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At what age can a child start pre-school?

by Patricia Koh, Founder-Director

What criteria should parents consider when choosing a pre-school, apart from cost and proximity to the home? At what age can a child start pre-school?

As a parent, I'd first want to take a good look at the centre and be assured that I can leave my child there safely. Then, I would look at the teachers to see if they are warm, friendly and professionally competent in developing my child's potential. If the centre director knows more than me, I would be most happy to leave my child in her hands. If not, I would rather teach my child myself.

Kindergartens and childcare centres are different mainly in the way the operators run them. In Singapore, we have swung from one end to the other like a pendulum. We started off with the 'chalk and talk' method - a traditional approach of getting children to read and write - to a 'free' environment where learning is based on projects or on the child's initiative.

Although research has shown the advantages and disadvantages of these approaches to learning, a lot depends on the child's adaptation to the methods and the parents' choice.

I advise you to read up and discover for yourself what you really want your child to be doing during his childhood.

What is it you value most in your child's development - creativity, general knowledge, emotional intelligence, social awareness, or all of these?

As for the right age to start pre-school, your child is probably ready if he is ready to say goodbye nicely.

Usually, a good age is between 2 1/2 and three years old. This is the time you can explain to a child what is happening and he will understand you better. As a rule of thumb, the younger the child, the less time he should spend away from home.

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