Choosing the best preschool in Singapore for your child is one of the biggest decisions you will make in his/her tender early years. For many children, preschool is their first venture into formal education that leaves an important impact on the rest of their learning journey.
To help you choose the best preschool in Singapore that fits you and your child’s needs, here is a handy and comprehensive checklist of 20 things to look out for.
PreSchool’s Background, Licence and Awards in Singapore
How long has your shortlisted preschool been around, and what license and awards has it received? Check the licences of the school by searching on the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) Child Care Link.
The minimum licensing requirement by ECDA is 6 months, going up to 12 or 24 months. If your shortlisted preschool has received a 24-month licence, that’s an indication of its high quality.
In addition, look out for the quality assurance framework Singapore Preschool Accreditation Framework (SPARK) mark, as it is another sign that the preschool provides excellent childcare service.
Educational development works best when there is honest and open communication between parents, teachers, and the principal.
How are parents updated on their children’s progress? Ask what specific medium of parent-centre communication is used, be it a communications book, WhatsApp group, newsletters, photo-sharing, or a class website for parents to stay on top of their children’s progress, daily school life, and important upcoming events.
Parents of Current Preschoolers
The parents of the current students are great resources when choosing the best preschool in Singapore that fits your needs.
While most of your questions about the centre will be directed at the principal and teachers, it is also important to hear first-hand from parents about their and their children’s experience at the school through reviews and testimonials.
Chances are, you probably learned about some of the preschools through word-of-mouth. Go ahead and ask the parents for more in-depth descriptions of their interactions with the centre and teachers; how long it took for their children to adjust to the school; how their children feel about the teachers; whether their children seem happy there; and what they like the most/least about the school.
Location and Transportation
A preschool located near your home or workplace not only makes pick-up and drop-off easier, but also allows you to get to the centre faster if your child is ill or if other emergencies occur.
For families that do not own a car, location can be especially important as a preschool that is walking-distance from your home saves you both time and peace of mind – there is no need to worry about the unreliability of public transportation, especially during peak hours, and should you be unable to pick-up and drop-off your child yourself, a grandparent or caretaker could help walk him/her there.
Alternatively, you could check if there is school bus service available, but bear in mind that the farther the preschool is, the earlier your child will likely have to wake up.
What are your expectations for your child in preschool, and what would you like your child to achieve intellectually, socially, physically, and emotionally in those early years of learning?
Have a clear idea of what kind of learning style you prefer (e.g. academic or play-based), and schedule a visit to the centres to check out the learning environment and see if the school’s curriculum meets your requirements.
If you prioritise academic training and achievement, a curriculum that offers mostly free play rather than structured lessons probably is not a good fit.
Conversely, if you value play-based learning, a pre-school that assigns homework might seem too heavy-handed. Ultimately, the best preschool for your child should complement your priorities for your child’s learning.
After you find out more about the curriculum, ask what teaching methods are used. Every student learns differently, so you’ll want to make sure that the teaching techniques stimulate and meet your child’s individual needs.
Are some topics taught through hands-on activities, while others are taught by watching demonstrations? Is there a balance of group projects and independent activities? Some kids are visual learners while others prefer music and rhymes.
The best preschool in Singapore should provide their teachers a set amount of hours for training for them to blend a variety of teaching methods to ensure your child remains engaged.
Preschool is a great place to instil values in young children. As you consider preschools in Singapore, find out what values are emphasised.
Perseverance, kindness, patience, curiosity, and honesty are some good values to inculcate in children from young.
Since kids learn by example, the ideal preschool teacher is someone who loves children and is patient and kind even when a student is struggling in class. One way to gauge whether teachers demonstrate these values in class is to ask parents of current students enrolled in the preschool.
Enquire about the teaching staff’s minimum qualifications and number of years of work experience. How often does the pre-school train their teachers to keep them up to date with teaching techniques?
Another factor to consider is how long the teachers have worked at the preschool; a high turnover rate is a red flag.
The quality of education your child gets would be affected by how much individual attention he/her receives, which is why the teacher-student ratio matters.
The ECDA ratios are are:
• 1:5 for Infant (18 months and below)
• 1:8 for Playgroup (above 18 months to 30 months)
• 1:12 for Nursery 1 (children turning 3 years of age)
• 1:15 for Nursery 2 (children turning 4 years of age)
• 1:20 for Kindergarten 1 (children turning 5 years of age) and
• 1:25 for Kindergarten 2 (children turning 6 years of age).
