When choosing a preschool, what are some of the top factors to take note of?
The early years are the most important period in a child’s life as it lays the foundation for his or her future. Preschool education is not only about developing skills in literacy and numeracy. It is absolutely critical in shaping a child’s personality, self-concepts, social competence and overall disposition towards learning. What should we keep in mind when choosing a preschool that will empower our children to be confident, competent, creative and successful in any environment they go to in the future?
Philosophy and Curriculum
Different schools adopt different curriculum philosophies. It is important to look out for a curriculum that is holistic in the development of the child, instead of focusing on one area of development. Over the years, there has been overwhelming research to prove that inquiry-based, integrated programmes provide hands-on and meaningful experiences that develops all the necessary skills and disposition required to succeed in the 21st century.
There is now a need to be well-equipped and effectively bilingual to function in cross-cultural settings. It is important to evaluate a school based on its language programme. In the Asian context, Mandarin is a very important language to learn.
All elements of the environment – physical and human; indoors and outdoors – impact on the quality of the curriculum delivered in a school. Children have a right to a respectful environment. Carefully planned spaces and innovative and open-ended learning materials create an environment for exploration, research and a life-long love for learning.
Over and above qualifications of staff, it is also important to observe their interactions with children – are they warm, friendly and respectful? Consider how well teachers are able to foster a nurturing and fun environment and engage children in meaningful experiences based on children's interests.
Also, ask about the child-teacher ratio and if the teachers undergo a comprehensive training and professional development programme.
Culture and Community
Children should have the opportunity to spontaneously learn about different cultures and traditions, thus giving them a more holistic perspective of people. Children should feel valued in a nurturing environment so that they can grow up to become self-assured individuals. Active parents’ engagement and partnership between home and school will also enhance a child’s learning and create a sense of genuine community.
Finally, it is often a visit to the school that will be the deciding factor in your choice. Not only would you be able to see the facilities and students in action, but more importantly get a ‘feel’ of the school and the opportunity to interact with the educators and administrators and ask any questions you have.
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Upper Bukit Timah