Nope. This is not a laundry list of the best preschools in Singapore. Rather, it shares helpful principles that you can use to pick the best preschool for your child.
With the recent government expansion into preschool education, offering MOE Kindergarten, and strongly supporting anchor operators like My First Skool, it’s clear that the government is focusing on preschool as a means to improve educational outcomes in Singapore.
We have been steadily building up preschool places. The number of full-day preschool places has more than doubled in the past decade – from 90,000 places in 2012 to around 200,000 as of end-2021. We will develop about 10,000 more full-day places by 2023 to meet the growing demand for preschool.
Minister of State at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), Sun Xueling, at the Committee of Supply Debate in March 2022
This is good for you, as a parent.
But it also means that it may be difficult to choose the preschool for your child, especially when there’s so much choice. Should you go for the small preschool with not as high an enrolment, or should you go for the tried and tested preschool that’s backed by the government?
Who am I to talk to you about preschools?
As a fresh faced single man who has never had a child, you might think that listening to me is a waste of your time.
Hold on before you click away.
Across my time as a social worker in a family service centre in Singapore, I worked with many disadvantaged children, especially those with learning difficulties and parents who had little resources to pay for childcare.
I successfully placed 11 children in different preschools, and through that experience, found certain helpful guiding principles.
Always think about transport
Getting to the preschool shouldn’t be too difficult. This is the first factor that I often get parents to think about.
Finding a preschool that you can’t easily send your child for, is a wasted effort.
Ideally, the preschool should be walkable, so that your child can easily be ferried there, and back. Why? So that your child has more time to sleep.
Waking your child at 7, so that he can arrive at the preschool at 8, so that you can go to work by 9, is a enormous task. Your tired, cranky child is not going to thank you for hauling him out of his sheets, just so that he can go to school.
Allowing him more rest by having a preschool that’s close by can help.
Small or large preschool depends on your child
On one spectrum, there are huge preschools like the one at Punggol PCF, which is designed for up to 1000 children.
On the other hand, there are those that are often found at void decks, and can perhaps fit 50 children.
Understanding your child helps. Questions such as:
- What’s your child’s personality?
- Does your child find it easy to socialise and make friends? For example, if you brought him to the playground, does he naturally interact?
Private, or government-aided?
The government stepping into the preschool sector has severely hurt many private preschools.
In my conversations with some preschool principals, their concern has always been similar.
- Falling enrolment
- Growing exodus of teachers
These are because many private preschools cannot compete with the deep pockets of the government to subsidise preschool education, and also to draw preschool teachers with a better and more structured pay package.
You would end up seeing that certain childcares are understaffed, and barely managing.
What should you do?
Choosing a preschool for your child is not easy. But there are certain hacks that you can try that can help you better gauge if the preschool is right for your child.
Ask for a trial
Many private preschools offer a no fee trial for parents to place their child for a week at the preschool, just so that they can feel assured that the preschool they are placing their child in is right for their child.
When you do this, try not to sit together with your child.
Hide away, so that you can properly observe if your child is transiting well to the new environment.
Understand your budget
The whole preschool fee list can be a swamp to wade through.
The subsidies, whether you or your spouse is working, whether it’s part time or full-time, does have a significant impact on the choices that are available to you.
If you think about it, you’re just placing your child in preschool so that you and your spouse can work.
Therefore it may help for you to ask yourself,
Are there other options?
One of the first options could be you caring for the child, yourself.
Putting your child into preschool may not necessarily be cheaper. If you add up the cost of childcare (which may be $700 per month), followed by the cost of traveling there and back (perhaps another $100), you may find yourself better off staying at home to be a fulltime homemaker.
There are some who argue that this may end up becoming the wife, rather than the husband.
Either way, there may be benefit in staying at home to care for your child. Firstly, one may not always have in-laws or friends who can take care of a sick child and quickly pick the child home when something happens in preschool. For many parents, this is often a major concern. Time off work, simply doesn’t come that easily. Sometimes, parents may prefer staying at home to care for their child.
Secondly, there’s no real replacement for a parent’s education. I would only suggest this if you have a clear idea of what you’re going to do with your child though.
Working with parents, I’ve seen how tiring it can be to care for their child fulltime, and sometimes, these breaks do help in terms of giving respite.
The second option, may be to place the child with grandparents.
This is often an option that’s not well received, because you, as a parent, may be concerned that the grandparent would not be able to teach the child well, or give the child good basics of education.
Placing them with their grandparents though has the added benefit of giving your child the chance to learn values from the older generation.
As someone who grew up with my grandparents, despite not being able to understand much of the dialect they spoke, it taught me the value of hard work and graft. My aunties would often tell me to wash my own cups, rather than getting my granny to wash them.
Or my grandfather would give me undivided attention as he taught me chess.
Often we may look down on our own parents because we think they may not be as educated as us, and may not be as capable of teaching our child. But we may not realise that what they may lack in knowledge is replaced by wisdom.
My own granddad loved the Stockmarket. Daily, he would sit in front of the television, and see the ticker. He would then place calls to his brokers, telling them to buy this or sell that.
That experience as a 5 year old gave me the wisdom to see the importance of building wealth, rather than just money.
Grandparents also can give the precious gift of time, which is something that you, as a busy, overworked, parent, may not have the luxury of giving.
Choosing the best preschool for your child, thus may be less about finding the top-ranking, most popular preschools, as it is sitting and really thinking,
Might I have more options than just preschool?