Understanding the Difference Between Early Childhood Education, Childcare, and Kindergarten


The terminology surrounding early childhood education in Singapore, including childcare, preschool, and kindergarten, can often be confusing for parents seeking the best educational option for their children. In this article, we aim to clarify the distinctions between these terms to help parents make informed decisions.

Preschool in Singapore

The term “preschool” is commonly used to refer to any facility that provides childcare services along with educational programs for children. In Singapore, preschools, including those in top international schools, encompass both childcare centers and kindergartens.

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) serves as the regulatory body overseeing early childhood education in Singapore. Its responsibilities include ensuring the quality of early childhood education programs, professional development for educators, affordability of programs, and more.

Preschools follow a curriculum that emphasizes holistic development and positive outcomes for young children. Key developmental goals include:

● Setting developmental goals for infants and toddlers

● Fostering language and communication skills

● Promoting overall physical development

● Encouraging social and emotional growth

When choosing a preschool, parents should consider factors that are relevant to their family’s needs and compare them with the offerings of different preschools.

Childcare in Singapore

Childcare centers in Singapore cater to children aged 18 months to 6 years, offering care and learning programs. Some centers also provide infant care programs for babies aged 2 to 17 months, after which they transition to a playgroup within the same center.

Full-day childcare programs typically operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and include learning activities, enrichment lessons, meals, and nap times. Some centers may offer additional services such as business centers to accommodate parents’ schedules.

Childcare centers often provide cooked meals for breakfast and lunch, along with morning or afternoon snacks. Parents should inquire about meal protocols and whether they need to pack snacks for their children.

Kindergarten in Singapore

Kindergarten programs in Singapore cater to children aged 3 to 6 years, focusing primarily on academic development rather than holistic growth. Classes typically last 3 to 4 hours, covering a range of subjects within a shorter time frame.

Unlike childcare centers, kindergartens do not typically provide meals due to their shorter session times. However, some schools may offer food and snacks, so parents should clarify with the school regarding meal arrangements.

Kindergartens have limited closure days throughout the year for professional development and planning. This may pose challenges for working parents who require childcare during these periods.


Understanding the distinctions between childcare, preschool, and kindergarten in Singapore is essential for parents seeking to enroll their children at the right time. Each educational option plays a vital role in a child’s early learning journey, preparing them for future educational endeavors with confidence.