Preschool: Springboard to Success

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DESPITE the long educational process which every child needs to go through, the fundamentals of early human development rely on early childhood programs. It is understood, therefore, that it is every parent’s dream to have their children take advantage of the best educational opportunities available.

The growth of international preschools and kindergartens in Indonesia has paved the way for better educational awareness among parents. As more schools are outdoing each other with their splendid curricula, nevertheless, more parents are left confused when choosing which school fits the needs of their children.

Experts agree that a significant number of children worldwide have enjoyed the benefit of today’s various innovative schooling methods. However, children in general do not like to study in spite of it being necessary for their education. “Childhood is the most precious time in life. And parents should not spoil such a beautiful moment as children deserve to play,” Patricia Koh, a Singaporean expert on early childhood and founder-director of Pat’s Schoolhouse, remarked.

Because children learn through play, it is important that a preschool create a safe and fun learning atmosphere in order to instill students a love of learning. Truly, children need time and space to enjoy the learning process through experiences.

So, regardless of the presence of a variety of teaching-learning approaches, Patricia further said that a school also needs to have a large space and homely atmosphere. “Combining both helps the physical development of a child, ensuring that the child’s mind is alert with things that surround him or her,” adding that, “Don’t leave your child stranded in a cart, he or she will not learn physically. Let the child explore itself in a large room. Remember, every one of us was crawling before learning to walk.”

She said that innovatively developed active learning is very significant in providing children with a learning experience. “So, a preschool should be able to accommodate every of its students trained and qualified teachers who are able to guide the students to explore and discover their imaginative natural potential in learning subjects like languages, music and math. ”

Most of preschoolers are just like dough, according to Patricia. During this stage, children are easier to mold. However, parents cannot inflict too much of what they want on their children. Instead, parents need to understand what children want. “You see, during these ages, children do not have any desire to study. Nor do they like to be pushed into a disciplined frame of study. So, parents need to be careful when adopting strict discipline as too much will likely result in failure rather than success in raising their children,” she added.

Discipline is necessary, but it should not be a burden on the children. For instance, parents should have a regular schedule on what time a child should go to school, when to have lunch, when to stop playing, and so on. And it is the duty of parents to make their children aware of what they should be doing without inflicting any punishment.

In other words, self-discipline is what should be nurtured to children at an early age, she asserted. “What parents need to know is that children at preschool ages like playing, and through playing they are learning more.”

Tony Earnshaw, an Australian educational psychologist said that every child had the potential to learn more than two languages. So, parents should not worry that their children will become confused if studying two languages, other than their mother tongue, simultaneously.

Even though reading and writing are crucial factors in learning a language, a child also needs to go through certain stages to pick up these abilities. Story telling is an efficient way to instill the love of reading into a child. Therefore, it is important to have teachers who know how to deliver a story to the children. A good story reader should be able to keep children interested in a story and bring enjoyment into the classroom, not make the children sleepy or bored, Tony explained.

Scribbling is the basis of learning to write, and once the children know how to hold a pencil in a basic triangle shape, “Teachers should let children discover their creativity and use their imagination through arts such as drawing. And games such as puzzles, miniature golf can do the magic trick in order that children will enjoy learning math and spatial skills,” he advised.

Apart from this, music plays a great role in a child’s development process. Music can positively stimulate a child’s brain towards being more creative. When singing and dancing, children enjoy the atmosphere and the rhythm of such activities, meaning they will acquire knowledge faster. “For example, when singing a song, a good teacher always emphasizes that the children should understand the words, and when stopping in the middle of the song, the teacher should ask children to creatively guess what the next words should be,” he added.

A child’s quality of life and the contributions that the child makes to society as an adult can be traced to his or her first years of life. From birth until about the age of five is a significant time in a child’s development because experiences at this time can determine a child’s language ability, motor skills, adaptive abilities and social-emotional functioning. It is these elements that will later determine whether a child does well in school and becomes a successful member of society.

Without support during their early years, children are more likely to fail in their future academic lives and to face obstacles in integrating into society. Early childhood development programs recognize this danger. Thus, through having appropriate curricula, preschools nowadays seek to nurture healthy development from the earliest years. (Hanif R. Arrayyan)

Jakarta Globe, March 11, 2009

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