Kinderland preschool operator fined $5,000, licence shortened after child abuse incidents

Early Childhood Development Agency acknowledges lapses in case handling procedures, vows to strengthen protocols for child safety

ECDA imposes a S$5,000 fine on the operator of Kinderland Preschool @ Woodlands Mart for severe incidents (PHOTO: Google Maps/Screenshot and Facebook/Screenshot)
ECDA imposes a S$5,000 fine on the operator of Kinderland Preschool @ Woodlands Mart for severe incidents (PHOTO: Google Maps/Screenshot and Facebook/Screenshot)

SINGAPORE — The operator of Kinderland Preschool@Woodlands Mart has been fined $5,000 by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), due to the severity of recent child mismanagement incidents at the preschool.

The agency added in a media release on Monday (4 September) that the operator's licence tenure has been reduced to six months with immediate effect. Should it fail to demonstrate significant improvements in its standard of care to their children, ECDA will not renew the licence.

ECDA also acknowledged that it should have acted more swiftly in removing the educator who was filmed force-feeding and hitting a child at the Kinderland preschool.

"We apologise for not getting Kinderland to immediately remove the educator from her classroom role while investigations are ongoing. We will strengthen our protocols and training of our officers," said Tan Chee Wee, the agency's chief executive officer.

The educator, former teacher Lin Min, was charged on 30 August with ill-treating a child, specifically forcing a 23-month-old girl to lie down and pouring water into her mouth.

Those actions came to light on 28 August when three videos showing Lin mistreating children were circulated online.

The 33-year-old Singaporean has received a warning under Early Childhood Development Centres regulations and is barred from working in the preschool sector while police investigations continue.

Inappropriate child management methods

ECDA's investigations revealed that another educator at the preschool used "inappropriate methods" to restrict a three-year-old child's movement on two occasions.

In one instance, the educator pulled the child's shirt over the back of a chair. On another occasion, straps from an infant chair were used to prevent the boy from getting up.

The preschool's principal was found to have not provided adequate supervision over her staff and "failed to prevent the use of inappropriate child management methods".

ECDA said she is no longer allowed to serve as a principal in a preschool, and the agency will consider her suitability only after she completes refresher training and a two-year period has passed.

Tan acknowledged ECDA's shortcomings and apologised for not immediately removing Educator A from her classroom role during ongoing investigations.

While timely action had been taken when the case involving Lin was reported to ECDA, the investigation officer failed to follow established protocol for cases with clear evidence endangering child safety, which calls for immediate removal from classroom duties.

"ECDA acknowledges this lapse in its case handling procedures," the agency said in its media release. "We are reviewing our systems and procedures to strengthen this protocol and ensure better oversight of cases under investigation."

Updates on incidents at Kinderland@Sunshine Place

ECDA also provided an update on two incidents at Kinderland@Sunshine Place in Choa Chu Kang.

The first incident occurred in April 2022, when an educator was seen "forcefully pushing" a five-year-old child. The second incident involved two educators who admitted to strapping a two-year-old child in his chair on several occasions in April 2023 to maintain focus and prevent harm.

ECDA has instructed the centre to cease this practice and work with parents to manage child behaviour.

Kinderland's headquarters have also been tasked with conducting an independent review of child management practices in all their preschools, in response to these recent incidents.

They are expected to report their findings and recommendations within three months. During this period, ECDA will closely monitor all Kinderland preschools and conduct frequent unannounced checks on their classroom management practices.

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