Priority admission for kids from needy families at Little Dolphins Playskool

Childcare centres can charge anything from around $600 to more than $2,000 a month. Do the programmes differ greatly depending on cost fees? Priscilla Goy recently spent three hours each in Nursery 2 classes at four centres to find out.

Children at the Little Dolphins Playskool in Clementi. It is run by the United Indian Muslim Association charity and caters to children of all races and religions.
Children at the Little Dolphins Playskool in Clementi. It is run by the United Indian Muslim Association charity and caters to children of all races and religions.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

In this pre-school in the void deck of a Housing Board block, only a few resource rooms have air-conditioning, and the other areas have only fans. But the children do not seem to mind.

Like most centres sited in void decks, it has about 100 places, including 20 for infantcare.

It is one of two childcare centres run by the United Indian Muslim Association, a charity which gives annual education bursaries and runs community programmes such as cross-cultural dialogues.


Most of its teachers are Indians or Malays, and they speak English during lessons, though they sometimes say "sayang" (Malay for "dear") when calling the children.

The centre has children of all races and religions, and offers mother tongue lessons in Chinese, Malay and Tamil.

Children mainly live nearby, and those from low-income families get priority admission.

Principal Noor Basriah Abdul Khader said: "We want to give the child a place first, so if the mother is not working, it is more convenient for her to look for a job."

When The Straits Times sat in on a Nursery 2 (N2) class recently, it was noisy, with children talking or singing. At times, a few N2 children were distracted and looked at another class nearby that was singing. There were two teachers with 16 children in the N2 class.

While there are rooms within the centre, it adopts an open concept, with classes separated by shelves.


  • WHERE: Block 714, Clementi West Street 2

    FEES: $600/month for full-day childcare, no GST charged

    RUN BY: A charity

    STAFF: 15 teachers, including seven with a diploma in pre-school education

    CAPACITY: 80 childcare places

It has four themes for the curriculum each year.

When The Straits Times visited, the theme was on food. The N2 children learnt to identify different types of food as part of language and literacy, and craft lessons were related to food too.

The curriculum also covers motor skills, music and movement, and numeracy.

At one point, the class was divided into smaller groups for different activities.

Five children had a craft lesson on how to make a "burger mobile", or a paper burger with different layers. A circular piece of paper coloured green was used to represent lettuce, for instance.

There are toys on the shelves, such as a game that required players to match words with pictures.

Ms Basriah said: "Good-quality programmes are not about high- end toys, but about how teachers engage children with the toys."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2016, with the headline 'Priority admission for kids from needy families'. Subscribe