By Sonia Agarwal Bajaj, Founder, Little Chipper International, Agra
Choosing the right preschool is very important as the early years create a lasting impact in the child’s life. Preschools are a special place for children, outside of home, that provide them with a foundation for literacy, social interactions and establish their initial relationship with learning.
While shortlisting preschools for your little one, make sure you familiarize yourself with their admission deadlines, programs they offer and eligibility. Look out for information sessions hosted by the preschool of your interest and schedule a school visit.
Here are a few factors to consider while choosing a preschool for your child:
Faculty to toddler ratio
This is the easiest and the fastest way to evaluate a preschool. This ratio is strongly indicative of the preschool’s educational philosophy and the quality of interaction at school. Understandably, toddlers require individual attention and constant encouragement.
Typical preschools operate at 1:20, but preschools that offer 1:10 or lower are able to offer significantly higher quality of early education. Keep in mind that this ratio must be also be supplemented with support staff or Ayahs.
Preschool’s education philosophy
There are different educational philosophies and approaches towards early child education. Some philosophies that are rising in popularity include Reggio Emilia, Waldorf and Montessori. All three of these philosophies believe that a child must actively participate in their own learning. Speak to the school and learn about their vision and their approach towards early child education.
Support Programs & Curriculums
Learn if the school incorporates any formal support programs such as phonetics, S.T.E.M (Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics), music, theater and/or sports. Many of these programs are available for children that are 1.5 years and above.
Faculty Training Programs
Faculty members make the pillar of any successful educational entity. It would be relevant for one to enquire about the schools method of recruitment and training.
Hygiene & Safety
During your school visit, it is important to take note of the hygiene levels & safety standards maintained. Request to visit the child’s washroom on your school visit. Do all major areas have CCTV? Fire Extinguishers? Safety Railings? Gate Security? First-aid kits?
This is a strong visual cue of the preschool’s approach towards learning. Does the furniture set up support and
encourage collaboration and discussion? Do they have open spaces for circle time, gym time and pretend play. Do they have learning spaces that allow children to engage in water play and outdoor play?
It is not necessary that the closest preschool is the most suitable preschool for your child; however, commuting more than 30-40 min one way may get taxing for young toddlers.
Books & Toys on display
It is important that preschools offer 10-15 min of free play, allowing children to choose between a spectrum of age appropriate toys and books. On your school visit, evaluate the condition of these books & toys. Do the programs catering to different age groups have access to age appropriate toys & books?
Use of Smart screen/ Interactive Panels
Increasingly many preschools are now equipped with smart panels and interactive panels. While our new generation children should be familiar to new technology, it is important to know how the school uses the panels to facilitate learning. Is it used in a passive or an interactive manner?
Parent Testimonials/ Social Media
If possible connect to a parent those child is enrolled in one of the programs in the preschool of interest. Learn about their experience with the school. It would also be recommended for a parent to review the preschool’s social media platforms. Many preschools are now active on Facebook & Instagram and most certainly photos speak more than a thousand words!
While education can shape lives in priceless ways, it is a factor that most definitely must be considered. Learn about the preschool’s fee structures and what the fees may include and exclude. Some preschools fees are inclusive of uniforms, student IDs, learning supplies, and special celebrations, while some preschool charge the parents separately. It is important to plan the finances with the family before proceeding forward.
Choosing a suitable preschool is not rocket science but it requires commitment from parents- a commitment that can create a lasting impact in their child’s life.