Pre-school education goes beyond building foundational literacy and numerical skills. It is also about developing your child’s love for learning and nurturing his or her social skills.
Find out about common parental concerns in guiding children through pre-school and primary school, as well as how these issues can be addressed.
Mdm Leong Pik San gave some tips for parents to make pre-school education fun for toddlers.
Let children have fun – this was the main message from two veteran educators in the pre-school and primary school sectors at the workshop, “Nurturing the Whole Child from Pre-school to Primary School”. Mdm Leong Pik San, senior specialist for pre-school education at MOE, and Ms Debra Saw, principal of Qifa Primary School, shared their insights on the formal frameworks of pre-school and primary school education, as well as how parents could guide their children at these stages of education.
The session was part of the inaugural Parenting Seminar 2012, which was organised by the new Ministry of Social and Family Development’s Child Development Network (CDN). Over 100 parents attended this event on 27 October 2012, and they also had the opportunity to air their questions and concerns about education for their young children.
The formative years
Mdm Leong emphasised that pre-school education is about developing a love for learning. While foundational literacy and numerical skills are taught during this period, the educational approach extends beyond such knowledge and includes the development of key social skills.
“Children between the ages of four and six believe that the world revolves around them, but pre-school exposes them to new environments and new people,” explained Mdm Leong. “They socialise intelligently and learn that it’s not just about saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ at the right times, but also about sharing and realising that other people will have different perspectives from them.”
Ms. Debra Saw shared some amusing anecdotes about her primary school students during the talk.
Play is key to such an exploration, and for Mdm Leong, a good mix of free, unstructured play and purposeful play (with a planned environment and learning objectives) does the trick. It is even better when the parents work closely with the pre-school and connect learning at home to the activities done in school.
A piece of advice she gave parents who are trying to teach their young ones how to read was to “not emphasise so much on flashcards and getting them to recognise words”, as this approach only works with some children. She said that foundational literacy truly begins with listening and developing print awareness, that is, the idea that the words in books have meanings. “Take your time in reading to them a lot of books and talking to them so they gradually build up their vocabulary,” Mdm Leong suggested.
Find out what Ms. Debra Saw said about preparation for primary school on the next page!
Preparing for primary school
Likewise, Ms. Saw told parents not to worry too much about their children going to school and joked with the audience that “our own parents probably never had to attend talks like these, but we turned out okay anyway.” She reassured them that MOE is on the right track in terms of preparing children for life by providing a holistic education in primary school.
While their son is only ten months old, husband and wife Mr. Shane Lim and Ms. Yeung Ching Ching feel it is never too early to gain a better understanding of Singapore’s education system.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about how many A stars your children get, but how well-rounded they are in terms of being able to make responsible decisions, maintain good relationships and have consistent values in this globalised world,” she said.
She reiterated that assessment is meant to support learning and encourage the learning of new topics or skills. “It is a gauge of how much a pupil has learnt, and in turn for teachers to provide feedback to the pupils.”
Ms. Saw shared an anecdote of one parent from her school getting upset that her child had received a score of 95 out of 100 because “the five marks were lost due to carelessness”. The parent consulted the teacher about the incident. Ms. Saw advised, “The more you nag at your children not to make any careless mistakes, the more likely such mistakes will be made. Instead, don’t be stingy with praises, affirm their efforts and advise them gently on how they can do better next time,” she said.
Mother of two, Ms. Sim Soo Lin, felt that she had learned to set realistic expectations for her children’s progress in school from the advice shared at this seminar.
During the Q&A session that followed, one mother asked how she should respond if teachers call her to say her child is not doing well in a certain subject. She explained that her friends with primary school-aged kids get anxious when this happens because “the teacher expects the parents to do something about it, but I don’t want to stress my child out with even more tuition.”
Ms Saw advised the mother to make a face-to-face appointment to see the teacher, to better understand the situation and also find out what resources the school might have to help the child. The tuition option, she felt, should be considered carefully given the strain on time and finances, and the tutor should not just be someone helping the child with homework.
After the talk, Ms Doris Tan, who has a four-year-old daughter, felt she had a clearer picture of the pre-school and primary school education framework. “Learning that each child has a different learning style was particularly useful because now, I won’t blindly follow what other parents are doing with their children,” she reflected.
Ms. Sim Soo Lin, who has a five-year-old daughter and a 17-month-old son, candidly shared that this talk was a good reminder for her not to be too “kiasu“. “I realise that I need to manage my expectations. At the end of the day, I just want my children to grow up to be independent and positive learners.”
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This article is reproduced with permission from Ministry of Education, Singapore.