Guide to Setting up a Child Care Centre in Singapore - 2022 Update

 

If you’re on this page, you’re probably considering starting up your own childcare centre in Singapore. And we don’t blame you. Singapore is known to be one of the best countries in the world to raise your children in, and it’s no wonder why foreigners are still making their way here to Singapore. The influx of local and foreign children in the country have led to the growing number of childcare centres. 

With the country’s firm stance against bureaucracy and red tape, you’ll find it a lot easier to set up a centre right here in this country without worrying about jumping one too many hoops.

What Is Considered an Early Childhood Development Centre?

What a typical child care centre looks like

One of the policies that govern the establishment of a daycare centre or child care centre in Singapore is called the Child Care Centres Law, enacted in July 1988.

The law sets up guidelines and requirements for setting up a centre with the Early Childhood Development Agency or ECDA as the governing body that oversees the process.

The Child Care Centres Law defines an Early Childhood Development Centre as:

"Any facility in which five or more children under seven years of age are being cared for and supervised during part or all of the day regularly."

This means that the following establishments fall under this child care category: 

  • Preschool and Kindergarten - This category will cover centres that provide a preschool education and development program for young children aged 2 years and up to 7 years of age. This programme includes

    • Playgroup

    • Pre-Nursery or Nursery 1

    • Nursery or Nursery 2

    • Kindergarten 1, and

    • Kindergarten 2

  • Child care centre - Child care centres are more focused on providing child care services with the option of providing pre-school development programmes for children aged 18 months and up to 7 years of age. 

Early childhood development centres need to be licensed and follow all of the statutory requirements mentioned in the Regulations part of the Act and any additional requirements listed by the Director of Social Welfare.

How to Open a Child Care Centre in Singapore

An infographic about how to set up a child care centre in Singapore in 8 steps

A. Choose the Type of Child Care Centre

The first point to decide upon is the type of child care center you wish to set up. In Singapore, child care centers fall into 3 categories:

Premium

These are private-run child care centres. They have a unique teaching pedagogy that exposes children to varied learning experiences. They also have a high teacher to student ratio that ensures children receive undivided attention from their teachers. Additionally, these centres provide primary school readiness programs.

This is very profitable as it is not uncommon for such centres to charge S$2,000 a month, which is 2 times the monthly fees charged at other types of childcare centres.

Anchor Operators

These are privately run but anchor operators get more funding from the government through the Anchor Operator Scheme (AOP). Monthly fees of Anchor Operators are capped at S$720 (excluding GST) for full-day child care. 

Partner Operators

These are similar to Anchor Operators, but instead, they get funding through the Partner Operator Scheme (POP). Monthly fees are capped at S$800 (excluding GST) for full-day child care.

B. Research the Child Care Business

Starting a new venture takes research. It is essential to understand the viability of any business before investing in it. Therefore, we suggest visiting a few child care centres to get an idea about how it functions.

In order to thoroughly assess the feasibility of your business plan, you need to create an initial costing report.

When you consider the costs of starting a business, there are many factors to take into consideration. Below are the 2 major costs that you will have to keep in mind while preparing the report:

  1. Capital costs - these include the building cost, renovation and conversion cost, etc.

  2. Operation costs - these include cost for utilities and supplies, rent, staff, insurance, taxes, licenses, administration, etc.

So you might be wondering how much it costs to set up a child care centre in Singapore?

It usually requires an initial investment of at least S$800,000 or more depending on location and size etc.

You may talk with a business consultant to help you estimate the cost of running a child care business. These professionals know best what is required for your financial and risk-taking goals, giving you greater confidence when making decisions. If you are not comfortable with the accounting and tax aspects of your business, Piloto Asia’s Accounting Services can help. Our friendly consultant will help you with the process from start to finish.

C. Comply with Minimum Requirements

As a potential owner for a child care centre Singapore, these are the basic requirements that you need to comply with before you can move on to the next steps.

  • The person applying needs to be at least 21 years of age

  • Must be a Singapore citizen or permanent resident

  • The applicant and managers must have no existing criminal records

  • Ensure that the teaching staff have preschool teaching diplomas

  • They also must not have received warning letters issued by the Early Childhood Development Agency ECDA or the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

  • The applicants must adhere to requirements like the staffing, physical, and administrative requirements and conditions to receive benefits approved by the Director of Social Welfare.

