SINGAPORE: A S$4 million grant was launched on Saturday (Oct 16) to help pre-schools reduce the cost of adopting pre-approved digital solutions over the next three years.
The digital solutions include e-payment and e-enrolment systems, the use of data analytics to analyse and automate operations, as well as virtual training for pre-school educators.
These are covered under a three-stage industry digital plan, which lists the solutions pre-schools can adopt at each stage of growth, said the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) in a media release.
“ECDA and IMDA have pre-approved solutions that will assist pre-schools in their operations at different stages of digital readiness,” said the agency.
“These solutions are supported by certified vendors and have been curated to facilitate simple and quick adoption by pre-schools,” it added.
“Apart from pre-school management, operators and educators can look forward to new solutions for e-enrolment and data analytics for centre operations from early November. More pre-approved solutions will be added progressively.”
Announcing the Early Childhood Digitalisation Grant, Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said: “Under the IDP (industry digital plan), your pre-schools can find IT solutions that we have approved. These can help them reduce the time spent on routine tasks and even help them to update your parents more easily.
“Pre-schools can also look out for new solutions to help them e-enrol children and use data analytics to make our pre-schools run better.”
Operators can now submit their grant applications through the Business Grants Portal.
EXPANDING DEVELOPMENT, LEARNING SUPPORT
ECDA will also expand the development support - learning support programme to more pre-schools. The programme enables children who require low levels of early intervention support to access such services at their pre-schools.
The aim is for every pre-school to appoint one of its staff as an inclusion coordinator from the second half of 2023. They will partner early childhood educators to identify children with “potential developmental needs” for early assessment, said ECDA.
They will also connect educators and parents with “relevant early intervention resources and services”.
Pre-schools can look forward to training for their inclusion coordinators from the end of this year, said Mr Masagos.
“Besides improving professional training and quality of pre-schools to benefit all children, we are making our pre-schools more inclusive and stepping up support for children with developmental needs,” said Mr Masagos.
The programme will cover 60 per cent of pre-schoolers aged five to six by 2025, and 80 per cent of them in the long term, said ECDA in its media release.
MSF will also pilot a new Inclusive Support Programme at selected pre-schools for children that need medium levels of early intervention support, and will release more details later, said Mr Masagos.
For children from low-income families, yearly top-ups to child development accounts will be introduced as part of the Growing Together with KidSTART initiative.
Each KidSTART child will receive S$100 for each year of regular attendance until they reach six-years-old, said an ECDA spokesperson in response to media queries.
Children will also be eligible for an additional one-time top-up when they enroll in pre-school, they said.
The one-time top-up will be more - S$200 - if they enroll between ages three and four, compared to S$100 for those who enroll at above age four, the spokesperson noted.
The Government recently also announced a S$200 top-up in the Child Development Accounts (CDA) of all Singaporean children aged six and below, said Mr Masagos.
“This will benefit all families by helping to offset the costs of raising a child. But we will go further. We will provide more support for families and children who enrol and participate regularly in pre-school and KidSTART activities through yearly CDA top-ups.”
This is to encourage families towards early enrolment and regular attendance, said ECDA.
A larger top-up amount would be given to families who enroll their children in pre-school earlier, between ages three and four, it added.
The Growing Together with KidSTART initiative was launched in 2019 to raise community support for children from low-income families. It has garnered S$4 million in cash donations and sponsorships from businesses and individuals, said ECDA.
“We also want to enable every child to have the best chance to flourish in life. Regardless of their family background or resources,” said Mr Masagos.
“I am hopeful that with these new moves, we can better support children with diverse needs in our pre-schools, so that every child can shine and achieve their fullest potential.”