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Are Preschools just Play Schools?
by Rabiatul Adawiah


The worth of a preschool education is often undervalued. This is understandable, given that as parents, most of us will not be privy to research that would tell us otherwise.

Early childhood is seen as a time for play and learning basic skills such as walking, talking and interacting with other children. And generally, this is what many parents perceive a preschool is supposed to deliver.

However, if you were to take into perspective a child's learning journey, let's say up to university, the most critical learning years is actually in their first three years of childhood.

Research has consistently shown that the first three years of life are critical to the emotional and intellectual development of a child. During these early years, 75 per cent of brain growth is completed.

While we all acknowledge the importance of caring and nurturing children, many are unaware of the extent to which this can affect future development in the ability to think, speak, learn, and establish relationships. In fact, success in school and the workplace can be attributed to the experiences we gain in the first three years of our lives.

Parents who are aware of this research-based fact are always eager to enroll their child in a preschool that can give their child a head start in life.

But how do you begin to determine which preschool is right for your child? This obviously requires a fair bit of ground work. The good news is that parents in Singapore have a lot of choice when it comes to quality preschools.

Here are some tips on helping in your decision-making process.

1. Do your research

Taking the time to do research will help you make a better informed decision. Talk to other parents for their feedback, but do also speak to the preschool's staff members who should be happy to address your questions. Preschools usually have an open door policy, so it's advisable to visit the preschool for a first-hand experience of how it is run.

2. Holistic development

A curriculum of a high standard should firstly be grounded in sound research and be revised frequently to meet the changing needs of the child. It should be balanced and foster not only cognitive skills but the holistic development of a child.

Children should be exposed to more than academic subjects such as math, science and language lessons. Art, for example, can enhance their sense of aesthetics and creativity, while learning about the environment can develop their love for nature and sense of social responsibility.

A mix of independent learning and project-based activities can help children develop critical thinking skills alongside social and emotional skills.

As a parent myself, I believe that it is important to select a preschool that aligns with your own values and parenting style. At the same time it should suit your child's personality and individual needs.

In my many years at Learning Vision, I have witnessed tangible benefits from a holistic and rigorous curriculum. Past students have grown into dynamic and confident individuals, well-equipped for higher education. The teaching programme was planned around their interests and hands-on learning - developing their critical thinking and a healthy disposition towards learning.

3. The quality of teachers

The Ministry of Education's guidelines require all teachers to have minimum academic qualifications and at least a Certificate in Pre-school Teaching (CPT). Some preschools require their teachers to have degrees or diplomas in early childhood education.

As important as qualifications are, it is essential that teachers also have passion and dedication to care for young children and develop their full potential. Teachers are most effective when they build strong relationships based on mutual trust and respect with their young students. This gives the children the confidence to express their opinions or share their problems. As parents, looking out for these intrinsic attributes of the educators can prove to be rewarding.

As an educator, I place passion, patience and resilience as key to nurturing children of different personalities and talents.

4. Can parents be involved?

They must be involved. Parental involvement is essential to the development of children, and preschools should foster strong partnerships with them. Find out how frequently teachers update parents on their children's progress and the type of parent activities or support groups that are available.

5. The environment, meal plans and other considerations

Safety and hygiene are primary factors that all preschools should have. This addresses the risk of having accidents and infections.

Parents should also consider how preschools design the environment and use resources when they visit one. Learning spaces that are well-designed and maximised will encourage and foster creativity in children. Children should have learning resources such as toys and craft which stimulate curiosity and discovery.

Make sure that the meal plans are healthy and nutritious. While there are guidelines in place for this, a preschool that factors in healthy eating choices as part of the curriculum can foster positive life-long habits in the child.

The preschool years should be an enjoyable experience for your child. Get your priorities right and choose a preschool that enhances your child's unique abilities while cultivating a life-long love of learning.

Rabiatul Adawiah is the Managing Director of Learning Vision, an established early childhood education provider. She has over 15 years of experience in the industry and has been instrumental in developing high professional standards within the organisation. She has a background in Early Childhood Education, Economics and Marketing.

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