SINGAPORE - As families filled the halls of the National Gallery Singapore for a day of fun and festivities, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged that his party's charitable arm - the largest pre-school operator in Singapore - will play a part in helping children grow their passion in areas like arts and sports.
The PAP Community Foundation (PCF), which runs 360 childcare centres and pre-schools around the island, will offer additional opportunities to develop such interests through enrichment programmes, including in painting, gymnastics, aikido and drama, he said on Sunday (Aug 27).
"I think today's event here will give you a taste of the kind of things which we are encouraging kids to do, which are beyond the normal strict curriculum, and which you'll find fun and enriching and will expand your minds and your horizons. So parents can be assured that at PCF, their kids will be well looked after and can learn from a wide variety of programmes," said Mr Lee.
He was speaking at the start of the annual PCF Family Day, which took place this year at the National Gallery Singapore. The venue was "an inspired choice", said Mr Lee, noting that the gallery is now holding its inaugural Children's Biennale.
Over 10,000 PCF staff, as well as students and their families, roamed the halls, exploring the works from the likes of Cultural Medallion recipient Chng Seok Tin and eccentric Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Also on display that day were 50 colourful artworks from PCF pre-school students.
Mr Lee, who last week in his National Day Rally spoke of new steps to improve the quality of the pre-school sector, said PCF will support the Government's plans, and will be building and operating "early years centres" in new public housing estates.
These centres will cater to those aged zero to four, as this is where there is still a shortage of places, he noted.
"And then, we will be able to concentrate more on the early years education, and fulfill our part to make a fair and just society in Singapore," said Mr Lee, who was the guest-of-honour at the event.
He also said that the Government will be supporting pre-school teachers and staff in training and upgrading their careers.
On the number of pre-school places, a hot topic among parents with young children, Mr Lee noted that in the last five places, 50,000 places have been added - and another 40,000 are coming up in the next five years. This will bring the total number of pre-school places to 200,000, almost double what Singapore had before.
Mr Lee said: "That means that anybody who wants to put his child in pre-school even at the age of two months old- which is when people start pre-school nowadays - I think he can do so."
And while there may now still be a bit of a queue for parents living in young neighbourhoods like Punggol or Sengkang, "we're working hard to cut the queue down," he added. "I think that within the next two or three years we will make very significant progress," he said.
This year, a group of PAP MPs, led by Chua Chu Kang GRC's Low Yen Ling, raised over $500,000 and this amount was given out on Sunday to eight beneficiaries, including the Alzheimer's Disease Association and Grace Orchard School.