SINGAPORE: There are currently 400 families on the KidSTART initiative, and early feedback has been promising, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Aug 20).
If these results are confirmed, the Government will scale up the programme to benefit more children, he said in his National Day Rally speech.
The initiative, which was first rolled out in 2016, hopes to enable children from low-income families to have a good start in life. It identifies children aged six and below, provides them with early access to health, learning and developmental support, and monitors their progress during their early years.
“Parents say that their children are more talkative and expressive, and interact much better,” Mr Lee said.
He explained that these mothers get onto the KidSTART programme when they are expecting – ideally, in their first trimester.
“Even before the baby is born, trained officers visit the families at home, to support the expecting mother and impart practical skills and knowledge on health, nutrition and child development,” he said. “After the baby arrives, the officers continue to coach the parents. They carry on doing so all the way through pre-school.”
FEEDBACK FROM FAMILIES “POSITIVE AND ENCOURAGING”
The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) said in a press release that the three-year KidSTART pilot is expected to benefit about 1,000 children living in the Kreta Ayer/Bukit Merah, Taman Jurong/Boon Lay and Geylang Serai areas.
The agency said that based on its interactions, parents generally appreciate the value of early childhood development and want their young children to have a good start in life. However, it noted that many are not sure how to nurture their children, and KidSTART staff have been working with these parents to provide "practical guidance and support”.
“Feedback from families has been positive and encouraging,” said ECDA. “Parents say that they feel better supported and more confident in their parenting skills. Parents also shared that they were better able to engage their child.”
Community partners have also been supportive of KidSTART, said ECDA. “This is an important success factor and we hope to collaborate with more partners to provide support to KidSTART families.”
NEED TO BREAK CYCLE OF INEQUALITIES: TAN CHUAN-JIN
In a Facebook post, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin stressed that when it comes to inequalities and disadvantages, “we need to go way upstream to begin breaking the cycle”.
“KidSTART aims to do that and is the right thing to do; we must do it well,” he wrote.
He also credited the dedication of KidSTART volunteers, noting that “they have been the families’ teacher, partner and friend”, as well as the efforts put in by the parents.
“Together we can give our children a good start in life,” he wrote.