between two months and six years old. About 170 children have already been enrolled. PCF centres in HDB void decks usually admit about 100 children.
Besides the regular PCF Sparkletots pre-school curriculum, the Cashew centre focuses on science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics - fields that have been identified as being essential in the future economy. The centre is also equipped with baking facilities and a "green wall", featuring plants like rosemary and mint.
Last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that he will speak on improvements to pre-school education during his National Day Rally speech next Sunday.
Mr Bay said PCF has already begun stepping up professional development for its over 5,000 early childhood educators, and is building up childcare capacity.
The number of childcare places offered by the PCF has grown by almost 50 per cent over the last two years, from 14,000 to 21,000.
"We will continue to ensure that these (measures) are in place. Whatever (new) directions PM Lee will announce, we are ready (to adapt)."
Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Vivian Balakrishnan, who was the guest of honour at the launch, noted the strong demand for childcare places in Bukit Panjang, and said two more will be opened by the middle of next year.