Finding a great early preschool programme is increasingly challenging in Singapore. A survey by Macrotrends has indicated an average number of 8,543 births during the last 4 years in Singapore. While there continues to be large investments in the preschool sector, there are still waiting lists depending on the location and quality of the preschool. The list of preschools does not include MOE kindergartens. Additionally, an article by Channel News Asia has also reported that there is a national shortage of qualified and experienced educators in Singapore.
In most cases, parents prefer to enrol their children in the early preschool programmes that provide the best for their child and are strategically located for optimal convenience. However, the waiting lists can be long and a spot could not be secured even after months of waiting. Many factors may contribute to this shortage, hence we highly recommend early scheduling of school tours and enrolment to secure your ideal preschool.
What Is Preschool And Why Is It Important?
In Singapore, preschool programmes cater to children from 18 months old to the year they turn 7 (Infant care is provided for children below 18 months old) – half-day or full-day programmes as well as kindergarten preschool education. Preschool education is strongly recommended for all children and can assist your child in meeting crucial learning objectives.
They include engaging the children in reciprocal relationships to lessen separation anxiety when they are away from their primary caregivers, helping them to build social skills and confidence as well as developing a foundation in literacy and numeracy. Additionally, enrolling into an early preschool programme also helps the child to learn and understand simple etiquette, and develop consistent routines.
Most children are potty trained by the age of three if they begin training early. However, some might not be fully trained until the age of 4. This is when enrolling your child in an early preschool programme comes in handy as the preschool can help to potty train your child. You will need to consider the preschool’s teaching philosophy as a priority when it comes to finding the right early preschool programme for your child.
Different Preschool Philosophies
Montessori education emphasises on independence, freedom within boundaries, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development. Classrooms at a true Montessori school are made up of pupils of all ages.
The mixed age group helps children to develop socially, cognitively, and emotionally, which is an essential component of every Montessori school. A skilled adult will show the child how to complete the tasks for which they are prepared. As a result, the child can work with the materials by themselves, fostering independence.
2. Waldorf Steiner
Waldorf education is founded on the insights, teachings and principles of education by the world-renowned artist and scientist, Rudolf Steiner. Their principles emerge from an understanding of human development that addresses the requirements of a growing child.
Music, dance, theatre, writing, literature, stories and myths, are not only disciplines to be studied and tested. They are experiential. Through these experiences, Waldorf students develop their intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual capacities, allowing them to be confident in their pathways and be of service to society.
3. Reggio Emilia
The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education sees young children as people who are curious about their surroundings and have a great capacity to learn from everything around them. Understanding children requires taking into account the educational, psychological, and sociological variables.
Reggio educators use tactics such as exposing students to a diverse range of educational opportunities that promote self-expression, communication, logical thinking and problem solving skills. Relationships are emphasised with teachers taking the time to establish relationships with their students and engage in rich dialogues with them.
4. Inquiry-Based Learning
Teachers use age-appropriate learning experiences to encourage students to ask more questions in the inquiry-based learning approach. What do they see, smell, hear, taste, and experience? Why is everything the way it is? What else can we learn from the happenings around us?
From our children’s perspective, they will be able to apply basic logic and reasoning to solve problems. They are encouraged to make simple hypotheses and ask questions or attempt other techniques to find out if their theory is true or not.
Teachers assist their students in moving beyond ordinary curiosity and into the domains of critical thinking and knowledge with this strategy. Children learn through the practice of doing, discovering, and experiencing rather than memorising facts and resources. This type of early preschool programme has become increasingly popular in recent years because it helps children become active learners, becoming independent thinkers and innovators.
Play-based curriculum is focused mostly on the child development theories of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. The primary tenet of such a curriculum is that children learn best when they interact with the materials and their surroundings in a pleasant and fascinating way.
In a play-based preschool, the teacher’s observation of the children is important, and the classroom environment is critical in stimulating the children’s interest and thus their learning.
Factors To Consider When Looking For An Early Preschool Programme
1. Physical location
This is the primary factor when determining which preschool to enrol your child in. If there is none strategically located for your convenience of daily work travels, the next best preschool to consider is to find one that is the nearest to your home without taking up too much detour especially for working parents.
Because this will be the place where you are going to be travelling to and fro for the next few years and you need to ensure that the location fits your requirements including the last pickup time. Ideally, it should be one that is located near your office or centrally located with a network of public transport so it is convenient for your daily commute. Being near your workplace also allows you to spend more time with your child on the way to and from work, to be able to nurse in person (for infants) and to visit your child during your lunch break.
2. Teacher to child ratio
The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) is an autonomous agency that manages the early childhood sector in Singapore and it is highly recommended by them to keep a low student to teacher ratio. This is to ensure that every child’s individual needs are being taken care of while securing optimal learning. At Tots and Teddies, we go above and beyond the minimum requirements of ECDA’s for teacher to child ratio. This is to ensure that your child is receiving quality attention by our trained teachers.
