Am I expecting too much? After deciding that Sophia’s current preschool is really too disappointing, I start my search for preschools again.
First stop is a preschool that is known for being strong in Chinese. It is started by a lady who used to teach at a teacher’s college in China so I thought it would have decent Chinese teaching and I only need to worry about English. After visiting the school though, I was not keen for the following reasons:
1) Teacher was too proud of China’s system and constantly criticising Singapore’s school system, which was a put off after a while. There are legitimate issues with Singapore’s system but beyond a point you just think if China is really that much better why didn’t you go back there.
2) When the principal tried to show off her kindergarten children’s mandarin it was clear they only memorised the text without knowing the meanings. That is fine for Chinese classics actually because that is really how one learns it. I first read classics without knowing what it means and over time you just slowly appreciate more and more meaning from it as your knowledge of the language and your experience grows. That is part of the beauty of the Chinese language. But when the children rattled off a strong of idioms in the same fashion, I felt it was wrong. The children do also need to be taught meanings of what they are learning.
3) Teachers were not dynamic nor appeared loving.
Second was one that came highly recommended by Sophia’s cousin who went there for a year, went to BRMCK then decided to go back. The good things about it are that (1) it is a childcare so there are no holidays, (2) there are comments that the Chinese standard is high, (3) low turnover, (4) teachers were affectionate to Sophia’s cousin, (5) full day sessions available so Sophia doesn’t spend so much time getting spoilt by grandpa and (6) family day and PTCs are conducted on weekends. We were all ready to sign up when we went but… at the visit…
1) We didn’t feel welcomed. At least I didn’t.
2) Sophia enjoyed playing with their facilities but ultimately did not express a wish to attend the school.
3) We were told that at N2 they were still learning the alphabets and their sounds! Gosh, Sophia knew the alphabets, their names and their sounds at 2, Pats taught her again at playgroup, BRMCK taught her again at N1 and now she needs to learn the same thing the 4th time?? That seems like a massive waste of her time and surefire way to get her bored.
4) Students were speaking English to each other even in the Chinese classroom which indicates that their mandarin is not all that strong. The Chinese teacher’s accent was also a bit off, it was the southern China type accent where it might have been influenced by hokkien or similar dialect.
5) There were too many Japanese students, about 40%, which is worrying because, with the focus on the very difficult Japanese language, it is inevitable that their English and Mandarin will not be as good.
Today I called up a church kindergarten that was also supposed to be strong in Chinese and from talking to the person at the office, gathered that it was run much the same way as Sophia’s current kindergarten – as a black box keeping out the parents. The good thing is that the main teacher is the Chinese teacher so there is lots of exposure but there is the same issue of short hours and long holidays being a kindergarten, and also their N2 are learning alphabets.
Ultimately I just had to conclude that we cannot rely on preschools to teach our children well. I begin to understand why so many mothers choose to stay at home. I do still think that it is important to send the children to school if just to pick up social skills. But ultimately real learning may need to take place at home. How disappointing.
What’s your preschool search experience and have you found a right fit for your child?