Finding the best child care centre for your child is essential to ensuring their health, wellness, and development are supported during their most critical years. There are dozens of things to consider when choosing the daycare that is right for your little one. Gen Woo helps you break down the basics of early childhood education so you can start the process comfortably and confidently.
- What is centre-based child care?
- Types of child care in Singapore
- How much does child care cost in Singapore?
- Anchor Operator Scheme daycare
- Partner Operator Scheme daycare
- Child care checklist
- Kindergarten in Singapore
What is Centre-Based Child Care?
In Singapore, child care centres provide care to children under age seven through full- and half-day programs, with infant daycare programs offering care to children aged two to eighteen months. Parents in the country work various schedules, which means that they need several scheduling options for daycare for their children. Some child care centres offer flexible arrangements to accommodate families who work outside of traditional hours.
Centre-based care begins with infant daycare and follows a child’s development through to age seven. Child care centres work together with parents in a partnership that supports children’s intellectual, physical, emotional, and social development. It’s important to choose a daycare that offers a philosophy on teaching and development that agrees with your beliefs to create the most effective partnership for your child’s future success.
Types of Child Care in Singapore
Singapore’s Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) provides important standards that govern child care centres in the country. According to the MSF website, “In addition to providing working parents with reliable care services, child care centres have programmes aimed at educating and developing preschool children through effective early childhood education programmes in a safe and conducive environment.”
The Ministry provides guidelines and requirements to ensure children receive the highest level of care possible and that parents’ needs are accommodated. Child care centres in Singapore are required to be open during certain hours and have a certain number of professional development days. Monday through Friday, daycare centres are required to open no later than seven in the morning and close no earlier than seven in the evening. On Saturday, providers must open no later than seven in the morning and close no later than two in the afternoon.
For holidays, child care centres are closed on Sundays and public holidays such as New Year’s Day, Hari Raya Puasa, and Labour Day. Each centre may choose to offer half-day care on the eve of three public holidays of their choice. The centres may also close for another six days each year, but at least two and a half of those days must be used for staff development and training.
These time schedules are created to ensure that parents have enough time to pick up and drop off their children and to give providers the appropriate amount of time for professional development trainings.
Not all daycare providers serve every age, so it’s important to know whether or not the centre you’re looking at accommodates your needs. Infant care is offered at some facilities and serves children from two months of age until eighteen months of age. Additionally, some child care centres offer before-and-after-school care options for children up to age fourteen or emergency care services for last-minute needs that arise.
How Much Does Child Care Cost in Singapore?
If you’re searching for a child care centre in Singapore, you’ll likely see a wide price difference. Parents can expect to pay an average of $1,500 a month on child care, although the price depends on the type and level of care and the child's age. However, several programs assist parents in paying for daycare.
In Singapore, children who are citizens and are enrolled in a licensed child care centre will be eligible for financial assistance in the form of a Basic Subsidy. This service helps families afford the cost of child care by reducing the amount they pay. The rate is based on the age of the child and whether or not the parent is working.
According to Singapore’s Early Childhood Development Agency, a working applicant qualifies for subsidy as long as they are a mother or single father working at least fifty-six hours each month. Working applicants receive a Basic Subsidy of $600 for infant care and $300 for child care. An additional subsidy of up to $710 or $467 is also available depending on the child’s age and applicant’s circumstance. Non-working parents are eligible for a Basic Subsidy of $150 regardless of the child’s age. Subsidy fees are paid directly to the child’s daycare.
Anchor Operator Scheme Daycare
The Anchor Operator scheme, also known as AOP, provides funding incentives to small and mid-size child care providers who increase high quality and affordable child care opportunities, especially to children with disadvantaged backgrounds or lower-income families. The program began in 2009 and was increased in 2014. To receive funding, providers must:
- Cap monthly fees to ensure care is affordable
- Invest in continuous quality improvement of their facilities and programs
- Support the professional development and career opportunities for early childhood educators
The monthly fee caps help parents afford high-quality care by placing a maximum on costs. The cap is $720 for full-day child care, $1,275 for full-day infant daycare, and $160 for kindergarten. The providers also promise that fee increases in the future will be kept affordable to avoid pricing parents out of care for their child.
Between 2014 and 2017, the AOP program benefitted over 16,000 children by providing access to higher quality care experiences. Early childhood educators also benefit because they receive professional development trainings and career advancement.
The AOP scheme currently partners with five facilities that were selected based on their proposals, program history, governance processes, financial stability, program affordability and quality, and the ability to increase their capacity.
