About 2,500 children from low-income families will benefit from virtually free pre-school education from 2020 to 2024 under the new OCBC-NTUC First Campus Bridging Programme.
OCBC Bank and NTUC First Campus (NFC) unveiled plans for the programme on 23 September 2019.
To kickstart the initiative, OCBC Bank will be contributing $1 million to NFC’s Bright Horizons Fund over five years, starting from 1 January 2020.
With the programme, union members who earn a monthly household income of $4,500 or less will get fee funding for an average of two years for their children who enrol from 1 January 2020.
The funding will be on top of the Government subsidy the children receive.
The programme will see each eligible child receive $400 into his or her Child Development Account, and this will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Singapore Government if the family meets the criteria for the Baby Bonus Scheme.
The total amount of $800 will be enough to cover the first two years of childcare fees of $720.
Meanwhile, children who come from households earning $3,000 and below currently pay $72 worth of fees for two years, after Government subsidies.
Parents of these children can use the remaining of the $800 on other education and healthcare expenses approved under the Baby Bonus Scheme.
“With the recent announcement of hefty subsidies for pre-school education that will take effect from January 2020, the fees to be paid by low-income families will range from $36 to $360 a year. Yet, we understand that there are still some families who may struggle to put their children in school.
“And for some others, this sum of money can continue to be a reason not to send their children to school. That is why we thought – why not help to make pre-school education free for these families for at least the first two years?” said OCBC Bank’s Group CEO Samuel Tsien.
Other New Initiatives
OCBC Bank will also organise financial literacy workshops for parents to help them better manage their family finances.
These workshops will be conducted by volunteers from its Global Wealth Management team every quarter from 2020 to 2024.
Eligible families can sign up for the workshops at any My First Skool centres.
Meanwhile, NFC will also raise the income ceiling for its child support services.
From 1 January 2020, the eligibility criteria will be raised from the current household income of $3,500 a month to a household income of $4,500 per month.
For households with five or more members, the per capita income to be eligible for the support services will be raised from $875 per month to $1,125 per month.
The amended eligibility criteria will benefit more than 10,000 children from low-income families in the next five years.
The new income ceiling will apply to the application for the Bright Horizons Fund and priority registration for My First Skool pre-schools.
NFC Chairman Tan Cheng Han said: “The challenge of social mobility will continue to be one that requires our collective commitment and resolve to manage and address.
“Research has shown that investments in early childhood education contribute greatly to bridging the social divide, and NFC is determined to play a leading role in making high-quality pre-school education accessible to all Singapore families … Together, we can work towards a shared future where no child is denied access to education.”