New chief for agency overseeing pre-school centres

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), which oversees childcare centres and kindergartens, will have a new chief from next month. Mr Eugene Leong, 39, former senior director for strategic planning at the Ministry of National Development (MND), joined ECDA as its chief executive officer-designate on Aug 1.

He will replace Dr Lee Tung Jean, 41, who will move to the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) as its deputy secretary.

Pre-school policy work is not new to Mr Leong. Between 2007 and 2010, he worked at the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports where he helped set up its childcare division and served as its director. As an officer in the Singapore Administrative Service, he also served in the defence and trade and industry ministries.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Science (First Class) in Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1997 and obtained a Master of Philosophy in Economics from the University of Cambridge the next year. In 2011, he completed a Master in Public Administration programme at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

The Straits Times understands that Dr Lee will still be able to oversee ECDA in her new role at MSF.

Under her leadership, ECDA had started various initiatives to improve quality, affordability and accessibility in the pre-school sector.

New career progression pathways and training opportunities were introduced for pre-school staff. More childcare and kindergarten subsidies were given and more than 17,000 childcare spaces were added in the last two years.

When ECDA was set up in April 2013 and Dr Lee was named its first chief, some were concerned about her lack of experience in the pre-school sector.

But despite that, she has contributed much to the sector, said executive secretary of the Education Services Union Ang Hin Kee, who is also MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC.

He credited her with introducing more professional development chances and awards for pre-school staff, which improved their image.

Mrs Ng Gim Choo, managing director of pre-school chain EtonHouse Group, said Dr Lee actively consulted industry players and was open to feedback. "She put her heart into driving more affordable and good quality early-years services for the community at large."

Of Mr Leong, she said: "I was struck by his keen interest in early childhood development. I'm sure that under his leadership, there will be many more positive developments."

This article was first published on August 26, 2015.
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