Why It Matters

'Yes' to more MOE pre-schools

It is heartening that Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergartens, set up to develop fresh approaches and best practices in early education, are now seeing higher demand and enrolments.

Last year, there were 1,300 applications for places in the 15 kindergartens, also aimed at providing high-quality pre-school education at affordable prices, at $150 a month. At four of the kindergartens, parents even had to ballot for places.

Currently, 2,300 children are enrolled in the kindergartens. This is a big change from the muted response in the first year, when only about half of the 560 places offered were taken up.

Some parents had then cited the lack of childcare as one of the reasons for the lukewarm response.

But the ministry was responsive in fixing the problem. It now provides before- and after-school care, up to 7pm at a dozen of the centres.

The 15 centres are located all over the island and figures show that four in five children enrolled live within 1km of their kindergarten, which indicates that proximity to home is also important to parents.

But another often-quoted reason by parents interviewed by The Straits Times is the education provided at these centres.

Several parents said they have come to see the benefits of the play-based curriculum at the MOE kindergartens. A classroom, for instance, might be turned into a restaurant, so pupils can practise language and mathematics skills through designing the menu and role-playing.

The MOE had said it was open to expanding the number of kindergartens beyond the 15 now.

It should, as there is mounting research evidence of the benefits of pre-school education, especially for children from disadvantaged homes.

But the caveat is that the early education and care provided must be of high quality.

The MOE has the resources and expertise to ensure that such education is not only of high quality but also affordable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2017, with the headline ''Yes' to more MOE pre-schools'. Print Edition | Subscribe