A comprehensive guide to choosing the right preschool for your child

K P Sheeja
Dec 24, 2020
Admission Tips

Kindergarten plays a crucial role for children’s cognitive and physical growth. This is the first place where they are separated from their comforts of home and learn to take responsibility. Choosing the right preschool is an important decision for every parent to make when taking admission in kindergarten. The child will be starting their educational journey with the preschool. So this is a first and an important step that requires thought and consideration. A preschool is one such place in the life of a child where they develop  social, mental, and physical skills pretty fast.


As a new parent looking for preschools, you can never be too careful in selecting the best for children. But the number of options can leave many confused between what is available and what is necessary. 


Singapore has a variety of preschool options by the Ministry of Education and Private Operators that parents can access. While all come with their strengths and challenges, there are factors you can look out for to determine the quality of the preschool and how it will lay the right foundation for a child’s academic journey.


Here is a list of things you should consider when looking for a preschool for kindergarten admission:


1. ENVIRONMENT AND DEDICATED SPACES

Many preschools are mushrooming all over the place. Some are merely child care centres meant to provide babysitting services to working parents, others are dedicated education centres that teach basic literacy to children. Parents need to understand the role of each preschool and decide the kind of school they want for their child. 


Preschools are not merely meant for children to spend some time outside of their homes and learn to socialise. It is a stepping stone to the ladder of the educational journey which they will take for the next 12 years -which is why it is important to start on the right path. 


The first things parents should look for in a kindergarten school are the spaces they provide the children to help them express themselves. Big schools are a better option - especially those that are huge not just in relation to spaces, but also by way of curricula offerings and faculty experience. 


The ambience, the sights, sounds, smell, people, etc. have a tremendous impact on preschoolers. Supportive environments are the ones where they can express themselves safely and feel heard. Besides this, dedicated corners for Art, Music, Play, Sleep, Recreation, Reading, etc. in big schools provide a flexible environment where children learn to explore and express themselves. This helps them learn better and be creative. It also sets a firm foundation for inquisitiveness which works best in children. 

This is one of the first and most important steps when considering kindergarten admission. 


2. CURRICULA OFFER

Being future-ready is a tool that each student needs to be armed for today’s world. No one knew that virtual schools were going to be the new normal, but a pandemic made us learn a new way of learning and educating. Parents are now mindful of how fast their children can adapt to new realities and be ready for challenges of the 21st century. 

 

The four C’s of 21st-century skills - Creativity, Communication, Collaboration and Critical Thinking have to start from kindergarten to allow students to blossom early in their life.  A well-structured curriculum can help do that - it shows what the school will teach and what the child will learn. Remember, this will create a foundation for the future. So it encompasses the goals, the objectives and the learning outcomes of a programme that a preschool offers. Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Waldorf Steiner, Howard Gardner are some commonly used and very popular curricula preschools used to teach children. 


How a curriculum is delivered is the second level of approach to learning. It includes the methods used and the strategies implemented to teach the child. It could be play-based, information-based or experiential based. 


The curriculum should also be designed such that it enables students to move smoothly from a cosy play environment to higher grades which follow a different pace. Which is why schools adapt to STEM subjects(science, technology, engineering and mathematics) through play at kindergarten levels. It helps to develop a child’s interest in these subjects and portray them as fun and interesting as opposed to difficult and unfathomable. This helps the students at kindergarten level to develop a sort of liking towards these subjects which will help them in their future studies. As the brains of a young child grow pretty quickly and have the ability to grasp information fast, it becomes important to impart the right knowledge and skills at the right time. 

3. TEACHERS

Education is a combined effort between teachers and parents, especially at the kindergarten level.


Preschoolers learn best when they are in environments where they have secure relationships with caring and responsible adults as their primary caregivers. They need their primary caregivers to make them feel safe, to allow them to explore and encourage them to learn without fear of any failure. 


Teachers come in after parents in helping young children to grow. They are the first influencers on students besides the parents, and often help shape the child’s worldview and outlook in life. A qualified teacher needs patience, perseverance and passion to teach preschoolers. Besides this, being a good listener is a prerequisite, especially to those things that remain unsaid by a child. 


Such great communication builds trust between the child and the caregiver, which helps in the healthy development of the child. This is a good point to consider before taking kindergarten admission. 


Teachers use elements prescribed in the curricula to teach students concepts relevant to their foundational knowledge. There are inquiry-based systems which encourage students to be curious, ask questions and think out-of-the-box. Numeracy, literacy, learning through play, learning through inquiry, experimentation etc., help students get hands-on experience and develop a deep understanding of concepts at an early age.  


Making boring lessons interesting and difficult lessons fun and interactive is also the job of a teacher. Well-qualified preschool teachers know how to get the best out of the child, to make them lifelong learners and better prepare them for higher grades. 


4. SAFETY

The safety of a child is of paramount importance for a parent. It is not just physical safety but also emotional safety. Preschools with a good safety apparatus in place will help subside parent fears of the well-being of the child once he/she is out of the house. 


Choose a kindergarten school with a good external safety environment. Every school has a guardhouse, but it is prudent to find out if there are CCTV cameras in place in the premises. Also find out if the furniture and toys are child-friendly and injury-proof, and whether the attitude of the staff is caring and nurturing. 


There are many schools of repute which have electronic safety devices in the premises. Safety locks that operate on facial recognition allow only authorized persons in the classroom, while CCTVs monitor the campus thoroughly. 


Kindness and compassion shown by teachers help nurture the child’s emotional well-being and help them develop healthy relationships within their social circles. Emphasis on cleanliness is also a factor as is the presence of a sickbay for ensuring first aid is available at all times. 

5. FEES

Each school has a fee range based on the facilities they provide. So when a school provides more, expect the remuneration to be higher. 


Many schools are mindful of their price range, and provide state-of-the-art facilities at a moderate fee price. For admissions in kindergarten, this is one of the important factors, although not the only one. 


Kindergarten fees in singapore range from $700 to $4000 per month based on the school’s package and a plethora of offerings. This usually excludes the transportation fee. 


All these factors are important for a parent to consider when they are choosing a school for their child. The first school is a monumental memory for a child and when this first step is taken in the right manner and direction, there is every possibility that the child grows up in an environment that ensures healthy growth. Curricula, teachers, campus facilities are the first three important points to consider, followed by safety and the commercial elements. 


A school which gets the balance right will be the best school for a child to start an epic journey which will determine their future. 


IMPORTANT FEATURES TO LOOK FOR IN A KINDERGARTEN


1. The preschool should be able to provide a good start to the education of the children.

2. The preschool should help the student to enhance their communication skills at an early age.

3. Teaching should be done in a fun and playful way which induces the hunger for learning in students. 

4. The preschool should have a safe and secure environment in which the student can play, learn and grow at their own pace.

5. Also, there should be restricted working hours. It is important to make sure how many hours the student is spending in school. 


There is no doubt in the fact that preschools are an essential part of education these days. They certainly become stepping stones in the future education that they will receive. 


K P Sheeja

Is the Academic Supervisor for CBSE at the GIIS SMART Campus. One of the pioneer generation of teachers with GIIS, she comes from a family of educators and has been teaching English to students for the past 25 years. She believes her job as a teacher also includes mentoring and being a friend to her students.

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