(Source: www.straitstimes.com)

SINGAPORE – A large childcare centre, spanning close to 2,000 square metres and with a capacity of more than 200, was officially opened in Bukit Panjang on Saturday (Aug 12).

The centre, PCF Sparkletots @ Cashew, is the latest in a string of such centres being built in areas with young families to meet demand.

Located on the second level of Hillion Mall, the centre is anchor operator PCF Sparkletots’ first childcare centre in a mixed-use development.

Anchor operators, which include EtonHouse International and PAP Community Foundation (PCF), get government grants and priority in securing sites in HDB estates. But they have to keep their fees for full-day childcare lower than other operators, among other conditions.

PCF chief executive Victor Bay said that while PCF Sparkletots centres are usually located in housing estates, being situated in a larger area allows for more freedom when it comes to the use of space.

“At the same time, we can introduce more creative learning…there’s also a mall to keep parents occupied when children finish school.”

The centre at Cashew has a capacity of 287, and will provide childcare and infant care services for children aged between two months to six years old. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG 

The centre at Cashew has a capacity of 287, and will provide childcare and infant care services for children aged between two months to six years old. About 170 have already been enrolled.

A Housing Board void deck centre usually admits about 100 children.

The centre’s curriculum will follow that of other PCF Sparkletots preschools, which is regularly reviewed and focuses on areas like motor skills development, numeracy and creative expression.

But it will also have an added emphasis on science,technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) – fields that have been identified as being essential in the future economy.

For example, the centre is equipped with baking facilities and a “green wall” featuring plants like rosemary and mint.

Children can learn about different types of plants by sketching leaf patterns, or learn basic concepts like estimation and observe how material changes its form when they help out in baking activities, said the centre’s principal Doreen Lim.

Mr Bay said that PCF has recognised that the preschool sector will play a more important role in the future.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that he will speak on improvements to preschool education during his National Day Rally speech on Aug 20.

PCF has already begun stepping up professional development for its over 5,000 early childhood educators, and is building up childcare capacity, he added. The number of childcare places offered by the PCF has grown by almost 50 per cent over the last two years, from 14,000 to 21,000.

“We will continue to ensure that these (measures) are in place. Whatever (new) directions PM Lee will announce, we are ready (to adapt).”

More Info: www.straitstimes.com

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