Last week it was heartening for me to see the results of a new pre-school education model being tried out at two childcare centres run by the welfare group Care Corner.
Under the Circle of Care programme started in February last year, 159 children from two centres at Leng Kee and Admiralty received a high-quality pre-school education, which included music and movement classes, field trips and literacy and numeracy programmes.
With generous funding from local philanthropic group Lien Foundation, the centres were able to employ more teachers and lower the ratio of teachers to children to 1:8 for the kindergarten classes.
But what was novel about the programme was that the staff now included social workers and educational therapists. This made a crucial difference to children needing help in anything from learning to health or financial aid. Identified early by social workers, they and their families were given appropriate help, often at the centres themselves.
It is a big change from what happens at most other childcare centres, where children and families needing help, for what are often multifaceted problems, can face an uphill struggle. If they are identified by a social worker or pre-school teacher, the families are then directed to various centres run by government agencies and welfare organisations.
The Circle of Care programme has shown encouraging results. Not only are the children attending pre-school more often, but they have also shown big jumps in reading and numeracy skills.
Children at the Leng Kee centre used to attend class only five days a month on average. Now they attend an average 12 days a month.
Twenty-four children at the two centres, who could read only a few words such as "I" or "me", received educational therapy. Among other things, they were taught reading and told stories by students from Wheelock College, a pre-school teacher training institute.
After more than six months, the children could recognise the sounds that accompany the letters of the alphabet.
The centres also ran talks and workshops for parents and invited them on field trips. This has made the parents more involved in their children's education.
For a start, they are taking their children to the centres on time, at 9am. Previously some would arrive as late as 4pm.
And before the programme started at Leng Kee, only one parent turned up to meet her child's teacher. Last year, 25 parents attended the meeting.