SINGAPORE – About 2,500 places will be added at pre-schools run by the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) by the end of next year, in areas with high demand, such as Bidadari and Tampines North.

More than 36,000 children will also be able to learn critical-thinking and problem-solving skills as part of a specialised programme that will be rolled out to all 320 PCF Sparkletots centres that offer kindergarten services here by 2024.

PCF said in a statement on Sunday that the expansion of its Stemie programme, a move that was announced in January, will benefit close to 50,000 children, compared with 13,500 children currently.

Stemie stands for science, technology, engineering, mathematics, invention and entrepreneurship. The programme was piloted in 12 PCF Sparkletots pre-schools in 2018, and has been adopted by a total of 175 PCF pre-schools since.

PCF, which is the People’s Action Party’s social and charitable arm, also aims set up more senior care centres here over the next five years.

While it did not specify how many more senior care centres will be built, the foundation said there are plans to open its eighth eldercare facility in the Bukit Panjang area some time in 2024 or 2025.

PCF is the largest pre-school operator in Singapore, with 40,000 children enrolled in its 360 pre-schools islandwide.

It also operates seven eldercare centres that currently serve about 750 seniors.

PCF did not say whether the upcoming expansion plans will impact fees for both its pre-school and eldercare services.

Ms Marini Khamis, senior director of PCF’s pre-school management division, said demand for pre-school places is typically higher in newer towns and public housing projects, where there are more families with young children.

“As part of our expansion plans, we will be (adding) 2,500 more pre-school spaces in such areas, where demand for pre-school spaces remains high, through setting up new centres or expanding capacity in existing locations,” she added.

In June last year, PCF said it would be expanding its pre-school services by an additional 4,000 full-day places by 2023. The 2,500 additional pre-school places announced on Sunday are part of this, PCF said when asked.

Ms Khamis said: “We will continue to work closely with the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) to monitor demand and trends, and remain nimble to adjust our pre-school services to best support families and give young children a good start in life.”

Meanwhile, to ensure that children with different learning abilities have access to the same educational opportunities, PCF said at least one staff member at 260 of its pre-schools will be trained to be an inclusion coordinator by early next year.