1,000 KIDS IN ONE PRESCHOOL What you must know about the trend of large child­care cen­tres in Sin­ga­pore.

Would you en­rol your lit­tle one in a large child­care cen­tre that can hold up to 1,000 kids? EVELINE GAN re­ports on this hot trend in es­tates with high de­mand.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - Contents -

Find­ing and se­cur­ing a child­care spot for your lit­tle one can be a frus­trat­ing, hairtear­ing af­fair.

But with large child­care cen­tres sprout­ing up in the heart­lands over the last few years, par­ents can look for­ward to more af­ford­able and qual­ity preschool pro­grammes.

Since 2016, th­ese mega­sized cen­tres, some of which can take up to 1,000 kids, have opened in es­tates with more young fam­i­lies. This is part of the Gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to en­sure that ev­ery par­ent who needs a preschool place for their lit­tle one will be able to have one. Here, we find out more about this new preschool ex­pe­ri­ence.

What are large child­care cen­tres and how are they dif­fer­ent from reg­u­lar­sized preschools?

In a large child­care cen­tre, your lit­tle one may have as many as 999 school­mates at­tend­ing school at the same time.

About three to five times the size of child­care cen­tres that are lo­cated at HDB void decks, th­ese larger cen­tres can each ac­com­mo­date any­where be­tween 300 and 1,000 chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to the Early Child­hood De­vel­op­ment Agency’s (ECDA), the reg­u­la­tory and devel­op­men­tal author­ity for the early child­hood sec­tor in Sin­ga­pore.

“The larger space al­lows cen­tres more scope to de­sign stim­u­lat­ing learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments, such as age-ap­pro­pri­ate play ar­eas, gar­den spa­ces, art and teacher re­source rooms,” says ECDA’s spokesper­son.

For ex­am­ple, My First Skool (MFS) at 2 Pung­gol Drive, which opened its doors in May, boasts five ex­cit­ing out­door playscapes across its sprawl­ing 94,561 sq ft cam­pus, in­clud­ing an out­door play­ground as well as themed wa­ter, land, moun­tain and for­est play zones.

Chil­dren en­rolled at the Skool4Kidz cam­pus at Sengkang River­side Park, which also started op­er­a­tions this year, en­joy am­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties for out­door learn­ing, thanks to its lo­ca­tion nes­tled amid the lush green­ery of the sur­round­ing park.

It fea­tures fa­cil­i­ties that reg­u­lar-sized preschools do not have due to lim­ited space, such as an in­door gar­den atrium with sky­bridge, a but­terfly lodge, an ate­lier loft and read­ing space, a unique din­ing space that will serve food from gar­den har­vests, as well as themed out­door play cor­ri­dors.

Where are they lo­cated?

Large child­care cen­tres are lo­cated in ar­eas of high preschool de­mands, such as es­tates with many young fam­i­lies.

Young Par­ents’ checks re­vealed that nine of th­ese jumbo-sized child­care cen­tres have opened in Sengkang, Pung­gol, Yishun, Wood­lands, Jurong West and Bukit Pan­jang. To­gether, they have cre­ated 5,000 preschool places.

An­other five new ones are slated to open in Sengkang and Pung­gol by 2020, ac­cord­ing to ECDA. De­tails for reg­is­tra­tion for the five new large child­care cen­tres will be an­nounced in the first half of next year.

How is the qual­ity of child­care and ed­u­ca­tion kept con­sis­tent in such a large preschool set­ting?

While the cam­pus size is larger, the qual­ity of care and ed­u­ca­tion re­mains a key pri­or­ity, as in all preschools and child­care cen­tres here, says ECDA’s spokesper­son.

Sim­i­lar to a reg­u­lar-sized preschool, large cen­tres of­fer a com­pre­hen­sive se­ries of pro­grammes that are de­signed to cater to the de­vel­op­ment needs of young chil­dren from two months to six years of age, says Teri Teo, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and ca­pa­bil­ity de­vel­op­ment at School4Kidz.

Th­ese large child­care cen­tres are also run by an­chor op­er­a­tors, which are ap­pointed by ECDA. Each cen­tre is sub­jected to the same reg­u­la­tions that the agency has for smaller cen­tres, such as teacher-to-chil­dren ra­tios rang­ing from one ed­u­carer to five in­fants 18 months old and younger, to one teacher to 25 chil­dren in Kinder­garten 2, Teri ex­plains.

With so many kids on cam­pus, will my lit­tle one get eas­ily dis­tracted?

Built for greater ac­cess to na­ture and more op­por­tu­ni­ties for out­door learn­ing, many of the newer large child­care cen­tres fea­ture open spa­ces and shared com­mu­nal fa­cil­i­ties.

But would this, as well as hav­ing so many other chatty preschool­ers in the same space, in­ad­ver­tently end up dis­tract­ing your lit­tle one from learn­ing well?

Ed­u­ca­tors say it won’t. For one, teach­ers pro­vide ma­te­ri­als and ac­tiv­i­ties that oc­cupy the chil­dren and en­gage them through­out the

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