Turning three is a milestone. Children at this age are chatty, inquisitive, active, and need intellectual and emotional stimulation. This is the age many children begin preschool and choosing the right one is an important decision. Preschool is where the foundation of literacy and numeracy are formed, and where children begin to shape their perception of others. Educators in preschool play a crucial role, as does the teaching methodology.
Types of curriculum
There are several renowned curriculums that are followed by preschools in Malaysia, and although the methodology differs, the end result is to have children learning and socialising happily.
Montessori Method: Developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori, this approach emphasises independent learning within a child-centred environment. In the classroom, the activities are directed by the child and involve hands-on learning and collaborative play. The Montessori philosophy values human spirit and holistic (physical, social, emotional, cognitive) development, and believes that a child should learn naturally.
Reggio Emilia Approach: Developed by Italian psychologist and teacher Loris Malaguzzi, this approach is named after the region in Italy where it originated after WWII. The methodology revolves around several guiding principles – a child’s opinion is respected, and they set their own targets; learning should be made as interesting as possible, so the child uses all his senses; socialising and forging relationships are key; and self-expression is greatly encouraged.
Waldorf Education: Also known as Steiner Education, this approach is based on Rudolf Steiner’s (an Austrian philosopher) theories on education. The focus is on a child’s imagination and creativity, and learning via practical, hands-on activities and creative play. This method begins at preschool and can be used all the way through to high school.
HighScope Method: This methodology came about in 1970 as part of an important project to provide education to young children from underprivileged families. HighScope focuses on ‘active participatory learning’, whereby children have hands-on experiences with people, objects, events and ideas. The aim of this is for the child to set goals for themselves with the guidance of teachers.
Does location matter?
The location of a preschool will affect how much time your child will spend travelling and how convenient it will be for drop offs and pick ups. Take into consideration traffic, especially in cities; and if you want a preschool with a garden and outdoor facilities, or prefer something in a shopping centre. Some preschools have more than one session and after-school child minding services, so working parents need to take into consideration of these hours to avoid getting caught in traffic.
Do your research
As this is the first step in the educational journey of your child, begin by deciding how you would like your child to learn based on the different curriculums. Find out the locations of the preschools you’re interested in and talk to other parents to see if they have any suggestions and advice. Hearing from other parents is both reassuring and more honest! The internet is a huge resource, but word-ofmouth is still a powerful tool.
Figure out how much you want or are willing to spend as private preschools can be expensive and can cost more than RM30,000 per year. Going to a neighbourhood preschool is much more affordable and a better option for parents who would prefer to save money for primary and secondary education.
Some preschools have a waiting list so if you’re aiming for one of these, be sure to sign your child up in time for a place. As these private schools have low student-to-teacher ratios, be prepared with a second option in case you can’t secure your first choice.
Visit and ask questions
Visit as many preschools with your child as possible to get a feel of what’s on offer. The most expensive one isn’t necessarily the most suitable for your child. Take a few weeks to check your options out and keep an open mind. You can learn a lot about a school and its staff by how they approach you and what your child’s reaction is.
Ask relevant questions like the ratio of teachers to children, safety and security issues, what food is served if any, teacher turnover rates, how information is communicated to parents, and even what their disciplinary measures are. Classroom size is one of the factors that affect the quality of learning – a rough ratio of 1 teacher to 7 to 10 students is ideal. Check out the classrooms, outdoor play area, toy selection and most importantly whether the other kids look happy!
Preschool should be fun, so don’t place too much emphasis on academics – after all they’re only three!