Preschool is a big milestone in your child’s life and in yours. Your child will be taking his first step toward independence and into the larger world, away from the comfort of home and family.
Beginning preschool is a major transition for everyone in the family. For new parents who don’t know much about preschool in general, it’s only natural that you want your child to go to a preschool with a reputation as one of the best.
Do bear in mind though that a school’s reputation as the best or most popular may not necessarily mean it’s the best for your child. It is worth the extra research to find preschools that may be a better match.
Choosing a preschool
There are various factors for consideration when it comes to knowing how to choose a preschool in Singapore.
Is the school’s location convenient for you to drop off and pick up? Is it near your home, workplace or caretaker’s home?
Some schools are located at venues with easy access to public transport or with ample parking space for cars without having to run into traffic stress. This daily drop off and pick up routine can be quite a woe if it brings forth too much inconvenience.
Different preschools have varying focus. Some are play based, arts grounded or heavy on academic.
Schools with a good dose of outdoor or active play allow children to expel their energy beyond seat work. While academic focus may be what most parents seek after, don’t forget the element of play to balance off.
Whichever the education philosophy is, it should be holistic, content rich with hands-on learning and age appropriate play that fosters social and emotional development. Children should always be actively engaged in learning.
Schools on half day or full day
Most kindergarten sessions are three to four hours each day, with an option of morning or afternoon programme. They may also follow the same holiday weeks as the Ministry of Education (MOE).
On the other hand, childcare centres provide full day and half-day care programmes with some centres offering flexible programmes to cater to the diverse work arrangements of parents who work part-time or flexible hours.
The choice of your programme type is much dependent on your family dynamics, whether there is anyone to care for your child beyond the desired programme hours.
How much can you afford to pay
Larger preschools with their own outdoor space, low teacher-child ratio and prominent brands equate to higher fees. These may be ideal factors of consideration, but it does not translate that lower fee schools are of different quality.
Calculate fees with your entitled government subsidy and decide if it will be a comfortable amount your family can set aside each month. Bear in mind too, there may be other costs like registration fee, excursion cost, year-end concerts and enrichments which are not included in regular curriculum.
How is the school
Visiting the school on an operating day is important for you to gather clues about the vibes and culture of the school.
Is the environment hygienic and clean? Are the teachers positive and encouraging? Are the children enjoying their time in school? Do they have an in-house cook? There is no control on hygiene and meal planning if food is externally catered.
Most importantly, bring your child along to tour the school. His feelings and instincts will give you some directions on choice making.
Teachers and principal
One of the most important factors in choosing a preschool relies much on the teachers and principal.
Observe the teachers in action and if they exhibit competency in their work. Question the principal on staff turnover, and notice if she recognises name of each child as she walks you around the school.
A principal who closely oversees the school operations or is mostly visible to parents allow an open communication channel any time. Parents and teachers who do not share openly may cause misunderstandings or communication breakdown.
What matters most
Having visited the preschools you shortlisted, question yourself on what is the most important criteria in choosing a preschool. Be assured that your child will be in good hands as he makes new friends and gain new knowledge in a preschool of your choice.
Knowing how to choose a preschool in Singapore may seem straightforward, but do remember what suits another family may not be the right fit for your family. Your decision on preschool choice may not be the perfect school that encompasses all your needs, it will be one that suits your child best.