Find out how these schools inspire and encourage the littlest of learners.
“Finnish researchers from the University of Helsinki found that infants are capable of learning at a very young age, and were already learning in their mothers’ wombs,” explains Charlotte Wong, Head of Infant Care & Toddler for Kinderland Educare Services. She cites early exposure to music, for example, in increasing abilities in many areas, including temporal and spatial reasoning as well as skills critical for learning math concepts.
Likewise, all of Kinderland’s outlets aim to promote and support the development of self-help skills in children. Its Yio Chu Kang campus, for instance, features a self-help kitchenette, which motivates children to take pride in their achievements (e.g., serving themselves, clearing their trays), and is a developmental milestone for children aged 4 to 6 years old.
The Early Years program at Australian International School (AIS) is inspired by principles of the Reggio Emilia philosophy, which emphasises natural, child-led learning. The focus is on learning through play – children think they are just “having fun”, when actually they are learning new things every day through playing and exploring.
One thing that sets AIS apart? Its Early Learning Village, which opened August 2017. This state-of-the-art facility was built especially for children aged 18 months to 6 years, and every detail – from the child-height windows and doors to sheltered play decks – has been designed with them in mind. Children benefit from the many exciting facilities, including a dedicated early learning swimming pool, a gym and classrooms with attached outdoor play space.
The curriculum at this kindy is enquiry-led through purposeful play. And, its core philosophy runs throughout the school – from EQ into IQ. “In other words, we focus on the emotional development and support of children in their early learning experiences,” says Swallows and Amazons founder and director Jackie Barkham.
“Our students will be open-minded enquirers who have the independence of spirit to explore and maintain their love of learning. We keep learning fun, relevant and inclusive.”
The other goal? For the students’ transition to primary school – whether at an international or local one here, or in another country – to be seamless. Says Jackie, “The children will have the confidence, self-esteem and all the tools for the learning that is to come.”
Unlike some pre-schools in Singapore, EtonHouse doesn’t give its students any worksheets. Why? The curriculum at EtonHouse’s preschools – the first in Singapore to become International Baccalaureate (IB) World Schools – is child-responsive and focuses on developing problem-solving, critical-thinking and other 21st century skills, so there’s no need for standardised after-school work or other tuition programmes.
In addition, all of the EtonHouse teachers and assisting teachers have degrees and masters qualifications, and are carefully handpicked, with the low teacher-child ratio (starting from 1:4) allowing for individualised support, so that teachers can focus their lessons each child’s interests.
“The learning environment in our schools is designed keeping in mind the latest research, innovation and best practice across international settings,” explains Tina Stephenson-Chin, Director of Pedagogy. What’s more, EtonHouse’s purpose-built campuses are seen as “aesthetic spaces – with innovative and creative learning resources with large outdoor areas for exploration and inquiry,” she says.
Shaping the first five years of a child is a shared responsibility between parents and early childhood educators. At GEMS World Academy (Singapore), the aim is to nurture independent learning skills. The Early Years curriculum (for kids aged 3 to 5 years) develops students’ academic, social and emotional well-being, while focusing on international-mindedness and cultivating personal values.
In addition to this programme, GEMS Singapore will be launching a Full-Day Pre-Kindergarten Programme, as well as a Nursery Programme for children aged 2 to 3 years. And, because academic research has identified the learning environment as the “third teacher”, the school is constantly modifying the surroundings to facilitate new experiences – with input from the students.
“Recently we built an airport and aeroplane inside one of our Kindergarten classrooms, because that’s what the children felt they should create to find out more about a current Unit of Inquiry,” shares Lynn White, Grade Level Leader and K2 Educator. “The children asked for it, they researched it and they built it! This kind of a role play helps them discover the planning required as part of a journey.”
By Sara Lyle Bow, From The Finder Kids Vol. 24, September 2018
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