SINGAPORE: The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) on Monday (Oct 19) appointed 23 Partner Operators under a new scheme to keep fees affordable and to improve the quality of programmes at childcare centres.
In a press release issued on Monday, ECDA said that Singaporean children enrolled in the participating centres will receive a one-off reduction in childcare fees from Jan 1, 2016. The amount depends on the type of programme the child is enrolled in and the fees currently charged by the centre.
Under the scheme, Partner Operators are required to keep full-day childcare fees to not more than S$800 a month, before GST. Full-day infant care must be capped at S$1,400 a month, before GST.
Any fee increase must be kept affordable, ECDA stated.
ECDA said that it will be giving these partner operators funding to reduce their current fees, invest in improving quality through the Singapore Pre-school Accreditation Framework (SPARK), and to develop their staff professionally.
At Star Learners, full-day childcare fees will be cut from S$990 to S$800 but its CEO is confident that it will not affect his profit margin.
"Commercially I think we won't be worse off.," said Mr Tan Meng Wei. "I think the biggest impact is it becomes a lot more affordable for parents and at the same time there is this assurance of quality because we will be achieving SPARKS accreditation and we'll be able to attract more qualified professionals in this industry."
The 23 Partner Operators run 169 existing childcare centres, with a total of 16,500 places. Operators on the scheme include Ace@Work, Kidz Meadow Childcare and Development Centre, Ichiban Montessori and Star Learners. Another operator on the scheme is a new consortium called Alliance First, made up of five different operators running seven childcare centres.
ECDA said the Partner Operators were selected through an open and competitive process, based on the strength of their proposals and track record.
The new Partner Operator scheme supports mid-sized and smaller childcare operators and is meant to complement the Anchor Operator scheme which seeks to expand childcare capacity in new estates.
Speaking on the sidelines of ECDA's Training Awards and Scholarship Presentation ceremony on Monday (Oct 19), Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said such a partnership could help smaller operators leverage one another's strengths.
"I think it's a win-win solution because if we are able to up the standards, if we are also able to ensure affordability and accessibility and if the operators find that it's beneficial as they operate together as well, we are more than happy to see consortiums being formed," he said. "It's a really important sector, because children in this formative years, their development is really critical. This effort in stepping in is to help build up that ability."
The scheme will run for five years, during which the Social and Family Development Ministry will monitor the progress of the operators to see if standards are raised and if the fee cap is sustainable.