Is your child starting preschool soon? We asked the experts in early childhood education to share the top points to consider when choosing a preschool.
So here’s the thing: you’ve got a child who’s ready to start preschool, but there are so many preschools with different programmes and curriculums to choose from. Where do you even begin? Should you go for a large preschool or a small one? What kind of preschool environment is best for your child? How do you even know if your child is ready for preschool?
At our recent HoneyKids Talk: How To Choose A Preschool In Singapore, we got a panel of early childhood education experts to answer all your burning questions about choosing preschools, as well as sharing all the other important questions you should be asking when you meet the educators of the preschools you’ve shortlisted.
Got a burning question and need the answer? Jump to the video section that’s relevant for you!
Speaker introductions – 4.30
When should you start looking at preschools? – 8.13
Why is the learning environment an important thing to consider when choosing a preschool? – 9.40
Large preschool vs small preschool – 11.57
How does a big school feel small? – 14.15
Approach to early literacy and numeracy – why is this important when choosing a preschool? – 17.33
School transportation and students-to-teacher ratio – 19.37
How do you know if your child is ready for preschool? – 22.42
Final takeaway from panellists – 25.24
Q & A – 31.41
How to choose a preschool in Singapore: TOP INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS
1. The most important thing about preschools is that it should foster a love of learning.
While the curriculum and pedagogy practised is the bread and butter of a preschool, its main aim is to foster a love of learning among children. At Tanglin Trust School, all these are enhanced by the ‘extras’, such as its facilities and play spaces, its Forest School programme, as well as its passionate educators. A good preschool ensures that its little learners are happy, secure, and have the opportunity to flourish. Above all, it should harness the natural inquisitiveness in children with the aim of nurturing their love of learning, and equip them with essential skills that allow them to transition to primary / junior school and beyond.
2. Trust your gut.
Think about how the preschool feels to you when visiting, and trust your instincts. Bear in mind that the most important thing is that your child is happy and loves going to school. If your child is happy and feels safe in the preschool’s environment, then you know they’re at the right place to start this really exciting journey.
3. Visit the preschool or join its virtual tours.
One of the best ways to see if a school is suitable for your child is by visiting it. On-site tours allow you to get a sense of the school as you can envision how your child may fit in and enjoy the learning environment. Even if there’s no on-site tour available, most preschools conduct virtual tours or host virtual information sessions to let parents find out if the school is the right one for their child.
How to choose a preschool in Singapore: YOUR QUESTIONS, ANSWERED!
1. What are the key deciding factors for parents in choosing a preschool?
Every child is unique, so the preschool should be right for you as a family. Visiting and researching the school and learning the ethos is crucial; as is trusting your instinct. Location is a factor too – parents should also consider the distance each child has to travel to and from school daily.
Children learn best through play, therefore facilities and programmes such as Tanglin’s Forest School Programme, Balance Bike Programme and Mud Kitchen should be factored as part of your decision making process. Being outside helps develop a whole different set of skills, so outdoor spaces, access to climbing frames and bikes are important.
Ask the school about their teacher-child ratio as this gives children maximum opportunities to learn and develop. At Tanglin, the teacher-child ratio ranges from 1:6 in Nursery to 1:8 in Reception, allowing teachers to give bespoke provision to each child.
2. Is a play-based school a better option compared to academic schools for preschoolers?
It should ideally be a balance of both, since a play-based early years curriculum is the foundation for future learning. Some points parents should consider are:
- Making sure that the play provision is structured and has rigour behind it.
- Identify what your child is interested in and use that as a starting point to probe deeper: eg. talk about building blocks, making juices from their favourite fruits, counting animals, etc.
3. How do you choose a preschool that caters for a child with special needs and requires support?
All young learners have their unique strengths, capabilities and areas of growth. Any supporting information that parents provide the school upon enrolment can only enhance the learning experience for the child and will determine whether the school is able to support the child. This is key. It is most important that the programme, philosophy, and additional resources offered at the school are best aligned to meet the identified needs of your child.
You know your child best! You may want to inquire about the availability of and access to counselling services, learning support, speech and language therapy, an early intervention programme, or school psychologist services. You should expect to work in partnership with the school and a successful approach is team-based where the parents, educators, and support service providers work collectively to best support the development of the child.
