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PM: Preschool to ensure kids start well, reach potential

WHILE Singapore's economic performance is an immediate priority because it directly affects the people's livelihood, the government needs to look at a number of long-term issues to prepare everyone for the future.

Citing this in his Mandarin speech at the National Day Rally on Sunday night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said as in the early nation-building years, the government today has many urgent issues to deal with: terrorism, international relations and the economy.

The government is managing these issues carefully and calmly and PM Lee hopes that the people will support and work with it, he said.

He added that while Singapore economy remains strong with this year's growth expected to reach 2.5 per cent, the economic transformation is not complete.

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More needs to be done and in the process, some Singaporeans have lost their jobs, and the government is helping them retrain, look for new jobs and start again.

He said the government has also provided businesses with a variety of supports schemes to help them upgrade and enter new markets citing the example of Lao Ban Soya Bean Curd, which forayed into Vietnam and started Xiao Ban with the help of IE Singapore.

One of the long-term issues PM Lee brought up was preschool to give every child a strong start.

The primary objective to provide preschool education to all children from different backgrounds so that they start well and are able to fulfil their potential, PM Lee said. At the same time, they can interact with their peers to learn to care for each other and manage their emotions.

PM Lee said mother tongues are used less at home today, therefore preschools play a greater role in teaching mother tongues.

He said given the many benefits of pre-school education, the government will invest more in preschools to comprehensively upgrade the sector.

He said five years ago, the annual government spending in this area was half of what is spent today, and five years from now, it will double but the government will continue to make sure that preschools remain affordable.

The other long-term issues were diabetes which is a growing problem and will become a societal burden; and Smart Nation where the use of information technology (IT) can create opportunities and improve lives here.