Choosing a Pre-School

Are you facing the stress of choosing a Pre-School for your children?

Well, it seems that all of us parents have to go through that sooner or later and recently, I had the privilege to conduct an email interview with Fiona Walker (CEO of Julia Gabriel for Learning, Chiltern House Child Care Centres and Julia Gabriel School of Education) to get her input about about choosing a Pre-School?

Chiltern House_Fiona and CH students

Fiona has had more than a decade of experience with Pre-Schoolers and I thought that this interview will be very useful for us parents.

Here are some of the questions that I put to her:

1. What are some factors to consider when looking for a pre-school?

Choosing the right pre-school for your child can be challenging for parents. Here are few tips that can help you and your child feel confident you have made the right choice.

  • Decide what location you prefer and what your budget is. It is important that the school you choose will comfortably fit into your family’s lifestyle.
  • Once you have narrowed down the possibilities, make arrangements to visit the schools. Many schools will have a similar sounding philosophy so it is important you know what to look for so you can see if it will work for you and your child.
  • On your visit ask yourself – Do the children seem happy, are they actively engaged in a variety of activities, is the environment bright, cheerful and filled with children’s art work, is the equipment plentiful, varied and in good condition? Do the teachers seem happy, are they engaged with the children, are they good language models and are they observant and aware of all the children in their care, are the children comfortable and affectionate with the teachers?
  • If you are happy with your first impression then make an appointment to meet the principal. You may consider asking the following questions:

· What are the teachers’ experience and qualifications?

· How important is the child’s social and emotional development as opposed to the more academic development?

· How does the school ensure the children are prepared for Primary One?

· How does the school deal with children testing boundaries and conflict? This is a normal aspect of young children’s development but it is important that you agree with the schools approach to discipline.

· How does the school ensure safety during pick-up times, outdoor play and field trips?

· How well is the curriculum suited to meet individual learning styles and personalities?

· How involved are parents? What channels of communication between home and school are encouraged?


2. What is the most appropriate age to send a child for pre-school?

Generally the most appropriate age to send children to preschool is between 2 and 3.

This is when children will generally have developed the language needed to express needs and wants, the physical development to be able to go to the toilet independently and the cognitive understanding to become familiar with the routines within the school setting. All of these stages of development are good indicators of whether or not a child will be able to make the transition to independent schooling without too much separation anxiety and distress.

3. What is the difference between a childcare/pre-school that is MCYS endorsed and MOE endorsed?

A childcare operated by the MCYS offers childcare for working parents as well as an MOE approved curriculum. Childcare centres must operate from 7:00a.m. to 7:00p.m., throughout the year.

Fees are paid monthly and a subsidy of $300 per month for full day is given to Singaporean parents.

MOE kindergartens run during the school term times of 40 weeks a year. They generally run for 3 hours a day and are not eligible for subsidy. Many kindergartens offer additional enrichment programmes for additional cost.


4. What are some factors that we can compromise if parents cannot afford the top premium schools.

Get ready for a list of “Do Not’s” here:

  • Do not compromise on providing your child what is necessary for a happy day at school.
  • Do not compromise on a cheerful, bright environment which is well kept and clean.
  • Do not compromise on kind, caring staff who genuinely love their job and enjoy spending time with your child.
  • Do not compromise on senior staff members who understand the needs of young children and can balance that with the needs of the Singaporean school system.
  • Do not compromise on a curriculum which means children learn through active, hands-on experiences NOT teacher directed rote learning.
  • Do not compromise on open communication with the school.

The most premium schools generally have small class sizes, expensive, imported equipment and very well qualified staff. Of course that is all wonderful but children can often flourish in a larger group with interesting, age appropriate resources as long as the teachers understand them, the lessons are well planned and involve active learning.

-end of interview-

I think that these tips are very useful considerations that we can take into account when we are considering a pre-school for our children.

Most importantly, I think we must find a good pre-school within our family’s budget as well.

I know of parents who take extra jobs just to provide a premium school education for their kids… We Parents must realize that Mums and Dads are the best role models for our children, and that there is no substitute for Quality Time!

Check out more Parenting Tips at the Julia Gabriel Blogger’s Forum.


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