This post is part of the series Budget 2017
Other posts in this series:
- Budget 2017: The National Budget Process
- Will we see a Budget which spends more than what we have?
- Three reasons to cheer the Early Childhood Development Centres Act (Current)
TL;DR – It will provide our children with a better start.
The new Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDC) Act was introduced and debated in Parliament on Feb 28.
Under this Act, childcare centres and kindergartens come under the same regulatory framework. This framework will offer longer tenures to pre-schools with a good track record, to tightened requirements when engaging external vendors for services. The authorities will also have more oversight of childcare centres and kindergartens.
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan Jin, said in Parliament:
“Regulatory standards underpin the foundation of a good quality pre-school. The Early Childhood Development Centres Bill seeks exactly to be that strong and reliable base for the sector, to consistently provide good-quality programmes that give our young parents peace of mind when it comes to the safety, well-being and development of their children.”
Thirteen MPs spoke during the debate. Actually, debate is not really accurate description of what happened in Parliament. Because a debate implies that there are two sides, one proposing, another opposing. But all thirteen MPs, who includes two from the Workers’ Party, spoke in support of the new laws.
We agree with the thirteen MPs. Here are three reasons to cheer the passing of this Bill.
1. Ease the burden of parents
A 34-year-old South-Korean woman died from overwork. A mother of three, she had only returned from maternity leave a week before her death last month, and immediately went back to working 12-hour days. She returned to the office on the Saturday. On the Sunday, she was there again at five in the morning so she could finish early and take care of her children later in the day. She didn’t make it home. She suffered a heart attack and passed away.
Given that Singaporean families have both parents who are working, it’s not too much of a stretch to think that what happened to that South-Korean woman might happen in Singapore. It’s therefore important that there are good quality childcare centres available that parents can depend on to help them take care of their young children. That would greatly help parents balance demands of work and their responsibilities as parents.
2. Help with our fertility woes
Easing the burden of parents will also help with Singapore’s total fertility rate. Currently, Singapore’s total fertility rate is at 1.2 births per female. That’s way lower than the replacement rate of 2.1 needed to maintain Singapore’s population. If we don’t increase the total fertility rate, “true blue born and bred” Singaporeans may go extinct. One reason that couples say they don’t want to have children is the concern that they can’t get good quality childcare.
The ECDC Act can go some way to reassure couples that there will be good quality childcare services that they can safely entrust their children to. The Act gives the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) more bite in investigating pre-schools that are alleged to engage in errant practices. They can search the centres, interview people, take photos or video-record the investigation process. So that could be one load off couple’s mind when considering whether to have a child or even two!
3. Levelling society up
DPM said in a recent speech at the London School of Economics that we should intervene early in a child’s life to reduce deficits people can be born with. He explained that early intervention has long term benefits on cognitive and non-cognitive skills needed to do well later in life, in the job market, in society, and in bringing up families. He emphasised:
“All over the world, we have to focus on this area of public policy – early interventions, without the convenience of schools, but having to work in communities and work in families, doing it in a way that isn’t so intrusive and doesn’t remove the dignity that parents want to have in bringing up their children. But we have to intervene more actively to ameliorate the deficits that one can be born with.”
The ECDC Act is aimed at ensuring “higher and more consistent quality standards” across the early-childhood education sector. This is therefore an important move in levelling society up.
Solid foundation for a stronger society
This Act sets a sturdy foundation on which to build a great early childhood development and education sector. That will provide future generations of Singaporeans with a better start. In turn, that will strengthen Singaporean society. That’s why we are cheering the ECDC Act.
Continue reading this series:
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