Staying True to its Mission of Making Quality Early Childhood Care and Education Services Affordable and Accessible to Families

December 08, 2012

NTUC First Campus celebrates 35 years of inspiring young lives with over 2,300 staff

NTUC First Campus (NFC) Co-operative Limited celebrated its 35th Anniversary at a dinner attended by more than 2,300 staff at the Singapore Expo today. The event was also attended by about 100 specially invited guests, including National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Secretary-General Mr Lim Swee Say.

A total of 35 pioneers were honoured for their contributions. Among those in the list, Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon was credited for pioneering the childcare service at NTUC, and Dr Khoo Kim Choo, for leading NTUC Childcare (now known as NFC) through its critical formative years. Former key NTUC Childcare management personnel also shared their treasured memories with all staff at the event.

Reflecting on the formative years of NTUC Childcare, NFC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mr Chan Tee Seng shared, “35 years ago, NTUC took up the challenge to provide childcare services to meet the needs of families because of Singapore’s rapid industrialisation, even though it did not know how to do so and had no resources. Over the last 35 years, we have grown more than ten-fold, from the first ten crèches that we took over from the Government, to 111 centres. It is today, the largest single childcare operator in Singapore.”

Mr Chan outlined the co-operative’s plans in the next few years, “We are ready to do more to create an even greater social impact, and to support the next phase of our society’s economic and social development. Today, a key challenge facing our society is to support the growth in our population. To do this, we need better social infrastructure, such as quality childcare services. There is also a growing recognition that good quality pre-school is a key enabler for children of different social backgrounds to have an equal start in their education journey and in life. NFC is poised and ready to support these goals by making quality childcare services affordable and accessible to the public. In the years ahead, we will focus on three areas: extending our outreach, raising quality, and growing our people”.

Extending Outreach to Families from Diverse Backgrounds

Mr Chan noted in his speech that over the last six years, NFC almost tripled its outreach, growing its enrolment from 4,000 to close to 11,000 today. NFC will continue to make its services available to more families by setting up 15 more centres island-wide next year, providing an estimate of more than 1,500 childcare and 250 infant care spaces.

It will also be setting up a special unit to facilitate outreach to children from at-risk families into its centres. NFC believes that having a more diverse enrolment profile is good for all children. It intends to reserve a certain proportion of places for children from low-income families, and to reach out to them by partnering with community and social agencies as well as the Government.

Raising Quality

NFC plans to bring quality at its centres to even higher levels. It has developed a sound and holistic quality framework, which includes training and coaching of staff, curriculum reviews and development, as well as regular quality audits and assessments. Shared Mr Chan, “We believe strongly that it is not just about teaching children skills and preparing them for Primary One. Equally, if not more important, is helping our children become confident and happy individuals, who are active learners and effective communicators.”

NFC has set its sight to have at least 40% of all its centres attain the Singapore Pre-school Accreditation Framework (SPARK) accreditation (SPARK) Certificate of Achievement by the end of 2013. Currently, 27% of its centres already achieved the accreditation.

Growing our People

NFC believes that in order to meet the needs of our pre-school children and their families, it must first address the needs of its workforce, create work that is meaningful and engaging, and improve staff productivity at all levels. It will also continue to peg its pay competitively. “How we pay our people, is a reflection of how the society values the work of the early childhood professionals. Although pay levels have improved substantially, I think the current pay levels do not quite reflect the value of the work that our early childhood professionals do, and we will continue to work on it,” added Mr Chan.

NFC has undertaken a review of the workload and job design in the organisation. It aims to reduce administrative work by reviewing its processes, and incorporate the use of technology. It will also look at opportunities to improve the physical environment for work.   

As the biggest employer of childcare teachers, NFC will continue to invest heavily in the training and development of its staff, paying attention to leadership grooming and mentoring of new Principals and teachers.