Family & Social Child Developement
How to choose a pre-school in Singapore
The newborn that you cradled in the nook of your arm is no longer a baby. She has started to walk, play and explore the world on her own. You realise that your inquisitive toddler is all set for her first set of formal learning classes and playgroups. In short, she is ready for pre-school. Unsure about what factors to consider while picking the right preschool in Singapore? Here are some of the important aspects to consider :
The most obvious factor is the location and accessibility to the child-care centre. Is it near your home or office? Does it have a pick up and drop off facility? In case of an emergency would you be able to drive down? If you are dependent on public transport, it may become inconvenient for you if the pre-school is located very far from an MRT or bus stop. Furthermore, do the operating hours work around your schedule? Some pre-schools offer half-day or full day programs that are more convenient for working parents.
Naturally the fee structure is a significant factor. Once you and your spouse are clear about your budget, then you must find out about the costs involved per term or per year. Many pre-schools charge extra for late pick-up, extracurricular classes, material costs, and so on, so be sure to read the fine print in the pre-schools registration form. The average fee for full-day childcare is $1,011 (as of September 2016).
The Education Model
You will find that different schools adopt different academic curricula. Some adopt formal teaching models such as Montessori, Reggio Emilia, IB Primary Years Programme and so on. Many others take an open and flexible approach where the style of teaching is child led with more room for play and experimentation. Pre-school programmes will vary in the number of hours your child will be in the classroom vs outdoors, the languages that will be taught, what kind of reading programmes are available, holiday programmes etc. As parents, choose a pre-school with a philosophy that you align with and a programme that you think is organised, balanced, and developmentally appropriate for your child.
Infrastructure and Amenities
Most preschools in Singapore boast of good infrastructure and attractive classrooms. A good pre-school should have a variety of age-appropriate toys, books, art and educational materials, as well as facilities for outdoor activities. Are the classrooms neat and spacious? Would healthy meals and snacks be provided? These elements play a big role in your childs overall learning and development.
Teacher to child ratio
Your pre-schooler needs someone who will watch out for her and guide her even when she is away from you. Hence you need to know how many children will come under one teacher for each class. The lesser the teacher to child ratio the better. That way the teacher is able to pay more attention to each child. Here are the required student to teacher ratios by age set by the Ministry of Community, Development, Youth, and Sports:
- From 2 to 18 mos- 1 teacher to 5 children
- Above 18 to 30 mos- 1 teacher to 8 children
- Above 30 mos to 3 yrs- 1 teacher to 12 children
- From 3 to 4 yrs- 1 teacher to 15 children
- Above 4 to below 7 yrs- 1 teacher to 25 children
Qualifications and Attitude of the staff:
All childcare centres must be licensed by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) to operate, ensuring they have adequate staff training and qualifications. However, beyond qualifications, it is important to note if the staff are friendly and nurturing towards your young children. Observe and understand the approach of the schools teachers and other staff towards the children. Do the children comfortable in approaching the staff for comfort or assistance? Are the staff patient and friendly, or do they appear rash with the children? Does it seem like the teachers nurture an environment conducive to learning? Do they encourage playtime, or is it desk work always? Do the children appear happy and engrossed in their play?
Feedback from other parents
One of the best sources of information regarding a specific school is other parents. If they have children currently attending the same preschool in Singapore, then you are likely to find most of your answers from them. Even if they have children who may have attended the school in the past, it is still a good idea to speak to them and get their feedback. Each child is different and experiences vary, but it always helps to get a parents perspective on such things.
Do not make your decision just on opinions and information without visiting the preschool. This is a cardinal rule. These days most pre-schools keep an open house for interested parents, or even offer a trial period. Take your child to visit the premises, interact with the staff and observe the general environment. What you may learn in one visit will prove invaluable to your decision making. After all, this experience is what lays the foundation to your childs educational journey.
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