You get this feeling as a mom (and as a dad) when you’ve to leave your little ones at preschool or childcare for the day: Are they gonna be OK? Will they be happy? How’re they learning?
And you also get this feeling in general: kids are expensive, everything adds up, oh wow. Also exhausting.
So that’s why we’re on board with fee caps being reduced, and an extra 22,000 places opening up, at Government-supported preschools from Jan 1 next year.
And we’re also on board with the salaries of your little one’s educators being boosted concurrently (and their working conditions reviewed) as well.
More specifically, the fee caps for full-day childcare’s being reduced by S$40 (so you’ll pay S$680 monthly for an anchor operator’s services). Kindergarten fees are lowering by S$10; you’ll pay S$150 a month.
Early childhood educator salaries will increase between 10 to 30 per cent monthly, so that’s a new salary range of between $2,900 and $6,600 by 2024, depending on experience, skills and work performance.
Parents can also look forward to more preschool places.
So that means 80 per cent of preschoolers can attend Government-supported preschools by 2025, compared to about 60 per cent today.
And with a better renumeration package, hopefully more would be enticed to join this industry. Which means there’ll be enough teachers on hand to give our little ones the education and care they deserve (spoiler: the best).
It’s the PAP Government being far-sighted, making sure that future demand meets future supply.
Solving the fundamentals of early childhood educators’ problems
And it’s the Government being pragmatic too. The heart of the problem appears to be the fact that early childhood (EC) education is a difficult job.
It can be that exhaustion we mentioned above, but compounded: you’re not just dealing with your kid, but a heap of other people’s. And there’ll inevitably be rather difficult, or pretty particular parents.
No wonder the industry attrition rate was between 15 to 20 per cent in 2013.
But today, it’s been around 10 to 15 per cent over the last few years.
Professional development programmes, like those for leaders, as well as more structured development pathways for EC educators and setting up the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC) in 2019 to help mid-career workers become EC educators helped.
So, now, that review of EC working conditions can do the same for the attrition and take-up rates: it can help align the expectations of EC educators with policymakers and parents.
It’s a measure which doesn’t make for as eye-catching headlines as pay increases, but is as equally (if not more) fundamental — it’s the Government finding a low-key, pragmatic solution to the problem.
“In the coming months, we will also engage operators, educators and parents to co-develop solutions to improve our teachers’ well-being and working environment,” posted Minister for Social & Family Development Masagos Zulkifli on Facebook (Oct 30) as part of Early Childhood Celebrations this year.
“Early childhood educators play an important role every day at work – they provide quality care and education for our children, giving every child a good start in life,” he added.
And it’s the Government being far-sighted once more.
There really wouldn’t be much point to a preschool without enough EC educators. The care standards drop, learning slows, parents get particular, EC educators leave, the ratio of educators to kids drops — then the cycle continues viciously.
Extra pay here’s only a stop-gap measure.
But this EC working conditions review can get at, and address, the fundamental issues causing the problem.
There’s a lot of trust involved when we hand over our little ones, maybe still clutching their Paw Patrol or Frozen toys, over to preschools. The Government wants to honour that trust.
So together, the pay increase and review are a way to keep your neighbourhood’s Government-supported preschool as a Great Place to Work and to (along with those lower fees) give your kids a great start in life.
That’s the way to drive Singapore forward.
Cover photo credit: PCF Facebook