SINGAPORE - The newest childcare centre in Bukit Panjang takes up about 2,000 sq m of space in a shopping mall and can take in nearly 300 children.
PCF Sparkletots @ Cashew, which opened on Saturday (Aug 12), is the latest in a string of such centres to open in estates where a growing number of young families are boosting demand.
Located on the second level of Hillion Mall, the childcare centre is anchor operator PCF Sparkletots' first childcare centre in a mixed-use development.
Anchor operators, which include EtonHouse International and PAP Community Foundation (PCF), 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 while PCF Sparkletots centres are usually located in housing estates, a bigger area allows for more freedom when it comes to the use of space.
He said: "We can introduce more creative learning... and there's also a mall to keep parents occupied when children finish school."
The centre at Cashew has a capacity of 287, and will provide childcare and infant care services for children aged between two months to six years old. About 170 have already been enrolled.
A centre located in a Housing Board void deck will usually admit about 100 children.
The centre's curriculum will follow that of other PCF Sparkletots pre-schools, which is regularly reviewed, and focuses on areas like motor skills development, numeracy and creative expression.
But it will also have an added emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (Steam) - fields that have been identified as being essential in the future economy.
For example, the centre is equipped with baking facilities and a "green wall" featuring plants like rosemary and mint.
Children can learn about different types of plants by sketching leaf patterns, or learn basic concepts like estimation and observe how material changes its form when they help out in baking activities, said the centre's principal Doreen Lim.
Mr Bay said that PCF has recognised that the preschool sector will play a more important role in the future.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that he will speak on improvements to preschool education during his National Day Rally speech on Aug 20.
PCF has already begun stepping up professional development for its over 5,000 early childhood educators, and is building up childcare capacity, he added. 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)."