Partner Operator Scheme Daycare
The Partner Operator Scheme, also known as the POP scheme, is a similar program to the AOP scheme. They aim to improve the quality, affordability, and accessibility of child care infant daycare services. However, the Partner Operator scheme is directed toward larger child care providers, and facilities must have at least 1,000 child care slots available to qualify. The scheme began in 2016, and in 2021, the Early Childhood Development Agency appointed 324 new child care centres to the program for the newest term, 2021 until 2025.
The POP scheme facilities receive funding to:
- Ensure a monthly fee cap for full-day child care of $760 and $1,330 for infant care programs for Singapore Citizen children and that any future fee increases are affordable to parents.
- Invest in the Singapore Preschool Accreditation Framework, also known as SPARK, and in strengthening its programs as a whole to continuously improve the quality of care.
Support centre leaders and early childhood educators through continuing education and professional development opportunities.
Child Care Checklist
Choosing the “best” daycare isn’t about what your friend recommends or the child care centre that your coworker sent their child to. Finding the best program is about whether or not it’s right for your child. Here is a list of important topics to consider when choosing a daycare program:
How long will your child be at school? If you are employed, is care offered during your work hours? How easy are the pick-up and drop-off process? Programs offer different timetable solutions, including strict half days from nine in the morning until noon, or a full day, from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon. Other facilities offer a daycare-style approach with longer hours, such as from seven in the morning until seven in the evening. These are all things to consider.
How close is the daycare to your home? How long are you willing or able to travel? If you don’t want your child to ride the bus or if you don’t drive, you may not want to select a child care centre that’s not conveniently located.
What curriculum is offered? How much time is allotted for each activity? Although some child care centres follow structured curriculums, such as Reggio Emilia, IB Primary Years, or Montessori, others allow a fluid approach to playing and learning or blend several styles into a unique offering for their facility. Choose the program that is best for your child and where you believe they will thrive.
What supports are offered for differently-abled children? How large of a class size will my child be in? If your child has specific learning capabilities or needs early intervention services, finding a preschool that offers support for differently-abled students to be as successful as possible is essential. Ask specific questions to ensure you understand the services being offered and to ensure your child will be in a supported environment.
What language is predominantly used for instruction? How much time is spent in each language? Singapore has fantastic dual-language opportunities for children in child care centres, including Mandarin-immersion programs, an English instruction school with Mandarin included, or a bilingual program.
What type of professional development experiences does the child care centre offer its teachers? How many hours of experience has the teacher gained? Although teachers must have the state-mandated certification in early childhood education, different facilities have different requirements for training.
Child to Teacher Ratio:
What is the typical class size? What is the maximum class size? Are there any teacher assistants in the classrooms? The student-to-teacher ratios vary among each daycare and child care centre, so determining if your child will do better in a larger or smaller class size is important.
Are there any unique facilities offered to students? Some facilities offer state-of-the-art classrooms and impressive technology, while others focus on outdoor learning spaces and amenities. Determine what your priorities are and where you believe your child will do their best.
The foods your child eats when they’re young have a lasting impact on their choices later in life. Helping your child create a well-balanced diet is crucial to their growth and development, so finding out about the different food and nutrition offerings is important.
How much does it cost per month and term? Are any holidays included in the cost? It’s no wonder that cost plays a significant role in determining your choice of preschool for your child. Understanding the different price breakdowns will help you weigh the value of each of the above qualities to determine what you’ll able or willing to pay overall.
Kindergarten in Singapore
Although the Early Childhood Development Agency regulates the child care industry in Singapore, the Ministry of Education is the agency that supervises the country’s state-run kindergartens. Only children who are citizens of Singapore or permanent residents are eligible to enroll, and monthly fees are incredibly reasonable at $150 for citizens and $300 for permanent residents.
Singapore encourages high-quality and affordable early childhood education experiences in kindergartens by reserving one-third of the spaces at its kindergartens for children from households with a gross household income below $3,500 per month or a per-capita income under $875 per month. The Ministry of Education encourages a curriculum that is solidly Singapore, with a focus on purposeful play and quality interactions. The programs also emphasize childhood bilingualism through the Starlight Literacy Program and the holistic development of the HI-Light Program.
Aside from the traditional programs, parents can also select an alternative kindergarten experience for their child. There are three specific offerings in Singapore that offer more unique educational approaches:
- Reggio Emilia: If you want your child to engage in discovery, collaboration, and hands-on exploration, this style program may be a great match.
- Montessori: Although many schools advertise the adoption of a Montessori curriculum, not every school offers a true experience. For the true Montessori environment, ask about mixed-age groups, three-hour work cycles, and Montessori materials.
- Waldorf: The Waldorf Steiner Education Association offers an approach that is rooted in play and offers programs in singing, creativity, and acting.