A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research has shown that small class sizes at a young age can positively influence standardised test outcomes later on in a child’s education. It also fosters a more personalised experience for the child, making them feel safe in the classroom.
3. Preschool curriculum
As mentioned earlier in the article, different preschools may vary in their curriculums and early childhood teaching methodologies. The common ones are the Waldorf approach, Montessori method, the Reggio Emilia, inquiry-based learning and play-based approach. Some curriculums are more work-based while some are more play-based.
Choose one early preschool programme that suits you and your child’s needs as well as learning style. Most importantly, it matches your child’s interest level and must be developmentally appropriate. Additionally, it must be adaptable, being able to meet the child’s needs currently and later in the year.
Tots and Teddies, have our own in-house head of curriculum who reviews the curriculum regularly. This allows our curriculum to be adaptive and ever evolving to meet the current needs, ensuring your child is adapting to the changing world and receiving the best possible educational practices.
As teachers will be the ones to interact the most with your child, it is recommended to schedule a tour if possible. Nowadays, advancing technology has made attending open houses easier as many are conducted online. Get to know the teachers more by looking them up online or speaking to them in person. Furthermore, our teachers are equipped with a solid grasp of key concepts in early childhood, as well as the soft skills to interact and build bonds with the young children.
Besides checking whether the teachers are qualified in education and background, you should also check whether they are positive and caring towards the children. Another fact to check is whether they are willing to communicate with parents regularly on the child’s progress. This is one of the key factors when it comes to choosing the right early preschool programme for your child.
5. Check the food served
If your child is going to spend mealtimes or snack times in school, check the preschool’s menu, the type of food and how often they change the menu. If your child is allergic to a specific ingredient, you can check with the preschool whether they cater to allergies or special dietary requirements. At Tots & Teddies, we offer a wide range of cuisine using ingredients that are not processed and are of the best quality. We prepare all food onsite, fresh, daily.
It is important to provide a variety of foods from the 5 food groups (vegetables, fruit, grain foods, dairy and protein) as it provides a well balanced diet for your child. It helps to boost your child’s immunity, fosters good eating habits and supports growth as well as development.
6. School hours
Every preschool has different schooling hours and you will need to check with the school that you are enrolling your child into. Some preschools offer a full day (7am-7pm) session while others offer half-day sessions based on the child’s age and level.
It is recommended for parents to enrol their child for a full day programme, this is to ensure that the children get to spend more time learning and interacting with other children, especially if they are having fun and being looked after well. Scheduling a tour with schools would allow parents to understand the environment they are placing their children in and have a deeper understanding of why a full day programme would be most beneficial.
7. School fees
The fees for preschool vary due to a number of factors such as location, size, type of early preschool programmes and the school’s reputation. Do note that school fees are closely tied to the teacher and student ratio, the quality provided and whether specialist external enrichment programmes are provided in the monthly fee. Thus, it is important to verify with the school so as to understand the quality of care your child is receiving. Fees can range from $160-$2,449 for half-day programmes and $386-$2760 for full-day programmes.
You may choose one that suits your budget and requirements. Additionally, you may check to see whether you qualify for government subsidies. More information can be found here.
Why Tots & Teddies?
At Tots & Teddies, we have carefully created a well-balanced curriculum that uses a thematic, inquiry-based approach through purposeful play, with the last term specially devoted to projects.
Hands-on activities help children build knowledge, while concepts are reinforced through learning centres, rhymes, songs and field excursions. Numeracy and phonics are introduced from Nursery onwards.
Strong, nurturing, secure, and positive relationships promote learning. Learning environments are deliberately designed to be safe, secure, enjoyable and sensitive to children’s interests. This results in igniting curiosity and creativity, allowing investigation, manipulation, and a sense of discovery.
Above all, we are committed to providing your child with only low teacher to student class ratios, with an immersive bilingual curriculum. Our fees are transparent and all inclusive where your child can go on excursions and quality enrichment activities at no extra cost. Giving you and your child the best value and educational experience.
Our desired outcomes are seeing the children become creative, compassionate, happy and confident individuals with strong foundations in numeracy and literacy while possessing great emotional and social skills so they can be Primary 1 ready by the end of completing K2 education.
Additionally, we pride ourselves on our love of fresh, wholesome food and believe that providing a nutritionally balanced diet will enable the children to grow strong and healthy. Adhering to national and international guidelines for the provision of meals in early childhood education and care services, we relentlessly focus on sourcing and preparing high quality food – fresh barramundi, salmon, and greek yoghurt to cage-free eggs and antibiotic-free poultry. The superfoods included in their diet provide a great amount of vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are essential for your child’s proper development.
In conclusion, sending your child to an early preschool programme helps them learn how to explore the world around them while building foundations in simple knowledge, skills and etiquette. There are a number of factors to take into consideration when finding the right early preschool programme for your child. Additionally, it is also recommended to think about which early preschool learning approach and methodology will develop your child to their fullest potential before making an informed decision.