Some centres also have teacher assistants help manage the class. It is advisable to choose a centre with a lower teacher-to-student ratio as it means your child will enjoy more individual care and supervision.
Along with enough teachers to supervise children at all times, how else does the preschool ensure its students’ safety?
With so many kids getting picked up and dropped off, is there someone managing the school entrance at all times?
Check the security on school grounds including parking lots and stairways (e.g. swing and lock gates). Be sure to know what safety measures there are for field trips.
Outside of their home, your child will be spending most of their time at school; that’s why the classroom’s setup and environment matter.
It should be a fun an inviting space that’s clean, comfortable, and conducive for learning. Colourful wall decorations such as calendars, birthday charts, educational posters, and children’s artwork are all good signs.
Is there air conditioning, and if not, is the room cool and well ventilated with open windows and fans? Is the space brightly lit? In addition, take note of what play facilities are available, such as playground equipment (e.g., water play, sand box, slides, etc.), and whether they are attractive, clean, and in good condition.
Research shows that regular exercise benefits children’s physical and cognitive development, from boosting their immune system to enhancing their mood and memory.
When deciding on the best preschool for your child, consider what physical activities are available, as well as the duration and frequency of outdoor play and physical activities.
Young kids are full of energy anyway, so choose a school that helps them burn some off.
Misbehaviour and Discipline
Other than asking both the principal and teachers how children’s misbehaviours are handled in class, be sure to observe a class in session and speak to parents of current students as well.
How do teachers deal with disagreements among pupils, if hitting or biting occurs, if a child refuses to nap, or if someone throws a tantrum? How does the teacher intervene when conflicts arise?
While physical punishment is not allowed in pre-schools, ask what specific forms of discipline is carried out (e.g., time-outs).
Hygiene and Cleanliness
While touring preschools in Singapore, pay attention to how well the facilities are maintained, especially in areas such as the toilets and shower rooms.
Ask how often the toys are cleaned and sanitised, and what measures the school takes to prevent at the spread of illnesses such as HFMD.
Are there daily temperature checks? Do the children take off their shoes? Do they wash their hands before meals? How often are diapers checked and changed?
As you tour preschools in Singapore, ask for sample menus to get a sense of how healthy the food is. Is there variety in the types of food offered, or do the kids eat too much of the same things? Are there fruits?
Take note of how many meals the school provides and what the portion sizes are. Ask if there are any food allergy or diet restriction management policies.
School Plays, Concerts, Celebrations, and Other Special Programmes
Enquire about what special programmes the school holds, be it for celebrations such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Children’s Day, National Day; school plays, games, and concerts; or holiday programmes. Children get excited about preparing for these special programmes, especially when they know that mummy and daddy will show up and participate in the games or be in the audience.
Field Trips and Outings
Many preschools in Singapore organise one or more outings, usually in conjunction with a theme being taught in class (e.g. a neighbourhood walk, a theatrical production, or a trip to the grocery store).
These excursions are fun perks to the regular curriculum and a great experience for kids, so be sure to check if the preschool offers any and whether parents are welcome to join.
Some preschools in Singapore offer enrichment classes outside of the regular curriculum.
Even if you are not yet sure if you want to enrol your child in an enrichment class, take the extra step to ask if the preschool provides any options, as an enrichment class could broaden your child’s interests and boost his/her creative, physical, and intellectual development.
Perhaps after your child starts school, you will discover that he/she enjoys dancing, so a ballet class might be suitable. If it comes to your attention that your child needs help with phonics, an English literacy enrichment class could help.
As a parent, naturally you want what’s best for your child, and part of that is investing in his/her education starting from the early years.
Check if the school fees are within your budget, taking into consideration what subsidies you are eligible for. For instance, according to the ECDA, Singapore citizen children whose mother/single father works 56 hours or more per month are eligible for Additional Subsidy for child care.
While some preschool fees are all-inclusive, others require additional payments for activities, learning materials, or special programmes (e.g. school plays or graduation ceremonies).
As you narrow down your preschool choices, make sure you get a clear understanding of what is included in the monthly fees and what will require extra payment.
Book a Visit
Nothing beats first-hand experience when it comes to finding out more about what a preschool can offer. Get information about how a centre carries out its curriculum, its facilities, enrichment programmes, and teaching approaches by meeting your child’s prospective educators and caregivers.
Want to know more about MindChamps PreSchool? Book a free trial today!
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