Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong at the PCF Family Day 2022 on 11 September 2022 at the Singapore Zoo.
PCF Council Chairman, Minister Josephine Teo,
Organising Committee Chair, Dr Amy Khor,
My parliamentary colleagues,
PCF staff, teachers, parents, boys and girls
Good morning. I am very happy this morning to join all of you to celebrate PCF’s Family Day at the Zoo. I think the kids are very excited. One girl said just now when we came that “this is the best day of my life”, so let us give them all a big round of applause. As Dr Khor said just now, it is the first time since the pandemic started that we are able to come together to have such a Family Day celebration in person.
It is such good weather today. And also good timing too now that we have eased our measures. I see that many of you have decided to take your masks off. It is good that that we can all come together to have this in-person celebration. We are in a better position now when it comes to the pandemic, but we all know that the last two and a half years have not been easy for everyone, in particular for our PCF principals, teachers, and eldercare workers.
Many of you had to figure out how to conduct lessons and provide care with all the different safe management measures in place. If it was not for your dedication and hard work, we would not have been able to keep our pre-schools and eldercare centres going through the pandemic. So let me say a very big thank you to everyone for your hard work!
PCF today is one of the biggest providers of key community services in Singapore. You are also the largest pre-school operator in Singapore today. Many generations of Singaporeans have benefited from PCF’s kindergarten services – I too am a PCF graduate and alumni, as well as many of my colleagues! Now as our population ages, PCF is expanding its offerings to include eldercare services, to support our seniors who are ageing in place. So maybe in time to come I will also enrol for PCF eldercare. Then, at the start and end of my life, I know that PCF will always be there for me. Throughout this time, PCF has worked tirelessly for the well-being of all Singaporeans, and especially the disadvantaged in our community. So it is really not a surprise that PCF has become an institution in our heartlands – well-recognised and loved by Singaporeans from all walks of life.
Today, PCF’s work is more important than before, because the needs of our society is growing. In particular, we want to do more to ensure that our children get the best possible start in life.That is why from the Government side, we have been working hard to provide more support to lower income families and children with developmental needs. For example we have been rolling out KidSTART, which brings together childhood practitioners, healthcare professionals, and educators to help lower-income families nurture their children’s early development. We have also been pushing for better support at pre-schools for children with developmental needs. On both these fronts, the success of our efforts rely heavily on close partnership with community organisations like PCF. PCF has indeed been a very strong supporter over the years, of programmes like KidStart since it was piloted, and also the provision of early intervention services in our pre-schools.
But PCF has gone beyond just supporting Government initiatives. PCF itself has been a forerunner in many aspects, innovating new services and pushing new boundaries of service delivery.
For example, PCF has been the champion for inclusivity in preschools! It is not easy to do, because you have to support children with diverse needs. But PCF embraced this challenge by establishing its Inclusive Education team which works closely with teachers to provide children with developmental needs the same learning opportunities as anyone else.
One beneficiary of this is Elliot Koh, whom I’ve had just met when I was coming in just now. I think he is here together with his parents. Elliot is visually impaired, but that does not stop him from enjoying the same learning opportunities as his Sparkletots classmates. His dedicated educators brainstormed and created many sensory-rich and hands-on experiences to suit his learning abilities, and worked closely with his parents to keep up with his progress. Because of their hard work, Elliot is enjoying school very much. And I am sure his classmates too have benefited from learning how to interact with Elliot. Well done to the entire team at the pre-school centre.
Another example of PCF’s innovation is its programme called STEMIE. STEMIE stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics or STEM, which you are familiar with, as well as Invention and Entrepreneurship added in. This is meant to challenge our pre-schoolers to think outside the box, experiment, and create practical solutions to real-world problems. With some guidance and help, our pre-schooles are capable of very good inventions
For example, Riley Lim, whom I had also just met, is a K2 child at Sparkletots @ Cashew. He came up with something called the “Wonder Cat”, which is an interactive recycling bin shaped like a cat with movement sensors, designed in a way that would appeal to other children. His invention won the first place and industry award for Environmental and Sustainability last year. This was at Pratt & Whitney Singapore Invention Convention, which recognises young inventors. I am sure there will be many more future inventions to come from Riley. And I am glad that PCF will be making STEMIE available in future to all its 320 kindergartens by 2024, which will benefit close to 50,000 children.
Finally, even as PCF continues to find new ways to deliver quality services, I am glad that PCF has worked to keep its services affordable and accessible. And one way that PCF does this is through its charity and fundraising efforts.
This year, more than $5 million dollars has been disbursed through PCF’s various welfare programmes, such as the Headstart Fund that helps lower income children with the cost of pre-school, and the Senior Care Financial Assistance Scheme. This has helped more than 50,000 beneficiaries.
I am also glad that PCF also continues to lend its support to other smaller charities, building up the community at large. mI believe this year’s PCF’s fundraising was led by Mayor Alex Yam from the Northwest District. Thank you very much to Mayor and his team. And importantly, thank you to all donors and sponsors for your generosity and support.
Looking ahead, we do face new challenges as a society. Amidst this, we must hold together. Singapore must always be a society which provides opportunities to everyone, regardless of our backgrounds and starting points. At the same time, we must continue to provide assurance and to look out for one another, especially those with greater care needs, like our elderly.
This is why we have started this Forward Singapore exercise – to engage each other, to strengthen our compact and chart our next bound together. PCF will continue to play an important role in this. I encourage you to stay the course – faithfully serve the needs of Singaporeans to help level up the next generation and continue to look out for the disadvantaged amongst us.
If all of us work together and do our part, I am confident that we can build a better Singapore for many years to come. Thank you very much.
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