SINGAPORE: Fifty-two childcare and pre-school operators have applied to join the next term of the partner operator scheme, said the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) on Wednesday (Feb 5).
This is more than double the number of operators currently appointed on the existing partner operator term, said the agency in a media release.
There are currently 23 partner operators that run 250 childcare centres, including Carpe Diem, Star Learners and Busy Bees.
The application process closed on Jan 31; both commercial and not-for-profit operators had applied for the new term, as well as operators on the existing term, said ECDA.
From January 2021, the fee caps for partner operator pre-school centres will be lowered to S$760 per month for full-day childcare and S$1,330 per month for infant care services, not including GST.
The current fee caps are S$800 and S$1,400 per month before GST.
Appointed partner operators will be required to reduce fees to within the revised fee caps for Singapore Citizen children, and ensure any fee increases are kept affordable for parents, said ECDA.
“As we review the applications carefully, we hope to be able to increase the number of government-supported pre-schools so that we can continue to assure families of quality, affordable and accessible pre-schools,” said chief executive of ECDA Jamie Ang.
The agency aims to appoint a larger number of partner operator childcare centres for the new term, said ECDA in the media release. Successful applicants will be appointed for a five-year term starting from January 2021.
“However, the eventual number of operators or centres appointed will depend on the quality of operators or centres that have applied,” said the agency.
It also noted that there was no difference between the application processes for new operators and current partner operators.
“All interested operators, regardless of whether they are on the existing POP (partner operator) term, were required to follow the same application procedure,” said the agency.
“All centres, including existing POP (partner operator) centres, must fare well in the evaluation to be appointed onto the next term of the scheme.”
Global EduHub, which operates Mulberry Learning, Little Green House and Alphabet Playhouse confirmed that it applied to join the scheme. None of its 22 pre-schools is a partner operator under the current term.
If appointed, 11 centres under its Little Green House brand located in housing districts like Yishun, Tampines, Bukit Batok and Seng Kang will become partner operators. More than 930 places for children are available under those centres, said chief operating officer Peh Yi Han.
The centres will be following the revised fee guidelines and fee caps to make their programmes “accessible and affordable to a larger group of parents”, said Mr Peh.
Current partner operator Little Footprints Preschool has reapplied for the new term, said a spokesperson. Twenty-two of its 24 centres are part of the current operator term, and if appointed, there will be 2000 places for children in total.
The pre-school's fees are within the stipulated fees for partner operators, and there are no plans to raise or reduce the fees at the moment, said the spokesperson.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said the ECDA is reviewing the applications.
"The 52 operators have centres located across Singapore," the spokesperson added.
"While we aim to have more childcare centres appointed onto the POP scheme, the eventual number of operators/centres appointed will depend on factors including their quality, financial track record and accessibility.
"The new POP term is part of ECDA’s continued efforts to increase access to quality and affordable preschools."
In August 2019, MSF announced higher pre-school subsidies and a raised income ceiling of S$12,000, extending the subsidies to more than 60 per cent of households in Singapore.
These measures took effect in January.
Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee had also previously said that the Government aims to lower fee caps at government-supported pre-schools “in the medium term” so that families pay about S$300 per month after basic subsidies, to match that of primary school fees plus after-school student care fees.