  • The applicant, as well as the managers of the company, must not have engaged in any offense under the Woman’s Charter or the Child and Young Persons Act.

The business owner needs to register as any of the business structures in Singapore before they can operate. A typical childcare center doesn't have specific requirements when it comes to incorporation, so you can just treat it as how you would normally register a company in Singapore. Simply put, registering a child care centre follow the same processes and list of requirements.

D. Choose the Location

These are the agencies that you need to work with in order to get approval to use a location for establishing a childcare centre. 

  1. URA or Urban Redevelopment Authority if the location is a private residential/commercial site

  2. HDB or Housing and Development Board if the location is a void deck/commercial site

  3. SLA or Singapore Land Authority for State Land or Properties

  4. NEA or National Environment Agency if the location is in a B1 industrial premises or business park 

What factors can affect selection?

The selection process for your location is tedious given that there are several factors in play that could affect your choices and even chances of approval from the ECDA. 

  • One huge factor is the building’s layout. The chosen area will need to be safe for children, meaning that there aren’t any objects or structures that will threaten their safety. This ties in with approval from the various agencies depending on where your centre is going to be located. 

  • Another factor is the area’s external environment. Traffic flow, noise pollution, and parking spaces need to be considered when it comes to choosing where you want to situate your centre. This means that your centre can’t be near main roads, petrol stations, traffic hazards, and other areas that are unsafe for young children. 

  • The location needs to fit the number of children and staff based on occupancy guidelines for buildings. If you are planning to handle 20 children, that means your centre needs to be big enough to accommodate these children and the staff working the centre.

  • Speaking of building size, it also needs to be able to handle current and future expansions for the centre. These expansions include office spaces, outdoor play spaces, storage areas, dressing area, bathing station, clinic, kitchen, and more.

E. Registering the Business

Potential business owners in Singapore will need to register their childcare centre with the government. The ECDA requires companies to show proof that they own the business by proving this registration process has been completed.

Fortunately, the process of registering a company in Singapore is straightforward and treated like you would any other small enterprise in Singapore. It doesn’t matter if it’s a F&B business or VCC in Singapore. All the requirements for company incorporation are the same. Generally, you have three options:

  1. Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA)

  2. Registry of Societies (ROS) - for non-profit organisation

  3. Institutions of a Public Character (IPC) - for organizations set up in the name of a public figure (politician, celebrity, etc.).

Note that if you registered your ECDC through ACRA, the name of your school or centre must match with the business name on file.


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F. Secure Approvals and Clearances

As part of the process to obtain your license from ECDA, you will need to apply for various clearances and permits from the following agencies.

  1. Ownership or Tenancy Agreement by HDB/SLA/Private Landlord

  2. Approved Use by SLA/HDB/URA/NEA or relevant agencies (if required)

  3. Certificate of Statutory Completion (CSC) or equivalent by BCA

  4. Approved Floor Plan with Fire Safety Certificate (FSC) or equivalent by SCDF

  5. Provision of Carpark Facilities by LTA

  6. Clearance for Sanitary Works by PUB

What documents do you need to prepare?

The following documents are needed for the application. ECDC requires approvals and clearances from the governing agencies listed above.

For some of these documents, you’ll need to work with a Qualified Person or QP, such as an engineer or architect, to help with the floor plans and provide advice for submission to the respective agencies. Documents 3, 4, 5, and 6 are handled by the QP for submission. 

  1. Ownership or Tenancy Agreement by HDB/SLA/Private Landlord - This is a tenancy agreement that needs to be signed by the person owning/on behalf of the business and the landlord. This is also applicable to holding companies. For ROS, Charities, and IPC entities, a tenancy agreement is required between the registered entity and landlord. Tenancy should be at least two to three years in length

  2. Approved Use by SLA/HDB/URA/NEA or relevant agencies - For SLA/HDB/URA, you need to submit the “Approved Use” of the location and premises as an ECDC. HDB and SLA properties will only need the tenancy agreement. Privately-owned HDB properties need a “Change of Trade” letter is required. All other types of properties need the “Change of Use” or “Grant of Written Permission” from URA. You can find out more information about these documents from HDB and URA

    • In some cases, the ECDA will assess proposed centres located within industrial premises classified as Business Park or Business 1 (B1) category by the URA. Additional approval is needed from the National Environment Agency for these applications. 

