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Choosing an international kindergarten or preschool in Singapore

Advice for Parents looking for an internation kindergarten in singapore. This article, written by Katie Terry, is for parents of young children from the international community who are either living in Singapore or moving too Singapore in the near future.

Choosing the right kindergarten for your child is a very personal decision. When it is your child’s first school and perhaps you are making a school choice for the first time it can seem a little daunting.

We have developed the 15 point checklist below to cover the most common questions that parents consider when selecting an international kindergarten:

Factors to consider

  1. Childcare or Kindergarten?
    In Singapore childcare centres, regulated by the Ministry of Community, Youth & Sports (MCYS), are designed to cater for the needs of working parents. They operate from 7am to 7pm and predominantly prepare children for local Singaporean schools. Kindergartens and preschools, regulated by the ministry of education, tend to operate for fewer hours and each school will target slightly different demands. There are a number of preschools in Singapore that primarily cater for children from the international community.
  2. When to start school?
    In Singapore preschool education is not mandatory – although the vast majority of parents will send their children to a preschool. Parents’ need to decide when is the best time for their child to start. This is a very personal decision and depends on the circumstances and preferences of the parent. International kindergartens typically cater for children from 2 years upwards and usually allow for a gently introduction to school by offering half-day sessions for 2, 3 or 5 days a week. It is also common for children in age ranges 2 to 4 to start mid-way through a school year and schools will be able to accommodate this.
  3. Which location?
    Distances are not great in Singapore but nonetheless location is an important factor in making a decision about which kindergarten to use. Perhaps look in the first instance at preschools within 20 minutes’ drive of your home or alternatively close to your place of work if that is more convenient.
  4. Great visit and research experience?
    First impressions do count. If the preschool doesn’t have a well- designed and informative website, is not timely in providing information you request and does not give you a full visit to the school then you should question whether this is the right preschool for your child. The golden rule is to expect, and if necessary demand, transparency in all of your dealings with a school.

  5. Quality / experience of teaching staff?
    Classroom Teachers matter. When you visit the school it is entirely appropriate to ask about the experience of the classroom teachers, how long they have been with the kindergarten and what their previous experience has been. In some circumstances you may even want to arrange to have a quick chat with the classroom teacher most likely to teach your child.You should let the kindergarten know this request in advance of the visit as it might impact on your visit time.
  6. Curriculum / Approach & Ethos
    You should expect your international kindergarten to be able to demonstrate that it has your children at the heart of their ethos. A fun, caring and secure environment combined with a well-developed curriculum will provide the ideal platform for the start of your child’s educational journey.

  7. School history
    All things being equal parents would prefer a kindergarten that has been in business for a number of years and has shown it can consistently meet parental expectations. When you visit kindergartens it is a good idea to ask for information on the curriculum that is followed and to provide examples of a typical day at preschool.
  8. Trial a school –playgroup
    Whilst it is not practical for a child to trial in a class another way to assess a school is to enrol in a playgroup that some of the international kindergartens offer. This will allow you to get a feel for the school, to see how your child settles and then asses when the best time to start is.
  9. Siblings & term dates
    If you have children in preschool than it is natural to look to the existing school for their younger siblings when they are ready – especially if you have had a positive experience already.If you have children in Primary / Secondary school in Singapore then one factor to consider is how well the term structure and term dates coincide with that school. A perfect match is rarely possible but typically kindergartens that offer 3 terms a year are able to be more closely aligned to the international primary and secondary schools.
  10. Reporting & communication
    As in many walks of life, kindergartens are becoming increasingly professional in their reporting and communication on progress. International kindergartens use a range of tools that may include some or all of daily planners, weekly newsletters, photos of children, staff performance assessments, regular school reports as well as school notices.
  11. Power of recommendation
    Personal recommendations are very important as well as being able to see recommendation from existing and past parents (ideally on the website of the preschool). You may also ask the school to put you in touch with current parents so you can ask them for their experience.

  12. Diversity of children
    Parents from the international community will typically want to send their children to a school that has other children from their home country yet at the same time offers a diversity of cultures and nationalities.
  13. FacilitiesThe key factor to consider in any facility is security and safety. Kindergartens in Singapore are required to be inspected and approved by the Civil Defence Force. Other factors that parents typically look for is   a green outdoor space that is well integrated into the classroom setting. As Singapore has grown over the decades it has become harder and harder to find kindergartens with outdoor space.

  14. Fee Levels
    It goes without saying that many people have budgetary constraints which will influence their choice of school. There are significant differences between individual international kindergartens.
  15. Register early
    Popular schools will often develop waitlists and therefore it is a good idea to register early once you have decided on your school of choice. Registration fees are payable but you are not contractually committed to the school and could always choose to send your child to another school. If you do not register, and leave your decision later you may find that you cannot get  a place at your preferred kindergarten.

Last but not least is too trust your instincts and make a choice you are comfortable with. Every parent has their own likes, dislikes and personal circumstances to factor into the decision. Approaches to selecting the right preschool will also vary: some parents like to “boil the ocean” whilst others are happy to work from a strong recommendation from a trusted friend.

Whatever your approach, I wish you good luck in you search for the right kindergarten for your child.

About Katie Terry

Katie Terry has over 15 years’ experience of teaching in the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore. She has taught at kindergarten and primary level including children with special needs.

Katie was an international child in Asia herself and spent most of her childhood in Hong Kong. Katie is a Director of Rain Trees Kindergarten in Singapore – for more information and her contact details please visit www.raintreeskindergarten.com.

By Katie Terry, Rain Trees Kindergarten

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