You’re not alone! Choosing the right preschool for our children is, after finding a place to live, one of the most important decisions we have to make when moving to a new country. And it’s a question that every parent grapples with. Here are some useful tips and key terms that will prep you for the journey.
What parents say:
10 things mums and dads should consider when choosing a preschool:
- Is the location of the campus convenient to home and transport options?
- There are many education curriculums – which will suit my child’s education needs and our family’s future plans?
- How do the class sizes and teacher-to-child ratios vary among the preschools on my shortlist?
- Is Mandarin taught as a second language, and is this an experience my child will benefit from?
- Will the extra-curricular activities enhance my child’s experience and balance the academic side?
- How do the school’s holiday and term dates vary from those of my child’s siblings?
- What are the opportunities for parent participation, such as reading groups, excursions, and so on?
- How does the preschool communicate with parents about the child’s experiences and learning?
- Is there flexibility around the times, and number of days per week, that my child can attend?
- What do I know about the preschool’s daily and weekly programmes, and the activities the children will be engaged in?
Some Key Terminology
There are dozens of learning centres to choose from, also known as enrichment centres or educational play centres. Babies and children can get involved in music, Mandarin, arts and crafts, maths, dance, drama and gym classes.
Before beginning statutory education at the age of six years in Singapore, many children attend preschool from 18 months upwards. In Britain, preschool is known as nursery school or playgroup, while in the US the terms preschool and pre-K are used.
In Singapore, many international schools use the term kindergarten to describe the first and sometimes second year of primary school education. However, the Singapore Ministry of Education uses the term to mean a preschool that provides a structured three-year preschool programme for children aged four to six. Children learn activities that develop language and literacy skills, basic number concepts, social skills, creative and problem-solving skills, appreciation of music and movement, outdoor play, English as a first language, and Chinese, Malay or Tamil.
After “fun” and “play”, one of the first words you’re likely to encounter when visiting preschools is the more daunting “curriculum”. The curriculum is essentially the syllabus which underpins the learning principles at the heart of every preschool. There is a huge range of curricula adopted in Singapore, from Montessori to Reggio Emilia, to the International Primary Curriculum. Many schools have adapted a hybrid or tailor-made curriculum that draws on elements of well-known systems, infused with the individual passions and beliefs of the school founders. Whatever is in place at the schools you look at, be sure to find out how it will suit the needs of your child.
This article first appeared in the Preschool Mini Guide in the March 2017 edition of Expat Living Singapore. Subscribe now!
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