  3. Certificate of Statutory Completion (CSC) or equivalent by BCA - ECDC applicants need to make sure that the location is safe for occupancy. This document can only be requested by the owner of the property. Meanwhile, newly erected buildings can provide Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) for the applicants for submission, but the CSC will still need to be submitted as soon as it’s acquired. You can find out more about the BCA requirements here.

  4. Approved Floor Plan with Fire Safety Certificate (FSC) or equivalent by SCDF - Applicant needs to make sure that the location follows fire safety requirements established by the SCDF. They also need to make sure that floor plans drawn meet the requirement for ECDC and that the floor plan layout needs to match the actual physical location. The floor plan will need to be titled that it’s an ECDC (i.e. kindergarten/nursery, childcare centre) and must be certified by an engineer or architect. Floor plans that are approved for education centres or commercial schools are not accepted. 

  5. Provision of Carpark Facilities by LTA - If your proposed location is within HDB commercial properties, landed properties, commercial buildings, and industrial estates, you’ll need to submit an application to the LTA regarding the provision of parking places and parking spaces if necessary. Visit the LTA website for more information about this Provision. 

  6. Clearance for Sanitary Works by PUB - You’ll need to work with a plumber to help with getting the clearance from PUB for installing child-sized toilets, hand basins, and showerheads at the proposed centre location.

Important Notes

You’ll need prior written approval from the ECDA for setting up your ECDC if:

  1. The centre needs to be above the ground floor or at the basement of the building

  2. The centre has no direct safe access to an outdoor area for motor activities (i.e. play area or designated space for playground)

  3. The centre has multiple bays and the distance between the two furthest bays is more than 100m

You can find more information about ECDC locations in ECDA’s guide.

G. Hiring and Registering Your Staff

Staffing is a crucial part of securing a child care center's license in Singapore. Your teachers, administrative staff and custodians and others in the building will need to meet these requirements set forth by ECDA.

Job Deployment

This is the most important part of staffing. ECDC must employ staff members who meet the basic qualifications to work within centers offering pre school developmental programmes and with children in general.

Centre staff, including programme and non-programme staff, must be registered and approved by the ECDA by the time the centre is licensed and ready to operate. 

Programme staff refers to employees of the applicant who will work at the child care centre for the education and care of children. These include: 

  1. Principals

  2. Teachers (TR)

  3. Assistant Teachers (AT)

  4. Educarers (ED)

  5. Assistant Educarers (AED)

  6. Programme Helpers (PH)

Non-programme staff refer to employees working at the child care cent that don't directly interact, care, or teach children. To put it simply, they are the support and backbone of the non-teaching operations of a childcare center. They can include:

  1. Office administrators 

  2. Cooks

  3. Cleaners

  4. Managers

Teacher Registration in ONE@ECDA

You will be given a temporary ONE@ECDA account for your child care centre so you can input all the information of all your programme and non-programme staff. 

Afterwards, programme staff who are eligible will be given a LoN or letter of notification. 

Once the centre is licensed, your temporary account becomes permanent. 

These are the documents that you need to input into ONE@ECDA:

  1. NRIC/Passport/FIN

  2. Work visa/permit (if applicable)

  3. Certified true copies of academic and professional qualifications

  4. Staff Employment Records

  5. Letter of Notification (if any)

  6. Pre-employment medical check-up with X-Ray results

  7. Declaration Form

  8. Child First Aid certificates

Letter of Notification (LON)

This LON is issued to your programme staff after filing registration with ONE@ECDA.  In order for staff members to count towards the qualified programme staff-child ratio in ECDC’s in Singapore, a teacher must meet professional, academic, and language requirements of the certification category. The LON will indicate the Teacher Certification Level, which shows the age group of children the applicant can be employed to teach.

There are four certification levels assigned by the Chief Licensing Officer to these qualified teachers. Their requirements are shown below in this table: 

Teacher Certification Level Professional Academic Language Deployment Level
L2 Diploma in Early Childhood Care & Education 5 GCE ‘O’ level credits in 5 different subjects B4 in GCE ‘O’ Level English Language 1 Kindergarten, Nursery, Pre-Nursery & Playgroup (18 months – 6 years old)
L1 Certificate in Early Childhood Care & Education 3 GCE ‘O’ level credits in 3 different subjects C6 in GCE ‘O’ Level English Language 1 Nursery, Pre-Nursery & Playgroup (18 months – 4 years old)
EY1 WSQ Higher Certificate in Infant Care Completed Secondary 2 Education (local) Workplace Literacy (WPL) Average SOA of 4 Infant Group (2 months - 18 months)
or
Completed 8 years of formal education
EY2 WSQ Advanced Certificate in Early Years (WSQACEY) Completed Secondary 4 Education (local) Workplace Literacy (WPL) Average SOA of 5, including min. SOA of 5 for Writing Infant, Playgroup & Pre-Nursery Group (2 months - 3 years old)
or
Completed 10 years of formal education

For detailed requirements for teacher certification, please refer to this ECDA document here.

