Choosing a childcare centre that fits both the needs of your family and your child is essential as it will be the place where your child spends the bulk of their waking hours, learning, playing, napping and eating.
Here are some main factors of consideration that parents have when choosing a preschool:
A centre that is located either near your workplace, home, or near the home of the caregiver who helps when parents are at work, is ideal as it reduces the hassle of making an extra stop during the peak hour rush. There are many centres which are conveniently located in shopping malls near MRT stations or business parks. Remember to factor in travelling time if you intend to place your child in a centre near your house, as childcare centres charge late fees for parents who cannot pick up their children on time.
Childcare centres in Singapore are required to undergo a rigorous licensing assessment by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and licences ranging from 6 months, 12 months and 24 months are handed out accordingly. A centre with a 24-month licence have surpassed minimum licensing requirements and are of excellent quality.
Search for reviews online or check with parents whose children are enrolled in your shortlisted centre to affirm your choice.
- Curriculum and Enrichment classes
Most childcare centres aim to prepare children for primary school in Singapore in terms of literacy, math, social and overall development. Apart from checking on the curriculum that the centre uses, ask about enrichment classes that the centre provides. Usually, these enrichment classes are provided by external trainers and provide your child with an additional skill.
Preschool teachers are required to be certified in early childhood education. Most teachers will be required to attend training courses to keep their skills relevant. Check on the staff strength, training policies, staff turnover rate at the centre and observe how the principal interacts with the teachers. A high turnover rate might be a tell-tale sign that the teachers are dissatisfied with the management or team at that particular preschool.
- Teacher-Child Ratio
The minimum teacher-child ratio as stipulated by ECDA is 1:8 for playgroup, 1:12 for Nursery 1, 1:15 for Nursery 2; 1:20 for K1 and 1:25 for K2. In most schools, there will be a qualified assistant teacher helping out. The lower the ratio, the more attention each child receives.
Before confirming your choice, make a visit personally to the centre to get a feel of how the school is. Are the classrooms closed or open-concept? Is it well-lit, well ventilated and spacious? Do the children appear well adjusted and happy? How do the teachers deal with misbehaviour?
- Parent-Teacher Communication
Most preschools schedule a Parent-Teacher Meeting twice a year. You can look forward to quick updates when you send and pick up your child from school. Preschools use either a communications book or an app for more detailed communication between teachers and parents. There will be photos and videos uploaded for parents to view for preschools who use applications.
- School fees and subsidy
Raising children in Singapore can be a hefty investment, so school fees range for infant care, childcare and kindergarten can be at both ends of the spectrum. Work out the finances and pick a school that is affordable for the family. There are also Government subsidies to support working mums, providing some relief on the pockets.
Overall, finding a perfect preschool centre can be tricky and the most important thing is to ensure that your child enjoys the environment, and is having fun learning at the centre. What is your top concern when it comes to selecting a preschool or childcare centre of your kids? Do share them too!