I delivered the following two speeches today during the Committee of Supply debate on Ministry of Social and Family:
Sir, I refer the Minister to the KiFAS portion of my Budget speech. I am puzzled that after review, KiFAS can only be used on kindergartens operated by MOE and Anchor Operators. Those that qualify for KiFAS form less than half of the some 500 kindergartens here. More than 95% of qualifying centres belongs to just PCF. Other than PCF and MOE centres, are there actually any other existing centres that are KiFAS approved today?There are many good kindergartens, some with long history, like the ones my siblings and I attended some 40 to 50 years ago. KiFAS should apply to all registered kindergartens, just like its sister scheme, CFAC. CFAC can be used on all childcare centres. MOE saw it fit to support aided schools with religious affiliations. This government has pride our recent Budgets for being inclusive. I believe we can be more inclusive to allow more, if not all kindergartens to be KiFAS-supported.Student Care CentresSir, we have seen a huge rise in the demand for child care. Of late, the government has put a lot of resources in this area.However, I do not see the same being done for student care. The same young working parents that use childcare services will need student care for their children, at least for the first few years of school.Commercial SCCs are unattractive to run given the high cost of rent and lack of government support, compared to childcare. MSF website listed 207 student care centres, of which a good number are tuition or childcare centres. These may take a very small number for student care, if at all, as their other operations are generally more profitable. Good student care services could eliminate the need for tuition. Is the current supply of student care places sufficient for our increasing needs?Student care operations are also not subjected to the ministry’s supervision for quality, unlike childcare. SCCs are not required to be licensed and are not subjected to regular checks by MSF. Their staffs need not attain minimum qualifications and training.I urge the government to extend better funding and resource support to this sector, create more places, work with MOE to have SCCs in all schools, and to provide closer supervision of the quality of operations.