Pre-school agency to have new chief executive from Sept 1

SINGAPORE - The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) will have a new chief from next month.

Mr Eugene Leong, 39, former senior director for strategic planning at the Ministry of National Development (MND), will assume the post on Sept 1 and head the government agency which oversees childcare centres and kindergartens here. He had joined ECDA as its chief executive officer-designate on Aug 1.

He will replace Dr Lee Tung Jean, 41, who will move to the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) as its deputy secretary.

Mr Leong is not new to pre-school policy work. Between 2007 and 2010, he worked at the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports - the predecessor of MSF - where he helped set up the ministry's child care division and served as its director.

In his last posting at MND, he had worked with the government agencies on land use planning, the property market, and urban redevelopment and conservation. As an officer in the Singapore Administrative Service, he has also previously served in the defence and trade and industry ministries.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Science First Class in economics from the London School of Economic and Political Science in Britain in 1997 and obtained a Master of Philosophy in economics from the University of Cambridge the next year.

In 2011, he completed a Master in Public Administration at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in the United States.

The Straits Times understands that Dr Lee will still be able to oversee ECDA in her new role at MSF.

Under her leadership, ECDA had started various initiatives to improve quality, affordability and accessibility in the early childhood sector. New career progression pathways and training opportunities were introduced for pre-school staff.

More childcare and kindergarten subsidies were given to improve the affordability of pre-school services, while more than 17,000 childcare spaces have also been added over the last two years.

When ECDA was set up in April 2013 and Dr Lee was named its first chief, some had questioned her experience in the pre-school sector, as her previous postings were not in MSF or the education ministry.

But despite that, she had contributed much to the sector, said executive secretary of the Education Services Union Ang Hin Kee, who is also MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC.

He credited her for introducing additional professional development opportunities, and for improving the image of pre-school staff through the introduction of awards to recognise them.

He told The Straits Times: "She has that 'systems thinking' to improve the sector in a way that's rigorous... She's also quite personable and is bilingual, so that has given her an advantage when talking to mother tongue teachers."