SINGAPORE: There will be “sufficient access” for children who are not from Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergartens co-located in schools in the Primary 1 registration exercise, assured Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng on Tuesday (Jan 9).
Explaining in parliament, he said the K1 intake of MOE kindergartens will be "significantly lower" than the planned Primary 1 intake of the school they are co-located in, ensuring spaces for other children.
This follows MOE’s November announcement of a pilot scheme where children in the MOE kindergartens get priority for Primary One admission to the primary school their kindergarten is co-located in. Under the scheme, these children will be eligible under Phase 2A2 starting from the 2018 Primary 1 registration exercise, for admission in 2019.
In a supplementary question, MP Zainal Sapari had also asked if every child in an MOE kindergarten would be able to secure a place in the co-located primary school. In response, Mr Ng said it is “too early” to give such guarantees, but stressed that in the framing of the scheme, MOE has ensured that there are “significantly more” places in Primary One than in the kindergarten.
“From data, we have also seen that parents do exercise choices other than progressing their children from the kindergarten to the primary school,” he said. “With a combination of such factors, we think that the likelihood of the children progressing to P1 in the same locality will be quite high.”
Mr Ng explained that there are “developmental benefits” to young children when they remain in a familiar physical, social and educational environment. MOE has also received feedback from a good number of parents who said they hoped that the number of transitions can be reduced.
Children in MOE kindergartens, which cater to K1 and K2 children, typically transit twice in their early childhood, first from nursery to the kindergarten, then from the kindergarten to primary school. “From the MOE kindergarten pilot experience, school-based kindergartens have greater synergies with primary schools, which in turn better support the children’s transition from K2 to P1,” said Mr Ng.
“Hence, MOE has assessed that it is timely to facilitate a smoother transition of MOE kindergarten children to the primary school that the kindergarten is located within.”
He added that MOE will continually monitor demand and the needs of parents, take in feedback, and assess how well the admissions eligibility is working in achieving its outcomes.
AMPLE SPACE FOR DIFFERENT OPERATORS TO PARTICIPATE IN PRE-SCHOOL LANDSCAPE
But even as MOE expands the number of MOE kindergartens to 50 by 2023, Mr Ng stressed that these 50 will only make up about 20 per cent of the pre-school market. This, he said, means that there is “ample space” for different pre-school operators to participate in the sector.
He was responding to a supplementary question from MP Denise Phua, who had asked how MOE has been helping other pre-schools to uplift the quality of pre-school education as a whole.
Mr Ng said that since 2016, MOE has made available “some of its resources that (it) has found to be very useful in children’s learning.”
“Like the Big Books,” he said. “When it comes to the teaching of languages, we use Big Books to tell the stories to the children to captivate their interest and to facilitate their learning, both in English and Mother Tongue.”
He added that some best practices from the MOE kindergartens have also been put into the Nurturing Early Learners portal, to be made available online to the early childhood educators’ community.
MOE also participates in conferences organised by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) or other agencies, he said, to share best practices in early childhood education.
“Parents will still have sufficient choice, and good pre-schools that are able to provide quality services that meet the needs and preferences of families will continue to play an important role in this sector.”