Minimum Staffing Requirement

Your centre needs to meet the minimum staffing requirements in order to be granted a license. The minimum staffing requirements will vary depending on the license itself: 

  1. Class A (solely infant care centre) - At least three programme staff trained at EY1/ (Higher Certificate in Infant Care) HCIC/ (State Registered Nurse) SRN with (early Years Development Framework) EYDF certificate

  2. Class A and B or Class A and C - Minimum of one L2 qualified teacher and one programme staff trained at EY1/HCIC/SRN with EYDF certificate

  3. Class B or Class C - Minimum of one L2 teacher and two L1 qualified teachers

Additional Requirements

  1. Cooks will need to go through Basic Food Hygiene Course with training institutions approved by the NEA

  2. In-Training Teachers are not allowed to be employed by the new centres in order to meet staffing requirements for programme staff

  3. New centres need to submit supporting documents for teacher qualification via ONE@ECDA. Centres that register teachers with foreign certifications (with no LON) may have delayed application approval because it’s done on a case-to-case basis

  4. When applying for a license, the Principal or Key Personnel (Staff members left in charge when principal is not around) and two other programme staff need to have valid Child First Aid (CFA) Certification accredited by the National Resusciation and First Aid Council. For a centre with more than 150 children, an additional staff with valid CFA certification is needed, and another staff thereafter for every 50 children. 

Staff Ratio

Staff-Child Ratio for Children Above 18 months to 6 years old

Centres need to have sufficient staff during programme and non-programme hours. Class B licenses usually have 9AM to 5PM as their programme hours and non-programme hours from 7AM to 9AM and 5PM to 7PM. The table below shows the staffing ratio:

Non-Programme Hours Programme Hours
(without AT / AE)
Level No. of
Programme
Staff
No. of
Children
Level No. of
Programme
Staff
No. of
Children
K2 1 30 K2 1 25
K1 1 25 K1 1 20
Nursery 1 20 Nursery 1 15
Pre-Nursery 1 18 Pre-Nursery 1 12
Playgroup 1 12 Playgroup 1 8

The centre needs to have at least two staff present during non-programme hours, one of which should be a programme staff. One of the staff also needs to have valid CFA certification.

For mixed age groups, staff-child ratio needs to meet minimum requirement for the youngest child/children present. 

Qualified Programme Staff during Programme Hours for Children Above 18 months to 6 years old

This is the staff-child ratio during programme hours as seen in the table below:

Programme Hours (Indoors) Programme Hours (Outdoors)
Level No. of Qualified
Programme Staff
No. of
Children
Level No. of Qualified
Programme Staff
No. of
Children
K2 1TR + 1AT 30 K2 1 15
1TR 25 K1 1 13
K1 1TR + 1AT 25 Nursery 1 10
1TR 20 Pre-Nursery 1 9
Nursery 1 ED (L1) + 1 AE 20 Playgroup 1 6
1ED (L1) 15 The centre is required to meet the qualified programme staff-child ratio (indoors) during programme hours as a pre-requisite to meet this.


There needs to be at least 2 adults present at all times, one of which must be a programme staff.
Pre-Nursery 1 ED (L2) + 1 AE 18
1ED (EY2) 12
Playgroup 1ED (EY2) + 1AE 12
1ED (EY2) 8

Staff-Child Ratio for Class A License

There has to be 1 IE (Infant Educarer) or 1 PH (Programme Helpers) for every five infants in the centre. 

For centres offering infant care programmes or services only, they need to meet the qualified staff-infant ratio during operation hours. There need to be at least two programme staff members present at all ties, one of which is an Infant Educarer trained at EY1 or Equivalent. At least one of the staff needs to have CFA certification accredited by the NRFA Council at all times.

