The pros and cons of choosing the right pre-school

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The pros and cons of choosing the right pre-school

It’s that time of year again when many parents of 1.5- to two-year-olds are feverishly trying to arrive at a decision on where to enrol them. Big city parents get busy looking up literature on pedagogy and reading parent blogs. Discussions over coffee often veer towards the topic of selecting the right pre-school for their child. Newspaper pamphlets have been collected and kept filed for future reference. 

It’s not very different in a small village near the outskirts of Bengaluru where young parents start looking at options available to them. A neighbourhood school just conducted their annual day with much fanfare. Some schools are offering early bird offer on registrations.

According to a study that HSBC conducted, India has the highest proportion of parents — a staggering 88 per cent. According to the same study, the most important goal that Indian parents have for their children is that they build successful careers in their adult life. 

Now how does this play out with young parents seeking formal learning environments for their two to three year olds? What plays on the parent’s mind as one makes an attempt to choose the right pedagogy or the right school for their child?

High aspirationsSpeaking to parents across the spectrum reveals a common thread – parents have high aspirations for their child, they want to provide their child with a good head start, they want a safe and secure environment, and many want to compensate for what they could not get when they were young. Many no longer have family support systems; they expect the pre-school to fill that gap. The pragmatic ones want to admit their child to a pre-school that guarantees admission to a much sought-after high school. Distance from home and transport options weigh in as well. And last but not the least, is the fee. All parents are willing to stretch and apportion a fair amount of their income on pre-school. 

Well educated parents attempt to make well informed decisions – they attempt to understand the difference between a Montessori and a playway and are more or less stumped by the lack of discernable difference that some “premium” operators profess. 

What typically comes to aid is the infrastructure that the preschool provides and the visually discernable quality of the materials used in the classroom. Parents like to meet the teacher and gauge if she is experienced enough to handle their child.

The teacher’s ability to converse fluently in English plays a major role too. Word of mouth references play a major role as the pick draws close. One negative opinion is enough to make the young parents wary. The profile of the parents who have already enrolled their child to a pre-school plays a major part. Parents find comfort in their child interacting with children from similar socio-economic backgrounds.

Wish list to decision makingIt is interesting to note that what starts off as a parent wish list, turns into a decision making process based on options available. The wants are often set aside as parents set off to take ‘practical decisions’. 

Where parents find a decision difficult, the fee plays a decisive role. If parents find two options equally affordable, they typically place their bet based on their spending habits. Some choose the more expensive option hoping to get more from their investment; others go for the more cost effective option pleased that they got value for their money.

(the author is associated with Hippocampus Learning Centres)

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