Will my child be sufficiently prepared for school? Will they have enough time to play each day? Will their interests be encouraged? These are just some of the questions that may pop into your head when choosing a preschool. Each will have a different curriculum, whether it’s play-based or more academic in nature. Here, we speak to some popular preschools in Singapore about their philosophies and programmes, and we ask them to rate themselves on how structured they are on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being entirely unstructured and 10 being heavily structured.
Repton Schoolhouse Singapore
Louise Grant, Founding Director
Structure rating: 5
“Children learn best through play and exploration in an inspiring and nurturing environment. Through play, children understand the world and we celebrate that sense of wonderment. Play is an integral part of the Repton Schoolhouse experience. Educators take on many roles to facilitate and optimise play experiences for the children and implement strategies to support learning through play. Repton students enjoy learning spaces filled with toys, games, role-play, puzzles and quality literature. There’s a mix of child-led, child-initiated and teacher-supported play, and children have the freedom to choose, create, explore and discover.
The curriculum framework provides a solid foundation but allows teachers to respond to individual needs, interests and learning styles. Teachers look out for spontaneous teachable moments and use them as a springboard for personal and social development and understanding. As they move from Nursery to Kindergarten, students experience a balance of play and structured learning. Programmes include multi-sensory phonics, preparation for Singapore Maths and han yu pin yin (Chinese writing system) at older ages.
Each term at Repton, the children explore units of inquiry to learn about scientific concepts, society and culture, and the world. For instance, at the conclusion of the unit ‘Patterns in Our World’, the children took the lead to design their own creations in an exhibition to celebrate their learning.”
Rain Trees International Kindergarten
Rohini Ramadas, Principal
Structure rating: 6
“At Rain Trees, we believe that children learn best through play in a caring and fun environment. We give them ample opportunities to explore, experiment and discover with hands-on equipment and activities. Classrooms are organised to facilitate play and our fabulous team of teachers have set up different zones for each subject area, whether it is art and crafts, water play, numbers or literacy.
Our philosophy is learning through play, but with a purpose. We also teach phonics, reading and writing to prepare children (usually from four years) for the transition to primary school. These are taught using the child-centred and multi-sensory Jolly Phonics Programme.
We are structured in terms of daily routines but are flexible on what and how children learn. The British Early Years Curriculum sets learning objectives. However, if the kids love something, teachers expand that area of learning. For example, when the children were learning the topic of the human body, the teacher had planned to set up doctor’s clinic. But after a mum brought in a baby to show how to bath one, it was changed into a babies’ hospital. The children were then able to bathe and change their own ‘babies’.”
White Lodge International Preschool & Childcare
Raihanah Raimi, Head of Schools
Structure rating: 5
“Children learn through the process of play at White Lodge. Play is the tool we use to access the concepts of literacy, numeracy and the environment. Hands-on activities include cooking pesto scrambled eggs and going on a fun egg hunt to find and match rhyming words when reading Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss.
Our curriculum is geared to be bottom-up rather than top-down. We believe that we play the role of facilitators and work together with the children to solve a problem, clarify a concept, evaluate activities or extend narratives. It is based on current theories and research in early childhood education, including theories of High Scope, Howard Gardner and Reggio Emilia. The curriculum is planned organically by our Founding Director Jayne Nadarajoo, alongside early childhood educators who work closely with the children. We also take into consideration the children’s interests, developmental needs and milestones.
In almost all activities at the preschool, we are flexible and always take the lead from the children. Our approach to pedagogy is a curriculum that offers teacher-initiated group work and freely chosen but instructive play activities. We work to achieve an equal balance between teacher-led and child-initiated interactions, play and activities. Learning involves open-ended questions, rationalising, playful learning and most importantly, building on interests.”
Imeelia Ismail-Tan, Shaws Preschool Curriculum Director
Structure rating: 5
“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 curriculum merges inquiry-based learning, play-based approaches and learning through play so children enjoy learning and are prepared for formal school and life. There are elements of the curriculum that are more structured 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 let the children lead the way sometimes. 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
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