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In his National Day Rally last night, PM Lee Hsien Loong outlined the Government’s plan to upgrade pre-school education in Singapore.
He cited three key areas that the Education Ministry would look into: making sure more children have access to pre-school education, upgrading the profession of pre-school educators, and making sure children from low-income families enter pre-school.
All these measures are not new. In fact, PM Lee seems to be behind the curve when it comes to the issue. The SDP formally proposed such initiatives in 2015 in our education policy titled Educating for Creativity and Equality: An Agenda for Transformation. (Click here to read the full paper.)
In the paper, we pointed out that “it is disappointing that the PAP does not pay greater attention to pre-school education.” From PM Lee’s NDR remarks yesterday, it is seems that the PAP has heeded our call.
We highlight below instances where PM Lee has unmistakably followed the SDP’s lead. Note that the excerpts are taken from SDP’s education policy (2015) and PM Lee’s NDR speech (2017):
1. Pre-school education for all children
SDP: Pre-school in Singapore will be nationalised to ensure that Singaporean children from all walks of life have access to pre-school education. We seek to level up society by providing our students equal opportunity to excel regardless of their family background.
PM Lee: Today, every child goes to a good school. We want every child to go to a good pre-school, so that all children, regardless of family background, have the best possible start in life.
2. Promoting fairness
SDP: The SDP sees education as the Great Leveller, the ultimate tool to dismantle the rigid and unfair elitist system; education can, and must, provide equal opportunity for the poor to compete and rise. For meritocracy to be truly meritocratic, the system must enable fair competition.
PM Lee: We must do this because every child counts. If we get this right, we will foster social mobility, and sustain a fair and just society.
3. Supporting low-income families
SDP: Many of the pre-school centres are expensive and cater to the richer segments of society, leaving out children from the low-income groups.
PM Lee: Support for children from low-income and vulnerable families could be scaled up.
4. Training pre-school educators
SDP: Early childhood educators should be trained in the National Institute of Education (NIE) with degree holders having extensive education and training in the field.
PM Lee: There will also be a new centralised institute to train pre-school teachers and carers, much like the National Institute of Education (NIE) for primary, secondary and junior college teachers.
5. Education starts before Primary One
SDP: We often think of the education starting at Primary 1 when, in fact, education begins right after birth. SDP proposes a Centre for Maternal and Child Health.
PM Lee: In the past, we started at Primary 1, when the child is seven, but now we know we have to begin much earlier. The government will build Early Years Centres.
The SDP takes pride that the PAP has been following our lead and taking up our ideas. We will continue to be the kind of opposition that Singaporeans want to see, that is, a responsible and constructive one.
We will not hesitate to call out the PAP when it is taking the country in the wrong direction. But we will also come up with ideas and solutions to take Singapore forward. We will strive to live up to our motto: Competent, Constructive, Compassionate.
One disturbing remains, though: Why are we paying the PM $200,000 a month when he and his ministers keep on adopting the SDP’s ideas?