In his National Day Rally speech, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted the KidSTART programme in Singapore. This programme has thus far benefited 400 families over the last one year.
PM Lee mentioned that, “We are making a special effort for kids from low income and vulnerable families. Tan Chuan-Jin started and is taking a close personal interest in the KidSTART programme, which we have piloted for a year on 400 families.”
“Early results are promising, and if confirmed, we will scale up KidStart to benefit more children. Parents say their children are more talkative and expressive, and interact much better.”
So what exactly is the KidSTART programme in Singapore?
KidSTART programme in Singapore
KidSTART is a pilot programme for low-income and vulnerable young children. It helps to enable them to have a good start in life. It brings together the family, community, and pre-school. And, builds a strong ecosystem of support for the child.
Children from vulnerable circumstances may face developmental challenges compared to their peers. KidSTART aims to provide upstream support and create a conducive environment to give vulnerable children a good start in life.
The KidSTART programme in Singapore has been in place since July 2016. And, is benefiting children from low-income groups as well. | Image courtesy: Stock Image
The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) works with key partners such as the Social Service Offices, Family Service Centres and hospitals. And they identify and reach out to families with infants and young children who can benefit from KidSTART. Partners would contact suitable families to inform them about KidSTART, and seek their participation.
PM Lee says that, “The mother gets onto the programme when she is expecting. Trained officers support the family until the baby arrives, and carrying on doing so through preschool.”
KidSTART has been rolled out since July 2016, and about 1,000 children living in the pilot sites – Kreta Ayer, Bukit Merah, Taman Jurong, Boon Lay and Geylang Serai – are expected to benefit from the pilot programme.
Who is eligible for KidSTART programme in Singapore?
The eligibility criteria of KidSTART is:
- Singapore Citizen children aged up to 6 years old
- Low-income household
- Residing in one of the pilot regions (Kreta Ayer, Bukit Merah, Taman Jurong, Boon Lay and Geylang Serai)
KidSTART is still in a pilot phase, and so the programme components are for families staying within the pilot regions.
Families outside the pilot regions requiring assistance can approach the Social Service Offices, if they require social assistance, or contact preschools or ECDA if they require a preschool place.
There are also various preschool subsidies to help low-income parents defray the cost of preschool.
These are the primary components of KidSTART programme in Singapore. Image courtesy: Stock image
KidSTART Programme in Singapore: The Components
- KidSTART Home Visitation. This targets pregnant mothers and parents of infants who are up to 12 months old as well as provides sustained home-based support until the child turns 3. In addition, parents will receive support in skills and practical knowledge across areas of child growth, health and nutrition.
Home visitors from KK Hospital or ECDA will conduct these visits. The home visitors are supported by multi-disciplinary professionals including paediatricians and nurses. They provide guidance or occasionally accompany the home visitors.
The programme will also conduct regular screening of the child’s development and maternal well-being across the antenatal and postnatal stages. This will detect and treat issues early.
Group-based activities called ‘Group Connect’ are also organised for parents to provide peer support. Depending on the family’s needs, the child will also be enrolled into an appropriate preschool programme.
- KidSTART Groups (Supported Playgroups). These are weekly community-based playgroup sessions or ‘KidSTART Groups.’ They are for parents or main caregivers and their children (between the ages of 1 and 3).
ECDA-trained trainers or KidSTART Group facilitators deliver the programme.
These sessions are based on the Supported Playgroups concept, and seeks to build up parental skills in child development and parent-child bonding through evidence-based curricula of structured and purposeful play.
Parents will also get to bring home educational resources and reinforce their learning. KidSTART Group facilitators may conduct home visits for families who need additional support, and facilitate the child’s placement in an appropriate preschool programme.
- KidSTART Enhanced Support to Preschools. According to the ECDA, this is a new model of support. It will work in selected Anchor Operator pre-schools and the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) and NTUC First Campus run these schools.
Selected centres are provided with additional resources to improve engagement. They do this with the support for parents, and to improve the child’s school readiness. The programme deploys Child Enabling Executives to preschools. They work with these children and their families.
This may include addressing barriers related to poor preschool attendance and referrals. This will support programmes and address their developmental needs. Eligible children who are currently enrolled in these preschools will be included in this component.
For more information on the KidSTART programme in Singapore, contact ECDA.
Also READ: Why teacher-child ratio in Singapore preschools is worrying!
(Source: ECDA, MSF)