A big thank you to our panellists Paula Craigie and Victoria Thomas from Tanglin Trust School, as well as Jo McIlroy and Katie Goggins from Singapore American School…
Paula Craigie, Head of Infant School at Tanglin Trust School
Paula has been the Head of the Infant School at Tanglin since 2013. Joining Tanglin in 2004 she has held various leadership positions and managed whole school initiatives including roles such as Deputy Head, health services, transport and Head of Year 1. Paula moved into international education in Malaysia in 2002. She has overseen a range of initiatives as Head including IIP, first school in Asia to be awarded the Best Practice Quality Marks and the Curiosity Approach, and more recently introduced Forest School. In 2008, Paula completed her training to become an Ofsted Inspector in England. She has since achieved Lead Inspector status, leading inspections in London whilst working closely with the UK Government’s Her Majesty’s Inspectors. Not one to rest on her laurels, Paula most recently achieved the National Professional Qualification for Executive Leadership (NPQEL) in January 2022. Paula is a member of IAPS and has recently been accepted on to the Executive Coaching ILM Training Programme, funded by IAPS, so that she can qualify and then mentor and support colleagues new to Headship.
Paula completed an MA in Education at the Institute of Education, University College London, and her Master’s research was subsequently published by the Department for Education in 2002. Paula attended Froebel College at Roehampton Institute in London, graduating in 1995 with a BA (Hons) in Educational Studies and completed the PGCE in 1997.
Victoria Thomas, Head of Nursery at Tanglin Trust School
Originally from the United Kingdom, Victoria returned to Asia after growing up in Hong Kong, joining Tanglin in 2000, where she spent six years teaching in Reception as Head of Maths, before taking up the Head of Nursery role in 2006. In her 15 years as the Head of Nursery, Victoria was instrumental in leading Nursery, taking it from strength to strength; in 2019, Tanglin became the first school in Asia to be awarded the Curiosity Approach accreditation. In August 2021, this was complemented by the launch of Tanglin’s Forest School Programme, an outdoor-based learning model for children from as young as Nursery age. She also played a key role in bringing these to life at Tanglin, as both approaches
encourage children to use authentic materials, appreciate the natural environment and use learning spaces as the “third teacher” to support play, exploration and wonder in learning, which are of utmost importance in children’s development.
Victoria holds a BA (Hons) Degree in Primary Education with Maths from Reading University, UK and was most recently awarded the National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership (NPQSL).
Jo McIlroy, Elementary School Deputy Principal at Singapore American School
Jo McIlroy has worked in education for over 25 years in her home country of New Zealand and internationally in Indonesia, China, Thailand, and Singapore. Motivated by change, McIlroy has taught across the elementary school, has been a guidance counsellor, and most recently a school leader. She currently serves as a deputy principal in the elementary school at Singapore American School. In her current role she works alongside an inspiring team in the early learning centre who have engaged in an intensive philosophical and pedagogical change process over the past five years. McIlroy adores working with young learners and is particularly inspired by the foundational beliefs of the educational philosophy of Reggio Emilia.
McIlroy holds a bachelor of education and a diploma of teaching from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. She has completed two masters degrees—a master of education specialising in international education and a master of guidance and counselling, both through Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. McIlroy also holds an educational leadership certificate in curriculum design from the University at Buffalo (SUNY), New York, and a certificate of international school leadership from the Principals’ Training Center.
Katie Goggins, Early Learning Center Teacher at Singapore American School
Katie Goggins began her teaching career in Australia 15 years ago. She moved abroad to Istanbul, Turkey in 2011 to teach kindergarten internationally. After three years she decided to move closer to home which is when she found herself at Singapore American School in 2014. A mother of two young girls, Goggins is incredibly passionate about the early years and inclusive education and has spent her whole career teaching the youngest of learners. Goggins started in kindergarten at SAS and is now in the early learning center having experience teaching both preschool and pre-kindergarten. She has been leading the early learning center’s professional learning community (PLC) for several years now and is enthusiastic about sharing her knowledge and experience with her peers and colleagues.
Goggins has a diploma in early childhood education from Technical and Further Education College, New South Wales, Australia. She has a bachelor of education degree specialising in early childhood from Charles Sturt University, New South Wales, Australia, and a masters degree in inclusive education also from Charles Sturt University, New South Wales, Australia.
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