I must confess that I know very little about the world of kindergartens. Most of the time, I wonder what they are doing. I know from some CG members that it is not easy to be kindergarten teachers (I could empathise) so today is a good chance for me to find out more.
One of our team members managed to get us into Living Sanctuary Kindergarten and this school was being mentioned by PM Lee before in one of his speeches so it would be a privilege to get to know more by visiting the school ourselves.
The P, Elsie Tan, received us warmly. It’s a pity that the school follows the holidays of MOE schools. Otherwise, we could have watched the lessons in action. Basically, this private kindergarten follows closely the guidelines set by the MOE’s Pre-School Branch but focuses much on learning through play rather than churning out and having pupils to complete worksheets. She believes too that getting the children to focus too much on academic scares them away and instead of getting the children to be curious and interested in learning, the reverse could result. I am personally impressed by the amount of work and hands-on resources the teachers make for the pupils. They have different learning centres modelled after real-life environment (e.g. supermarket, airport, science centre, cafe, etc) for the pupils to take on different roles and learn about the community. What fun! Talk about authentic and experiential learning. This school has it! Of course, basic numeracy and literacy skills are taught.
One of the challenges that the school faces is the expectations of the parents. Some of them are not happy with too much much ‘play’ and wanted the school to focus more on academic. The P stands by the mission and vision of the school and such parents eventually pull their child out. Thankfully, the number of such cases is small and majority of them trust what the school is doing. This kindergarten is popular among parents and they even need to ballot or queue for the enrolment!
Truly, if you don’t agree with the vision of the school, why bother to enrol your child in that school and then give problems to the staff members?
I must say I quite like this school and LS Kindergarten has been visited by many PCFs and polys and they are sharing with some MOE personnel in the afternoon; they must have done something right. =) Maybe I should enrol Faith in this kindergarten in future?
Allow me to share my humble opinions on the skills children should acquire by the time they enter Primary School. These are thoughts after teaching my P1 kids and I hope that I will bear these in mind when I have my child.
1) Social skills (sharing with one another, taking turns, being patient, etc). I have had children fighting over the simplest thing because they wanted it first. They have very little concept on sharing and when I related this to the parents, their reason is, “He’s the only child.” No excuse for that. I have quite a few pupils who have no siblings and they are willing to share. It’s the parenting, folks.
2) Communication skills. I have seen a wide spectrum of the display of such skills, from whining and insisting his own ways to being able to articulate and reason with adults. Again, it’s the effect of what we do at home.
3) Basic phonics knowledge. A little will help a lot.
4) Basic numeracy skills. Real-life examples will help a lot. We don’t have to teach them the operations.
5) A love for reading. Reading opens their little world and causes them to be curious about the environment around them. It helps greatly in their literacy.
6) Handwriting skills. There is a proper technique, ya know?
7) Responsibility. Children need to be taught that there are no maids in schools. They have to learn how to pack their bags, put the books back on the shelf and to take responsibility for their own actions. Please don’t do everything for them! And be a role model. Traits are caught, not taught.
One of the things parents can do to help them in their linguistic ability is to speak in proper English and Chinese (or any language/MT) to them. It’s difficult to get them to understand the rules of language (AKA grammar) when all the while, they have been exposed to non-standard language. Colloquial English has its place but if you want your child to have a good start, speak properly!