How Important is Preschool?

Most children attend some form of preschool by the age of three. But is it necessary and will it make a big difference when they begin primary school?

Photo: Unsplash

Attending preschool is the first step a child takes towards formal education, usually around the age of three. In Malaysia, preschool is not mandatory although most children do gain some form of early years education before primary school. 

Depending on the curriculum and country, children begin primary school between the ages of five and seven. One of the questions that parents may ask themselves is whether their child should attend preschool and what are the benefits. Will those two to three years at what is basically playschool make a big difference academically in primary school? The short answer is yes. But if a child doesn’t attend, it doesn’t mean that they will struggle with primary school; integration could be more challenging though. 

Let’s begin by defining what preschool, kindergarten, early years and nursery education are. 

Preschool: for children aged three to five following curriculums preparing them for primary school 

Kindergarten: similar to preschool and can be considered the first level of education before primary school 

Early Years: this is the foundation stage of education taught till the age of five or until the child begins primary school 

Nursery: for very young children usually from birth till they are ready for preschool 

The common denominator of these is that the children are taught through play and games-based curriculums. They learn literacy, numeracy, how to communicate, language, art, and more importantly, refine their personal, emotional and social development 

Common myths about preschool 

Most parents start thinking about preschool almost as soon as their child is born, some even earlier if they want to enrol them into one with a waiting list. When both parents work and help at home is unavailable, being able to drop their young child off at a happy, healthy environment is a necessity. But there are still questions we sometimes ask ourselves especially when considering the expense and the assumption that the children do very little in terms of learning. 

I can teach my child at home – how hard can it be? 
Many parents have said this at some point, but can you really? Preschool educators are trained to encourage and enhance a child’s intellectual, emotional, cognitive and social skills. They possess the patience and knowledge needed to ensure young learners transition smoothly into primary school. 

All they do is sing, play and mess around. 
Yes, and that is exactly what three- to five-year-olds should be doing in a conducive environment with other children. Preschool curriculums are designed to make learning as fun as possible and this includes singing, dancing, water play, games and time in the playground. Children remember and retain knowledge better if it’s presented in an enjoyable way. 

How does preschool impact a child’s success later in life? 
By the time we are well into our careers and life, what happened in preschool may seem to have little bearing. But the fact is that those first years of life are crucial for cognitive development. Attending preschool has been proven to improve academic performance, socialisation, grades and help with attendance and work completion due to being exposed to structured learning at an early age. 

Simple things like waiting their turn, putting their hand up to ask a question, learning how to share with other children, gaining confidence, becoming more independent and having their many questions answered are also why preschool is so important. This and the fact that they can sing, dance, laugh, finger paint, play and make friends!

Tags: News & Features, Feature, Preschool, Kindergarten, Early learning
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