Anchor Operator vs Partner Operator vs Private Childcare in Singapore: What are You Paying For?

Anchor Operator vs Partner Operator vs Private Childcare in Singapore: What are You Paying For?

After the excitement of bringing a new life into the world sets in, there will be a point in time when working parents will need to start thinking about child care options for their little ones. Bringing up a child in Singapore is tough because parents will need to make plans way before their child is born, to secure a place for their child in infant care.

With so many options from anchor operators, partner operators, and private childcare operators available, how would parents know which to choose? And beyond the differences in prices, what are they paying the premium for?

What is the Anchor Operator Scheme (AOP)?

The Anchor Operator Scheme (AOP) started in 2009 to increase access to affordable early childhood learning centres. Selected preschool operators receive support by the government in the form of funding and by being in this scheme, these childcare providers will have to cap their monthly fees at $720 for full-day childcare, $1275 for full-day infant care, and $160 for kindergarten services, and ensure that any fee hikes remain affordable for all parents.

Beyond the school fee caps, these operators will also have to continually improve the quality of their early childhood care and education and support the career and professional development of early childhood personnel.

5 AOPs were selected in 2014 and they are:

PCF Sparkletots PreschoolMy First SkoolMy World Preschool
Skool4KidzE-Bridge Preschool


What is the Partner Operator Scheme (POP)?

The Partner Operator Scheme commenced in 2016 where early childhood care and education providers receive funding to cap their monthly school fees at $800 for full-day childcare and $1400 for full-day infant care programmes. Besides the funding support, they will also need to improve the quality of early childhood programmes through the Singapore Pre-School Accreditation Framework (SPARK), the capabilities of their headquarters, and support the career and professional development of early childhood personnel.

Some examples of POPs include:

Ace @ WorkAgape Little UniAlliance First
Bright JuniorsBright KidsBusy Bees
Carpe DiemFaith EducareIchiban Montessori
Just KidsKidz Meadow ChildcareLearning Kidz
Little FootprintsPresbyterian Community ServicesPerdaus
Persatuan Permudi Islam SingapuraSafari House PreschoolSpring Brainy Kidz
Star Learners ChildcareSunflowerThye Hua Kuan Moral Society
The Little Skool-HouseYWCA


What are Private Childcare Centres?

Other preschools not under the AOP and POP schemes will fall under this category. Prices of most private childcare centres tend to be higher (generally from $1000 to $2000 a month) since they do not receive government funding, but there are also a few of them who offer competitive pricing to that of the AOPs and POPs.

Some examples of private childcare providers in Singapore include:

Mulberry LearningEtonHouseMindChamps
Pat's SchoolhouseHouse On The HillOdyssey
Alphabet PlayhouseBrighton MontessoriLearning Vision
Maple BearKiddiewinkie SchoolhouseWhite Lodge

Although these preschools do not rely on funding support, there are several subsidies you can tap on to defray your childcare costs.

“We want to start earlier in a child’s life because these years make a big difference to his development. A good preschool education can make a crucial difference” – PM Lee, 2019 National Day Rally

AOPs vs POPs vs Private Childcare Centres, what are the differences?

Besides the differences in school fees as mentioned, here, we are examining the value private childcare centres provide and what goes into the higher fees you will be paying!

Class Sizes

Parents who are uncomfortable with large classes may just want to consider private childcare centres as many of them offer smaller teacher-to-student ratio to ensure your child gets the attention, personalised care and education he or she needs. For instance, the ECDA staff-child ratio is at 1:25 for K2 students but some private childcare centres can bring that down to just 1:15, allowing teachers to take better care of each individual child.


Besides having the state-mandated early childhood education certification, teachers in private childcare centres usually also undergo additional and extensive training when they first join these preschools. These training programmes cover knowledge of the preschool’s unique curriculum, classroom management, and may have hands-on apprenticeship sessions. For example, Mulberry Learning’s teachers undergo more than 250 hours of training in their first year! All of these further ensures that your child will be in good hands!


Most of the premium early childhood care providers offer unique pedagogies, such as Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and Multiple Intelligences approaches. These may seem like daunting big words to new parents, but it is certainly good to read up on these various early educational approaches and frameworks to find one that best suits your child. The best one may just be a unique blend of these frameworks!

For instance, Mulberry Learning’s proprietary curriculum features best-in-class global pedagogies like Habits of MindTM, Reggio-Inspired Project InquiryTM, and Multiple Intelligences.


The higher prices you pay for also go into better facilities for your child. Unlike traditional preschools which utilise fixed classroom spaces, preschool layouts at private preschools could be more varied with shared learning corners to enable children to learn at their own pace.

