The ECDC Bill for Singapore childcare centres and kindergartens promises to raise their quality. Here is what you need to know!
After the recent spate of events alleging everything from child abuse to child neglect at childcare centres in Singapore, parents will be relieved to know that the Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDC) Bill has just been passed. Here is how it promises to ensure higher standards for childcare centres and kindergartens in Singapore:
- Who it covers: It covers all private childcare centres and kindergartens, which now come under the Child Care Centres Act; their licences will have to be renewed regularly. MOE kindergartens will be excluded from the bill and continue to be under the Education Act.
Currently, childcare centres need to have their licences renewed, but kindergartens only require a one-time registration process. Pre-schools who have upheld high quality standards, and with at least 2 consecutive 2 year licences, will be given a 3-year licence.
- More interference by Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA): ECDA will henceforth have greater powers over the pre-school sector. All staff, everyone from teachers to cooks and cleaners, will now have to be approved by ECDA.
According to The New Paper, apart from inspecting pre-schools and examining documents, ECDA officers will get more investigative powers to interview people, and take photos, videos or audio recordings at pre-schools.
Pre-schools must now also get the ECDA's approval before engaging in any third-party education providers, like enrichment workshops, cooks and cleaners.
- Greater penalty for breach of quality: The new law carries a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine and a year's jail. Currently, the Child Care Centres Act carries a maximum of $5,000 fine and two years' jail while the Education Act has a maximum of $2,000 fine and a year's jail.
According to Today, the ECDA will assess centres based on their physical environment, safety and hygiene, quality of programmes and staff, as well as staff-to-child ratios, when issuing licences.
- No plan to increase fees: There is currently no proposed increase in fees. So parents should be relieved by this greater assurance of quality at no extra cost.
Minister for Social and Family Development, Tan Chuan-Jin has been quoted as saying, "The new ECDC Bill is an important milestone in raising the quality of early childhood development in Singapore and provides parents with greater confidence that the Government is making Singapore a good place to raise families."
"The ECDC Bill seeks exactly to be that strong and reliable base for the sector - to consistently provide good quality programmes that give our young parents peace of mind when it comes to the safety, well-being and development of their children."
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