Seven pertinent questions to ask when choosing a pre-school for your child, as suggested by City Harvest Church’s Parent-Support-Parent network.
Contributed by Carol Loi
1. What kind of home support do I have?
Besides offering educational programs, childcare centers provide full-day childcare for parents who do not have home support such as grandparents who can look after their grandchildren at home. Kindergartens, on the other hand, provide three- to four-hour programs, and are therefore the more common choice for parents with home support.
2. What kind of philosophy in early childhood education do I believe in?
Pre-schools differ in their approach to early childhood education. Their programs could be based on the Project Approach, Reggio Emilia approach, Montessori approach and HighScope Model. Many pre-schools offer a mixed approach. It may be confusing to even know what these models are about, so try to do some research and talk to other parents who have similar beliefs as you in nurturing children.
What is most important is to keep in mind the purpose of pre-school education. It’s not about preparing children for primary schools, but laying a strong foundation for them to become life-long learners—this means developing them holistically, arousing their curiosity about the world around them, teaching them social skills such as learning to work and relate with others, expressing their thoughts and ideas, and building their confidence.
Many parents believe that young children must know how to read and write and do primary school-level mathematics and sit still in class, when they are just 5 or 6 years old. We need to be mindful that we may unknowingly put pressure on them to excel academically and this could hamper to their motivation and interest in learning later on.
3. What kind of environment do I want for my child?
Pre-schools are typically situated under public housing blocks, among private housing, in shopping malls or even at business parks to cater to the convenience of parents. We should, however, remember that pre-school education is really about developing the young child, and not just the convenience of parents.
Look for pre-schools that have space for outdoor learning. Some pre-schools may be near the car park or refuse disposal area; fully air-conditioned pre-schools may cause children to fall sick more easily since there is less fresh air. Moreover, the children may be conditioned to cool temperature at all times and develop a dislike for the outdoors in their later years.
4. Is the pre-school a legal entity?
Sometimes parents register their children at a center with a reputed “brand name,” not knowing that it is not a registered center. Do check the legal status of the pre-school; kindergartens must be registered with the Ministry of Education and childcare centers must be registered with the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.
5. Is the pre-school applying for accreditation under the Singapore Pre-school Accreditation Framework?
The Singapore Pre-school Accreditation Framework (refer to below) was launched by MOE in November 2010 to spur pre-school providers to greater excellence in the holistic development of children. Accreditation is carried out using the assessment tool called the Quality Rating Scale. It is a structured approach for pre-schools to examine their structures, processes and outcomes, address the gaps and work toward improving the quality of their education programs and overall administration of the pre-schools. Parents can thus be assured that the pre-school they have chosen is properly accredited to provide good pre-school education for their children.
6. Does the pre-school have a qualified or experienced principal?
All pre-school principals are required to have a Diploma in Pre-school—Teaching and a Diploma in Pre-school Education—Leadership or equivalent, as well as at least two years of relevant experience in the pre-school sector.
7. Are all the teachers qualified, experienced and caring?
All registered pre-school teachers are required to have at least the Certificate in Pre-school Teaching qualification. Additionally, one in four registered teachers is required to hold a diploma.
In summary, do extensive research to find a suitable pre-school for your young child. Talk to other experienced parents. Visit the pre-school to find out more about its physical environment; ask the principal about the kindergarten’s programs e.g. how often the children get to go outdoors and how frequent they have music and movement lessons, and observe the teachers in how they interact with the children before making your decision.
LIST OF CHILDCARE AND KINDERGARTEN SERVICES
INFORMATION ON SINGAPORE’S KINDERGARTEN CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK
INFORMATION FOR SELECTING A KINDERGARTEN
INFORMATION ON SELECTING A CHILDCARE CENTER
To connect with parents who have young children in pre-schools, e-mail the Parents-Support-Parents group at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.