Pre-school to be free for some children as NTUC First Campus ramps up support for low-income families

SINGAPORE – More children from lower-income backgrounds will have access to financial and social help, with pre-school education even made free for some of them, as Singapore’s second largest pre-school operator ramps up support for disadvantaged families.

NTUC First Campus will be raising the monthly household income ceiling for its child support schemes from $3,500 to $4,500 from January 2020.

This will help more than 10,000 children from less well-off families over the next five years. They will also enjoy priority admission to My First Skool centres across the island.

My First Skool is one of the pre-school brands under NTUC First Campus. 

Announcing this at an event at My First Skool in Boon Lay on Monday (Sept 23), NTUC First Campus chief executive Chan Tee Seng said that in 2020, the pre-school operator will spend about $8.6 million on programmes, which range from learning support and enrichment to financial assistance. This is up by 26 per cent from this year.

In addition, OCBC Bank will be giving $1 million to help make pre-school education free for about 500 children each year from 2020 to 2024.

This applies to children of union members with gross monthly household incomes of $4,500 or less, who start at My First Skool next year.

Under this scheme, each eligible child will receive a one-time payout of $400 into his Child Development Account, and this will be matched dollar for dollar by the Government.

The total amount of $800 can cover the first two years of childcare fees for families earning $4,500 or less, which add up to $720 after government subsidies.

For families whose household income is $3,000 and below, any excess funds can be used for other education and healthcare expenses.

OCBC will also be organising regular financial literacy workshops for parents from next year.

The partnership between the bank and the pre-school operator was signed on Monday by Mr Samuel Tsien, group chief executive of OCBC, and Mr Chan.

Said Mr Tsien: “With the recent announcement of hefty subsidies for pre-school education… fees to be paid by low-income families will range from $36 to $360 a year. Yet we understand that there are still some families who may struggle to put their children in school. And for some others, this sum of money can continue to be a reason not to send their children to school.

“That is why we thought, why not help to make pre-school education free for these families for at least the first two years?”

National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng, who was present at the event, said the increased financial support will go a long way towards helping less advantaged children learn both in and outside the classroom, through field trip excursions and literacy programmes, for instance.

These are part of the Government’s efforts to strengthen the pre-school sector so that children have access to affordable and quality education in the first six years of life, he added.

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