I REFER to last Thursday's letter, 'Beef up monitoring of childcare centres'. Every childcare centre is licensed by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. The licensing framework is well-established and sound.
Areas of assessment include physical environment, safety, health, hygiene, staff training and qualifications, programme and curriculum.
These dimensions are consistently and closely monitored and the licensing process is a rigorous one. Centres are awarded six-, 12- or 24-month licences in accordance with the ministry's well-rounded assessment of the centre's performance. Newly set-up centres are awarded a 12-month licence.
The assessment criteria have, over the years, gone through reviews, and as childcare operators will attest, been instrumental in driving overall improvements in the operations of childcare centres. Last month, the ministry further revamped licensing standards.
To encourage individuality, flexibility is accorded to each centre to run its programme, and to position its service in line with its philosophy of early childhood education while being guided by the ministry's licensing standards, and the Ministry of Education's framework for kindergarten curriculum.
From the business standpoint, this also allows product differentiation. The varied models and differing focuses offer families more choices for the care and education of their young ones. This gives operators motivation for self-improvement and provides avenues for research and development. Opportunities for learning from one another, for the betterment of the field, abound.
Families have different needs and preferences. Parents should capitalise on the multitude of programmes available, to select one that best caters to their needs and their educational and developmental goals for their children. It is important that, in making this choice, parents consider a centre with a philosophy of care that parallels their personal values and ideals, as differing views may result in disagreements over dissimilar expectations.
Ultimately, proper delivery of the programme depends on the quality of the preschool teachers, who are in direct contact with the children and their families. As an organisation, we are strong proponents of both ministries' initiatives in raising the standards of preschool teachers, and we work hand in hand with them towards achieving the same goal.
Dr Sam Yap
Chairman, Association of Private Childcare Organisations (APCO)
This article was first published in The New Paper.