How do popular preschools in Singapore decide on their curriculum? Does their approach to education follow a structured learning or an unstructured learning preschool curriculum? How do they incorporate play and experiential learning into daily learning? These could be some questions you have when choosing a preschool. We hear about the teaching philosophies and programmes from the educators who shape the curriculum in some popular Singapore preschools.
Brighton College (Singapore)
Mrs Lois Gaffney, Deputy Head
“At Brighton College (Singapore), our curriculum follows the Early Years Foundation Stage framework. The EYFS has a large number of learning outcomes that most children are expected to reach on ‘graduation’ from Reception. We believe in providing a clear structure for children to develop core skills such as phonics, mathematics and writing. This way, each child’s progress can be tracked.
However, the delivery of this Singapore preschool curriculum is planned dynamically on a daily and even hourly basis by our highly-trained team. They engage the children in fun activities and learning opportunities. This means that our programme is naturally highly fluid. Activities that support a number of specific learning goals are provided for the children to engage with throughout the day. At the end of each day, our teacher and learning assistants review how the activities engaged the children. On paper, an activity may support the goal. However, if the children didn’t enjoy it, it’s replaced with something else that supports the goal in a different way. As such, our classrooms can look very different on a day-to-day basis!
The single most important factor in a child’s enjoyment of unstructured learning is the quality of the teaching staff working with them. For our youngest pupils, this centres around an experienced and highly-trained classroom teacher. This is supported by a team of learning assistants, within a warm, nurturing environment. Young children naturally learn through play and exploration. They may not realise they are learning while they’re having fun, and that’s the beauty of exceptional teaching!”
1 Chuan Lane
6505 9790 | brightoncollege.edu.sg
White Lodge International Preschool & Childcare
Raihanah Raimi, Head of Schools
“Children learn through the process of play at White Lodge. Play is the tool we use to support children in accessing the concepts of literacy, numeracy and the world around us. A majority of hands-on activities at our preschools include building, exploring, cooking, discovering, practicing and creating. We believe that educators play the role of facilitators and work together with our children to solve a problem, clarify a concept, evaluate activities or extend narratives. In almost all activities, we always take the lead from the children we work with.
Our Singapore preschool curriculum is based on current theories and research in early childhood education, including theories of High Scope, Reggio Emilia and Harvard Project Zero. It’s planned organically by the shared efforts and passion of our dedicated members of staff. We take into consideration the children’s interests, developmental needs and milestones.
Our unstructured learning approach offers teacher-initiated group work and freely chosen but purposeful play activities. We work to achieve an equal balance between teacher-led and child-initiated interactions, play and educational activities. Learning involves open-ended questions, rationalising, playful learning and building on interests. This gives children a firm foundation in early learning skills while empowering children to be enthusiastic learners, ready to take on challenges and contribute positively to our world.”
Imeelia Ismail-Tan, Shaws Preschool Curriculum Director
“At Shaws, we believe that play is one of the most effective approaches for preschool children to learn and retain knowledge as well as life skills. The ShawsPlay preschool curriculum merges inquiry-based learning, play-based approaches and learning through play. This lets children enjoy learning and be prepared for formal school and life. There are elements of the curriculum that are more structured learning and others that are less so. Modes of learning like reading, writing, mathematics and even STEAM can be done in playful ways – and the children learn so much while having fun.
Meeting goals and objectives for the children to go through certain experiences, opportunities and processes can only happen through careful planning and structuring of the available time, space and materials. There is also an immense benefit in emergent learning and unplanned moments. So teachers are given the space to sometimes let the children lead the way. An example is our inquiry-based approach where children can share their ideas, interests and curiosities, while teachers facilitate the investigative journey.
When we plan activities, we provide the experience for children, give them time and space to construct their own learning, and scaffold where necessary. At the end of the day, we think of ourselves as advocates of learning and champions of play.”
Five locations island-wide
The Grange International Preschool
Kwan Yin San, Head Teacher
“Our International Early Years Curriculum (IEYC) is a thematic-based approach that integrates academic learning with play-based experiences. The preschool curriculum is a guide for the educator to understand what we want children to learn and the learning outcomes to achieve. To achieve this, teachers can adjust lessons according to the child’s interest and learning ability – through formal and informal observations of each child’s learning, teachers can evaluate, review and plan the lessons.