You can find more information about ECDC staffing and more from ECDA’s guide

H. Apply for a Child Care Centre License

The last step to setting up your child care centre is to apply for a child care centre license. 

There are three different licenses that future ECDC owners will need to apply for. The applicants must indicate the class of license they are applying for based on the services they want to provide. 

The table below should give you an idea of the different available licenses. 

Description of Types of Licences Class A Class B Class C
Periods of Operation a) Monday to Friday
(7am to 7pm)
b) Saturday
(7am to 2pm)

Operates 5 1?2 days
a week throughout
the year, except on
Sundays and public
holidays.
a) Monday to Friday
(7am to 7pm)
b) Saturday
(7am to 2pm)

Operates 5 1?2 days

a week throughout
the year, except on
Sundays and public
holidays.
Monday to Friday.

Operates during school
terms, according to
Ministry of Education’s
academic calendar,
with the exception of
Centres which follow
international curriculum
and academic year.
Operational Hours 12 hours or more
12 hours or more 6 hours or less
Age Range of Children 2 to 18 months old 18 months to below
7 years old
18 months to below
7 years old
Programme Types(s) - Full day and/or
- Half day
- May provide flexible options
(at least 12 to 24 hours a week, and 3 hours per session)
- Full day
- May provide half day and/or flexible options
(at least 12 to 24 hours a week, and 3 hours per
session)
Half day (Single, dual, triple sessions)
Space for Gross Motor
Development Activities
(“GMA”)
Not Applicable 1/6 of Centre’s capacity at 4m2 per child or 40m2,
whichever is more.
1/10 of Centre’s capacity
at 4m2 per child or 40m2, whichever is more.
Programme Hours Operational hours Typically 9am to 5pm.

a) Centres can determine their programme hours (subject to ECDA’s approval).
b) Centres need to display the daily programme schedule.
Programme hours are typically the operational hours, unless otherwise
stated (subject to the Chief Licensing Officer’s approval).
Non-programme Hours Not Applicable Arrival, departure and rest Not Applicable

In addition, you can only operate as one of the following classes of licenses:

  • Class A only

  • Class B only

  • Class C only

  • Class A and B

  • Class A and C

Your operating hours and staffing requirements are also affected by the type of license you acquire. You can apply for a license from the Singapore Ministry of Social and Family Development. 

What Are The Considerations for Granting or Renewing of License?

The chief licensing officer will consider the following information to either grant you a new license or renew your old one. 

  1. The applicant needs to be physically and mentally healthy (and capable) to run an ECDC

  2. The applicant needs to have the appropriate character, meaning he or she shouldn’t

    1. Be convicted of an offence or crime under the Child Care Centres Law

    2. Be convicted of a crime in Singapore or elsewhere that involves dishonesty or acting dishonestly

    3. Be convicted of a prescribed offence, whether or not the offence was committed before or after application of license

  3. The applicant has been refused the grant or renewal of a licence

  4. The applicant’s previously owned school or centre has been shut down due to violations under the Education Act, or refused registration or renewal of a school under the Education Act

  5. The applicant has the financial capacity to operate and maintain an ECDC

  6. The applicant’s proposed location adheres to the standards established by the ECDA, including but not limited to: 

    1. location, accommodation, staffing, and equipment

    2. Building structure, fire safety, and public safety

Piloto Asia can assist you in setting up your child care centre here, and one of our experts will be more than happy to answer any of your questions.

What Accreditations Do You Need to Run a Child Care Centre in Singapore?

Your journey isn't over just yet. Your next hurdle is to acquire accreditations for your child care centre once the incorporation is done. Accreditations are necessary for any childcare centre to start operating. These accreditations need to be acquired before any centre accepts students for enrollment.

These are the available accreditations that your centre will need:

EduTrust Certification: The CPE administers the EduTrust Certification Scheme for Private Education Institutions or PEI's in Singapore. The certification is designed to identify private schools capable of maintaining high standards of quality in their educational services while continuing to make improvements that contribute to positive student outcomes

Singapore Quality Class or SQC Certification - This certification recognizes organizations that possess world-class management practices. The SQC framework contains categories that cover organizational excellence, from leadership to strategic planning, to student welfare development.


Closing

This is everything you need to know and more about setting up your child care centre in Singapore. If you have any questions about the process and requirements, feel free to get in touch with a corporate service provider.

We here at Piloto Asia are more than happy to accommodate your inquiries and address any concerns you might have with setting up this business.