Choosing the right preschool for your child

Choosing the right preschool for your child

Choosing the right preschool for your child

Sudha and Kiran are discussing on finalising a preschool for their four-year-old daughter. Sudha opines that her daughter should go to a renowned preschool where quality is assured and is an English medium. Kiran, on the other hand, feels preschool is just the beginning, and it does not matter to him where his child studies at this point. This made me realise that it is the admission time for preschools and it is the time when parents begin to do their research on the options available.

Almost two decades ago, the choices for preschools were limited, the joint family system was still alive, and parents used to enrol children into formal education from Class 1. As young child development professionals, we used to highlight on readying young kids for their formal education. Now, the scenario has changed. Today, parents make their decisions based on the research they do online. Once their child is one-and-a-half years old, parents start exploring which preschool will be the right one for their child. As both parents are economically independent now, they wish to enrol their little ones in the best school. The choices they have now are plenty as every nook and corner of a city, town or taluk has a preschool.

Many parents look for the so called 'branded' preschools. Though it may look great on paper, it may not always be the case. While some parents willingly get into such a trap as they take pride in proclaiming that their children are studying in established schools, some may also be taken away by flashy websites and pamphlets. Hence, parents should be wary and do comprehensive research before finalising a preschool.

Background research

As a child's formative years are very important, where the child learns matters a lot. So, how can parents make the right choice? Parents need to spend their time and energy doing research on various preschools and arrive at a sound decision irrespective of what their acquaintances might think. It is better to physically visit the preschools, have a conversation
with the staff, understand and gauge how much they know about early childhood education.

Parents can begin preschool research with a few guiding questions like 'What is the nature of our child?', 'Is the child comfortable being busy with lots of other children or is happy with a few?', 'Does the child like an exciting orderly environment or an enthusiastic flexible environment?', 'How far is the preschool from home?' and 'What are the fees like?'. It is important to weigh all the pros and cons to make sure it is the right fit.

Understanding some of the common preschool philosophies may help parents choose a school that meets their child's needs. Some of the teaching approaches that preschools follow include Montessori, Reggio Emilia and Waldorf.
All the preschool philosophies are certainly child-centred with the fundamental principle of respecting the child and involving him or her in an active learning process.

More than the philosophy, the people who are translating it matters. Teachers' knowledge, efficiency, attitude and sensitivity play a significant role in shaping a child's learning. Keeping this in mind, parents can observe, understand and compare preschools in terms of their sincerity, dedication, passion and skills to ensure the overall development of the child.

Safety matters

Parents can check the preschool credentials by speaking to other parents who have enrolled their children there. It is always better to visit the school during operational hours. Doing so can help you check the safety measures that the school has put in place. Even though compulsory CCTV camera installation has given some relief, it is better to know more about the staff and how recruitment takes place. More than the physical infrastructure, parents should pay attention to how the staff interact with the children at school. Though it will be difficult to observe this in a short time, parents must take a look at the kind of warmth, attitude and sensitivity the staff display while they engage with the children.

Many preschools tend to focus a lot on the learning materials they use in class. Hence, parents will need to take a look at the various learning materials that the preschool uses and how they are stored when they take a school tour. Parents should carefully check teacher-pupil ratio, school hours, pickup and drop-off facilities, teacher's qualification and training. Apart from these, parents will also need to know about the school's policy, philosophy, curriculum, teaching-learning methods, homework policies, parent-teacher relationship, communication channels and other activities.

Most importantly, parents should trust their instincts. A preschool may boast about many things, but if parents feel that is not the right place for their children, then it is not. It is essential that parents should feel comfortable with the school.

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