At The Grange, we believe in scaffolding our support to a developmentally appropriate learning level to each child. For example, during a Show and Tell session, a child can share with their peers the description of an insect that they found in our school yard as the teacher assists with question prompts to extend the child’s description of the insect. This focus nurtures our students to become compassionate global citizens.”
449 Yio Chu Kang Road
6817 3630 | preschool.thegrange.edu.sg
Mrs Patricia Koh, Education Ambassador
“At MapleBear Singapore, we focus on preparing our kids for the future, which is unknown to all. Our preschool curriculum is an immersive approach to learning that focuses on the journey of the child rather than the end result. We provide opportunities for children to be curious, creative, confident, communicative and to collaborate for success. The teachers engage the children to experiment, to make observations, to discover, to try new challenges and to be effectively bilingual. Our hope is to produce Nobel Peace Prize winners!
To explain the immersion approach, imagine that a child is bored and approaches the teacher for something to do. The teacher says, ‘Why don’t you go look for a little red house with no windows and no doors but it has a star inside?’ In order to find the star inside the little red house, the child needs to ask questions; this instils curiosity and develops communication skills. The child looks for the star in different places and meets different adults; this encourages creativity and collaboration. When the star is finally found, it’s the ‘aha!’ moment that contributes to self-confidence. That’s the way MapleBear children learn.
A great teacher is one who is able to show parents that a lot of structured learning has been achieved through planned activities; for children, the work so fun that it seems like playtime. Play should be incorporated so well into lessons that the child is learning without realising that the teacher is teaching.”
43 locations island-wide
Ms Crystal Tan, Principal
“Mosaic Preschool adopts a dual-framework system: the UK’s Early Years Foundation Stage framework with Singapore’s Nurturing Early Learners framework. Hence, we provide quality play-based education while ensuring that we gear our students up for both local and international primary schools. Our teachers are provided with thematic frameworks as structured learning guides but the emphasis is on the process of learning. So every lesson is planned according to the abilities, interests and learning profiles of children.
The teachers use our overarching preschool curriculum guide to write lesson plans that are catered to each batch of students. However, since teachers also practice responsive teaching, it’s not uncommon that they deviate from lesson plans to go with the flow and rhythm of the child’s interest as daily lessons progress. Teachers would plan a myriad of hands-on experiences first, prior to summing up the learning through traditional methods like worksheets that usually takes up 10% or less of classroom time.
Real-life materials are used to make learning as concrete as possible. For example, fruit and vegetables are used when learning about them. This makes learning sensorial and gives children a better grasp of learning concepts. Play is a quintessential element of our school’s education too. We also infuse lots of drama techniques and music and movement to capitalise on children’s innate need to be active. When children are involved in activities that are engaging to them, it makes teaching a lot easier. This makes children are ready to take in any new concept that’s introduced to them.”
#05-01, 896 Dunearn Road
6909 0470 | mosaicpreschool.sg
Kinderland International Education
Dr Carol Loy, Head of Curriculum
“Kinderland recognises that early childhood care and education is more than preparation for primary school. Our focus is on the holistic development of our children to be Curious, Creative, Capable, Confident, Caring and Communicative. By doing so, we aim to set a good foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing. We believe our approach to an effective curriculum is essential in assuring parents of their child’s growth and learning. This is definitive of our view of a quality preschool education.
Throughout the span of childhood, play is essential in a child’s overall development. Play enhances the acquisition of language, communication skills, and self- and social awareness; it also develops fine and gross motor skills and helps with problem-solving. Infants and toddlers stimulate their senses through sensory play. Stimulating activities and materials are introduced to encourage more interaction as mobility and hand-eye coordination increases with development. Our educators provide sustained interactions and communication consistently, based on the development and interests of our younger children.
To nurture children’s ever growing curiosity, the implementation of STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading & wRiting, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) as part of Kinderland’s curriculum engages our kindergarteners in exploration and effective learning through inquiry-based project work. Children are actively involved in leading and problem-solving in STREAM processes from ideation, conceptualising, researching and creating prototypes to the construction and assembly of actual products. In addition, children between the age of 3 and 6 engage in termly thematic mini projects, providing opportunities to work on ideas and extend their understanding into applications. At one of their Singapore preschool, Kinderland Academy @ Yio Chu Kang, our music-infused curriculum serves beyond the classroom, enhanced by our marching band and stage ensemble.”
15 locations island-wide
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