SINGAPORE - The income cap for priority entry to Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergartens has been raised from a gross household income of $3,500 a month to $4,500, in a move to keep them accessible.
The change will take effect on Feb 17, when the 2023 registration exercise starts. It is meant to ensure that these kindergartens remain accessible to lower-income households amid rising incomes, MOE said on Wednesday.
There are 55 MOE kindergartens open for registration for children entering Kindergarten 1 in 2024, up from 50 in 2022. By 2025, there will be 57 such kindergartens, which are usually located within a primary school.
Highest admission priority is given to children who are Singapore citizens, who live within 1km of the kindergartens, and whose gross household income does not exceed the new cap of $4,500, or $1,125 per person, a month.
One-third of all the places are reserved for these children, while the rest of the spots go to citizens and permanent residents who have siblings in either the kindergarten or primary school, followed by citizens in general, then permanent residents in general, the MOE website states.
In 2023, each child who is a Singapore citizen attending an MOE kindergarten pays $160 a month. The fees are $320 for a permanent resident.
There are no additional expenses, as other programmes such as field trips are complimentary.
The 55 MOE kindergartens will hold their open house on either Feb 11 or Feb 18 to give parents an opportunity to learn more about each school before registering their child, MOE said.
For the first time since 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic forced open house events to go online, parents will be able to attend the events in person.
All MOE kindergartens offer the three mother tongue languages – Chinese, Malay and Tamil – to encourage bilingualism, and provide subsidised after-school care services called Kindergarten Care, MOE added.
The 2023 registration exercise is open to Singaporeans and permanent residents born between Jan 2, 2019, and Jan 1, 2020, MOE said.
Parents can register their child through the MOE kindergarten website from 9am on Feb 17 to 4pm on Feb 21.
Associate Professor Jason Tan from the National Institute of Education said in an interview on Wednesday that the move to increase the income cap is part of a strategy by MOE to provide affordable pre-school education.
He said that since the establishment of MOE kindergartens in 2014, the ministry has been making inroads into the direct provision of early childhood education, which for many decades was left largely to the private sector, marking a significant change in the landscape.
He added: “This meant there was a great deal of diversity in pricing, methodology and curriculum, as well as teaching methods and qualifications.
“But realisations about the importance of pre-school education in preparation for Primary 1 have meant that there is more focus on educational equity through schemes like the MOE kindergartens, which offer relatively cheap fees and preferential entry to the affiliated primary schools.”
Mr Patrick Tay, an MP who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said via an e-mail interview that with rising household incomes in Singapore, it is important for the qualification requirements for MOE kindergarten priority to keep pace.
“This will help avail those with household income less than $4,500 to access this, especially if they are also staying within close proximity,” he said, noting that those who need help can continue to tap various financial assistance schemes.
In 2021, the median household income from work rose by 3.6 per cent in nominal terms, or before adjusting for inflation, to $9,520, from $9,189 in 2020 – surpassing pre-pandemic levels.