Choosing the Best Preschool in Singapore
Time flies. My second one is now ready for preschool! I have started reviewing options for best preschool in Singapore for her. I’m a little late though. Normally, parents start to look for a preschool on the first half of the year their child turns 2.
With so many preschools, how do parents decide the best preschool in Singapore for their child? Here are 10 factors that I considered to help narrow down choices:
1. Mission, Vision and Values
It is important to check the school’s mission and vision. Some schools also have religious affiliations so make sure it is aligned with your family’s values and beliefs. Some schools are also more academic-based and will have daily homework.
I suggest having a chat with the principal to get to know his/her plans for the school. Ask how they promote good values and right conduct for the students. How do they discipline their students? How do they help new students adjust to school? Remember, an excellent principal likely runs an excellent school. Check Forbes article on 8 characteristics of effective school principals.
I don’t drive so my priority is a preschool that can easily be accessed by public transportation. It should also be within 10km radius from home. It is not easy for young kids to travel far, and it is not convenient to do daily school runs that will take more than an hour each way.
Check out this MSF link where you can filter preschools within 5km radius from your home.
3. School Hours
There are 2 types of preschools that fall under ECDA (Early Childhood Development Agency) in Singapore.
2.1 Kindergartens: These schools normally offer programme consists of at least Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2. Some schools can include Playgroup, Pre-Nursery (or Nursery 1) and Nursery (or Nursery 2). Each session typically runs for 2-3 hours for Playgroup and Pre-Nursery, and 3-4 hours for Nursery, K1 and K2.
There are private kindergartens (privately funded, international preschools) and MOE kindergartens.
Playgroup – 18 months up to 2.5 years old
Pre-nursery (N1) – the year the child turns 3 year old
Nursery (N2) – the year the child turns 4 year old
Kindergarten 1 (K1) – the year the child turns 5 year old
Kindergarten 1 (K2) – the year the child turns 6 year old
2.2 Child care centres: These centres provide child care or day care type of services alongside preschool developmental programmes. Some centres also provide infant care programmes for infants aged between 2 and 18 months old. Some centres are flexible and parents can choose either half or full day schedules.
My preference would be kindergartens over child care centres. With limited school time, I feel that the chance of getting sick is lower with kindergartens for younger children. However, if both parents are working and there is no help available, child care centre will be the best option.
4. Language Programme
If you are planning to send your child to local primary school, he/she needs to take a mother tongue language. Ours will be taking Mandarin Chinese. We don’t speak this at home so I’m looking for a school that will be able to provide a strong foundation in Chinese.
There are schools that offer bilingual programmes (50-50) and English-instruction school that teaches Mandarin (80-20). My preferences goes to Mandarin-instruction school that teaches English (30-70). I can teach my child English at home but not Mandarin!
I must admit it is not easy to find a school with my preference ratio.
This is the factor that makes or breaks the deal. Some schools are paid per term (10 weeks) and some by month. Some has term or holiday breaks and some do not (especially those centres paid by month).
Aside from school fees, school bus fees would need to be factored in if you would need one. School bus fees are paid monthly (even if it is school holiday for schools following MOE calendar during June and December, bus fees need to be paid).
6. Child-Teacher Ratio
For pre-nursery and nursery, I would prefer at least 2 teachers (1 main teacher and 1 assistant/educarers) for class of 15 students. Pre-nursery kids need a lot of handholding especially with class activities, washing hands, going to toilets (or even nappy changes for those still under potty training).
Here is the link to ECDA’s updated regulation of child-staff ratio.
7. Safety and Health
A school tour in a normal school day will help you tick this box. Check how the school handles their daily routine during drop-offs (Do they do temperature checks? HFMD checks?). Also during pick ups how does the school teacher verify caregivers before releasing the child? Does the school have safety gate or security guard to ensure no children leaves the school unknowingly? Perhaps it is also good to check if the school has CCTVs installed on the right places inside the school.
Most schools include snack time in their programme. Inquire if the school is providing the food and if yes, how do they prepare and cook food? How do they handle children that have food allergies? Some schools can share their current year menus so you can use it as a guide (It is likely to be the same or similar!).
8. Enrichment Programmes
Some schools offer enrichment programmes after school such as Play and Drama, Math, Dance, etc. Fees are normally more reasonable as the providers are using the school hall/classroom.
Some schools have included programmes such as GymKids and Kindermusik in their curriculum. Don’t forget to clarify if there are additional fees for such inclusions.
9. Field trips
Most schools organize school outing as part of their curriculum. If they are learning zoo animals, perhaps a trip to the Singapore Zoo will be organized at the end of the term. Ask the school how often they do such events and do parents need to tag along (especially for N2 and below). If not, how would the school ensure the safety of the kids outside school premises?
Walk around the school. Check the classrooms. A safe and well-maintained environment that is conducive to learning is important. Have a chat with teachers and school staff if an opportunity arises.
Thanks for reading! I hope it helps with your hunt on best preschool in Singapore for your child and family!
Watch out for my next blog post. I will be sharing my top 3-5 preschool picks.