Besides having beautiful learning spaces, premium private preschools could offer indoor or outdoor playgrounds, computer labs, wading pools, and even racetracks within the compound! Infant care providers may also have baby spa facilities for your precious tots! For instance, Mulberry Learning’s design philosophy is to bring the outdoors indoors. Its vibrant environment allows children to be immersed in nature while they learn and play!

Enrichment Programmes

We all know that early childhood education goes beyond just learning their ABCs and 123s, a good preschool curriculum should also include character-building and enrichment programmes that help to complement a child’s core learning by building up their creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.

Premium private childcare providers may already include these enrichment programmes within their curriculum, which saves you further costs of opting in the AOPs and POPs’ enrichment if they do offer these add-ons and it saves you the trouble of bringing your child for enrichment classes over the weekend.

Food and Nutrition

Premium preschools usually also put in more effort into the planning of meals for children. Menus may be designed by expert nutritionists to ensure your little ones have the right foods to improve their brain functions, memory, and concentration.

Since food consumed by children at an early age has a lasting impact on their dietary preferences in future, a well-balanced and healthy diet is important for a child!


Another major difference is the location of these preschools. Should you want your child to be schooled close to your work place in the Central Business District (CBD), you’ll often not be able to find an AOP or POP. In comparison, many of the top private preschools have their headquarters in the downtown core, enabling busy parents to drop off and pick up their child conveniently in the CBD district.

Private preschools located in shopping malls that are conveniently located in CBD then do tend to have higher school fees as compared to those located under your HDB block or in the heartlands.

Use of High Technological Communication Platforms

Are you a first-time parent who is eager to find out all about your child’s progress and development in school? While most preschools do have student handbooks to note down children’s milestones, perhaps you do want more in terms of regular photographs and videos to virtually experience your little ones’ development.

The higher school fees would mean more resources for private preschools to invest in high technological communication tools to enable efficient communication between parents and teachers. While WhatsApp may be a good way to communicate, private preschools may also offer Parent Apps as a one-stop platform to track the progress of your child, including temperature-taking logs, portfolios, photographs and videos that your child’s teachers take during the day.

The early years are critical for the holistic development of children. It is a period of time where your little ones pick up numerous psycho motor, social, language, behavioural skills and gain knowledge about the world around them. Furthermore, it has been scientifically proven that attending preschool helps children level up when they enter their Primary years. Research also show that kids who attend quality early childhood programmes possess high-quality early education enter their primary years with greater literacy-related abilities such as pre-reading skills, wider vocabulary, and stronger mathematical competencies than those who do not.

With that, in Singapore’s competitive educational climate, childcare is certainly no child’s play. While AOPs and POPs do provide quality preschool education, parents who want more for their child, such as small class sizes, better facilities, and the choice of early childhood philosophies, pedagogies and curriculum should carefully consider the various AOP, POP, and private preschools options to find one that suits their child best!

About Mulberry Learning

Established in 2006, Mulberry Learning is an award-winning Reggio-inspired preschool with 11 locations around Singapore. Mulberry Learning is the world’s first and only preschool network certified by the USA for the Habits of MindTM framework, and its curriculum has been voted as “Singapore’s Best Holistic Learning Programme” for 3 years running by leading parenting publications.

Hear What Parents Say

  • Cairnhill

    I would like to show appreciation towards Teacher Karmela for always being so caring and responsible towards our children. From the way you look at my child and the way you talked to the children, I know that it’s beyond just a teacher’s act. – Parent, Chang Chu Yen
  • Shenton Way

    I would like to show appreciation towards Teacher Helina as she is caring and attentive, and look after my son well. – Parent, Doreen Woo
  • Tanjong Pagar

    I would like to show appreciation towards Lingdi Lao Shi as she has really stepped up and done a good job for N1A. I observed that my daughter Ellie has learnt a lot more, singing more songs etc. Appreciate the frequent updates from Teacher Hajar even on a Saturday! – Parent, Peiling Tan
  • Alexandra

    I would like to show appreciation towards Daphenie, lead teacher at infant care for being caring and patient towards our child. – Parent, Sim See Kiat
  • Jurong East

    I would like to show appreciation towards Zhang Lao Shi of N2 Creator. She has been with the class since she came, and has created her own style of nurturing the class. My child adores her and has shown great interest in mandarin. Zhang Lao Shi is always very prompt and responsive in feedback and requests. – Parent, Marilyn Chan
  • Marymount

    I would like to show appreciation towards Teacher Joanna for her patience in engaging my daughter and also keep pace with her learning style. – Parent, Amy

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