The two largest preschool operators here are raising their fees in 2018.
The PAP Community Foundation (PCF) will raise fees by up to 5 per cent for its childcare and infant care programmes, and up to $20 for kindergarten classes. It runs more than 360 preschools.
My First Skool will increase its fees by between $5 and $20 for infant care and between $6 and $33 for childcare. It is the childcare arm of NTUC First Campus and has over 130 centres.
The fee increase for both operators will take effect from January.
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When asked, both operators did not specify how many of their centres will raise fees and said only that some of them will do so.
The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), which oversees the preschool sector, said several child care operators will raise fees in 2018, mostly within a 5 and 10 per cent range of the current fees.
Its spokesman said: “Preschool operators raise fees from time to time to ensure sustainability as operating costs rise and to recruit and retain teachers to deliver quality programmes.”
The agency requires childcare centres to inform parents at least four months before raising fees. Centres are also advised to explain clearly to parents their reason for raising fees, and engage parents who have difficulties in paying the extra sum, the ECDA spokesman said.
Both PCF and My First Skool did not give their range of fees, but said they are below the fee cap for anchor operators. Both last raised fees in 2016 and have schemes to help needy families.
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Preschools that are designated as anchor or partner operators receive government grants in return for meeting certain quality criteria and not raising their fees beyond a certain level.The scheme aims to ensure affordable and high-quality preschool education.
For anchor operators, the cap for full-day child care is $720, $1,275 for full-day infant care and $160 for kindergarten. The rates exclude the Goods and Services Tax.
A PCF spokesman said its fee increase is “in tandem with the increase in our investments in curriculum and upgrading our preschools’ learning environment, as well as the employment of qualified teachers who continue to receive on-going professional development”.
Likewise, My First Skool said the move will help it improve the quality of its programmes and keep up with rising costs.
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Part-time administrative assistant Yvonne Tan, 35, has three children aged two, four and six in full-day childcare at a PCF centre.
She will have to pay about $34 more for each child. Their new fees cost about $717 each, before the government subsidy of $300 for each child, which she enjoys as a working mother.
She said: “I feel the pinch as it adds up to $100 more for all three children. And the fees go up almost every year. The price of everything, like groceries, is also going up.”
The ECDA spokesman said the median childcare fee for in 2018 is expected to remain stable at $856 a month – similar to 2016.
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A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times
(Photo: The Straits Times)