Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Quality vs quantity

From TODAY, Voices
Thursday July 24, 2008

What regulations exist to ensure children are well taken care of?

Letter from Heng Liling

RECENT discussions regarding fertility rates and changing mindsets seem to revolve around financial support and benefits, but do not seem to answer the question of how to match parents’ high expectations for the health, safety and education of their child against the quality of the childcare providers in the market place. After all, when all the dust has settled, the question remains: Who will look after Baby?

I am a working mother. My toddler goes to a school which has an infant care programme and has been there since she was 2 months old. It is an economic decision and a difficult choice to make — leaving your child in the hands of strangers whom you can only hope will take good care of him or her. I can only trust my instincts and even in the best of hands, accidents happen.

Therefore, apart from childcare support for the parents, more could be done to improve the quality of childcare. Are there any regulations in place to ensure that caregivers are well-paid and well-valued? It’s in the nation’s interest to have children raised with love and courtesy, and a love of learning.

However, I have looked at the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports’s childcare centre guidelines and note that the staff-to-child ratio for the age group of 18 to 30 months is one staff for every eight children. Now, if the staff-to-child ratio is one of the key elements of quality childcare, can this be achieved with a ratio of 1:8? Can the person who set this ratio tell me with a straight face that he or she can look after eight boisterous toddlers single-handedly?

In reviewing childcare support, the Government could also look beyond monetary support and re-look into existing requirements for setting up a childcare or infant-care centre, as well as the overall quality of childcare in Singapore.
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