THE Ministry of Education (MOE) says it is studying the recent recommendations on pre-school education by the Reach workgroup.
The expert group under the Government's feedback unit had called for the mandatory schooling age to be lowered from seven to five, and for kindergartens and childcare centres to come under a single lead agency, namely MOE.
It also wanted MOE to regulate and raise standards of pre-school educators and offer more grants and subsidies.
In a reply to Insight, an MOE spokesman said the ministry has been working closely with the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), grassroots groups and social workers on outreach to ensure more children have access to quality kindergarten education.
'MOE is also committed to uplifting the standards of the pre-school sector through key leverage areas, especially through improving teacher capacity to promote quality teaching, and improving the quality of pre-school programmes,' the spokesman added.
This, she noted, is being done through raising the minimum qualifications of teachers, and introducing a voluntary quality assurance and accreditation framework for pre-schools.
She said: 'Pre-school education seeks to give children a strong foundation in learning, as well as develop in them a love for learning that will take them through life.'
In August, MOE piloted a programme with the Singapore Children's Society to help families with complex difficulties send their children to pre-school.
MOE's spokesman noted that it has provided funding to eligible kindergartens since 2002 to keep fees affordable.
Various schemes are also in place to help children from lower-income families, and these include a start-up grant of up to $200 per child per year to help them pay for items like uniforms.
Last year, MOE also announced several measures to improve standards.
The moves came after a year-long review of the quality of pre-school education here by MOE and MCYS officials.
From January this year, all new pre-school teachers must have 5 O-level credits, including in English, and a Diploma in Early Childhood Care and Education - Teaching.
Existing pre-school teachers have until January 2013 to obtain an O-level credit in English or pass an English proficiency test. They must also obtain the diploma to teach kindergarten classes.
From 2011, MOE and MCYS will implement a voluntary quality assurance and accreditation framework for pre-school centres to gauge their standards.
'Through this framework, pre-school operators will be able to benchmark their education outcomes through yearly self-appraisal and external assessment,' said the MOE spokesman.
'Although participation is not compulsory, attaining a good quality rating or accreditation status is an endorsement and recognition of the quality of the pre-school,' she added.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.