The preschool years unquestionably have an impact on how a child copes and integrates into primary school. Preschool is defined as early learning usually for children aged between two and five, or whenever they progress on to primary school. As much as these years are about gaining knowledge and cognitive development, they are also significant for acquiring social skills, emotional development and learning how to be independent.
Parents today are very aware of what they want for their child in terms of education. Once the decision has been made to look for preschool options, have a checklist of questions and criteria ready to facilitate the decision-making process.
What have you heard about the preschool?
Word of mouth is a powerful tool so ask friends to see if they have sent their child to the preschool or if they know someone who has. Not everyone will have a glowing report, but it will give you an idea so speak to more than one parent.
What kind of curriculum are you keen on and which will suit your child?
Montessori, Reggio Emilia, combined curriculums – do some research on the popular styles of teaching and familiarise yourself with the syllabus. Then ask yourself: do I agree with this teaching philosophy and will it be suitable for my child.
Photo: rawpixel.com - Freepik
What are the facilities like and are activities age-appropriate?
Preschools can be small and intimate or large and spread out. Both have their advantages from being more friendly but with less resources to having a wide range of activities but being more like a school than a kindergarten. Decide what your priorities are regarding location, types of activities, size of classroom and facilities.
What is the ratio of adults to children?
This tells you how supervised your child is likely to be, whether there could be the potential for getting less attention and if staff could get overwhelmed.
Is there high staff turnover?
This can be a tricky question to ask and usually the person showing you around will (and should) mention their long-serving teachers or teaching assistants. A preschool teacher is likely to be a child’s first major non-family adult bond and they should be qualified and personable. Ask about their teaching experience, credentials and how many years they’ve been teaching there. This shows how happy the teachers are at work and influences how the preschool is perceived.
What is included in the fees?
Check if snacks, meals, school trips and activities are included in the fees. Some preschools are cheaper but may offer less activities while others will charge for certain extras.
What are safety and security measures are in place?
This is very important and should cover everything from preventing unauthorised people from entering the premises and fire safety to first aid qualifications and the rules in place to ensure the correct adults are picking up children.
Do they allow parents to drop in unannounced?
This is standard practice in many countries but less common in Malaysia. You have to decide if this is important to you. Many parents like the option even if they generally do make appointments, so an increasing number of preschools allow unannounced visits as long as they are not disruptive.
Besides asking these questions, be sure to take note of safety hazards (loose floorboards, nails, sharp corners, stairs) and hygiene standards (clean bathrooms, areas where food is prepared, tidy classrooms, soap dispensers, anti-bacterial gel / wipes readily available). This is particularly important now and parents must ensure all SOPs and government guidelines are strictly adhered to by the preschool staff.