SINGAPORE: PCF Sparkletots opened its newest childcare centre at Hillion Mall in Bukit Panjang on Saturday (Aug 12).
At over 21,500 sq ft, the operator's second-largest childcare centre can accommodate up to 287 children. It currently has an enrolment of about 170 children.
At the opening, Foreign Affairs Minister and MP for Holland-Bukit Timah Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said there have been more childcare places in the last five years, to make sure that every Singaporean child gets the best possible start, and therefore have a bright future ahead of them.
"Our children have got specific windows of development, and it is most critical that we give them the best environment," he said. "For instance, learning language, vision, music, social skills. These are best developed when the child is very, very young."
This is the first time the operator has a branch in an integrated development – a move, which it says, has inspired an enhanced curriculum that is unique to PCF Sparkletots @ Cashew.
All branches carry the same curriculum, which covers language and literacy, social and emotional development and motor skills development.
On top of this, the new centre will also deliver the STEAM approach. This is short for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.
Under this approach, children get to "conduct" experiments in the baking corner, grow their own potted plants and even learn to count with the help of a robotic-based game.
PCF CEO Victor Bay said during a media briefing that this interactive hands-on approach was largely due to the nature of its location in Hillion Mall, which has tech shops, music schools and other lifestyle facilities.
“Children at this young age are very well exposed. So for all our activities, we try to introduce things like digital cameras and telescopes,” he said.
He added that with more young families taking root in Bukit Panjang, and the added accessibility with the new Downtown Line, the enhanced curriculum is timely as enrolment grows.
The new pre-school also provides both full day childcare and infant care services. Its prices are consistent with those of PCF Sparkletots' HDB-based centres.
As an anchor operator, it is also required to fix a monthly fee cap of S$720, S$1,275 and S$160 for child care, infant care and kindergarten respectively.
CHALLENGE OF CHILDCARE SPACES IN BUKIT PANJANG "SUBSTANTIALLY SOLVED": DR BALAKRISHNAN
Dr Balakrishnan also added that parents with young children in Bukit Panjang will no longer need to worry about whether there are enough childcare places in the town.
“For Bukit Panjang, because this has been a growing town, clearly there has been a strong demand for more and more childcare centres," he said.
"I am glad to say that we have now passed that tipping point with this centre. Next month, we are opening another one at Ten Mile Junction, and in the first quarter of next year, we will open another one in Segar."
He added: "I can now reassure every young parent in this town that we will have a place for childcare, for kindergarten - whatever they need - so I think on the issue of supply, we have substantially solved that challenge."
Dr Balakrishnan also noted that in the past five to ten years, more has been done to step up the affordability and quality of the early childhood sector. It has also seen “tremendous growth” in the past two decades. But the “big variable” in the equation of infrastructure, equipment, pedagogy and syllabus is teachers, he said.
“In fact, all childcare centres have been going on an all-out recruitment binge, and to recruit not just anybody, but recruit people who have the passion, the talent, the interest and the ability to teach," he said.
On that note, Dr Balakrishnan said that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be making an announcement during the National Day Rally on Aug 20.
“We intend to uplift the entire sector by making sure we have the latest cutting edge training to keep our teachers refreshed, and to be able to fulfil their role," he said. "The goal: To make sure that high-quality childcare is universally accessible to all Singaporean families."
Dr Balakrishnan added: "The future of Singapore - the most important determinant of our future - is the quality of our people, and in this case, the quality of Singapore’s children. So we will spare no expense, no effort, to invest in our children."