Seeking Out International Values at An Early Age

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AS early years education is a crucial stage to determine the child’s future success intellectually and emotionally, demand for preschool and kindergarten are on the rise. As a result, a variety of preschools offering a range of curricula and approaches have appeared, leaving many parents more choices to select which learning method is best suited to their children.

In meeting the high standards of education, the values of international education have become the fundamental in raising the children. There are now many excellent international schools to choose from. Using English as the language of instruction, many of these schools offer early childhood education programs for children aged three to five.

Among the renowned schools in Jakarta offering the programs are the long-established Jakarta International School (JIS), the British International School (BIS), National Montessori and Hope For Kids Bilingual Preschool.

The Jakarta International School (JIS) offers early childhood programs for children at young age in a safe and nurturing environment. The programs are designed in accordance with The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool, a comprehensive childhood education system that has long been known for its effectiveness in promoting the cognitive, physical, social, emotional and language development of preschoolers worldwide.

As play is the most relevant context for young children, early childhood programs at JIS emphasize on play-based learning activities. Guided by skilled teachers and using various interactive teaching materials, the programs take students into developing their full potential. Furthermore, the school’s kindergarten program provides the transition from preschool in ways of honing their maximum potential and strengthening the skills needed for success in the later grades.

Having students coming from distinct families and cultural backgrounds, JIS seeks to nurture international values to its students through the school’s integrated approach aimed to promote the intellectual, linguistic, physical, social, emotional and aesthetic development.

Situated in two South Jakarta’s locations, Pondok Indah and Bintaro, the British International School (BIS) Preschool/Intelli-Tots recognizes each child is a unique individual as the school provides what each child needs through a closer individual approach.

“Every child is different at each stage of his or her development and therefore has different needs,” BIS principal and CEO Peter Derby-Crook said adding, “At BIS, there are six areas of development that construct an activity based curriculum potential to develop children’s multi-sensory and kinesthetic.”

The six areas are Language Development, Creative Development, Mathematical Development, Physical Development, Personal Social and Emotional Development and Knowledge and Understanding of the World.

Young children are active learners as they gain their knowledge and operate their motoric skills through their first-hand experiences. “So, it is important that a good school inculcate in its students positive international values. Knowledge, concepts and skills alone do not make an internationally minded person. So, universal values such as integrity, respect, responsibility and empathy should be included in preschool’s curriculum,” Peter added.

According to the theory of the late Dr Maria Montessori, the founder of Montessori system, “All children have the universal characteristics of childhood regardless of where they were born or how they were brought up.”

Having such universal character, a child is different from an adult in the way he or she learns. This is what Dr Montessori called an ‘absorbent mind’, where the child can learn and pick up the knowledge expeditiously. Starting from absorbing surrounded objects, the child will easily get into the sense of consciousnesses.

Furthermore, a child at a Montessori school could be taught by experience about safety as early as toddlers. Using games and activities, a teacher can help his or her school mates how to be aware with hot pans and kettles, electric appliance, and so on. In other words, Montessori method teaches children to develop the self-discipline they need to avoid problems that they are likely to encounter later in their independent life.

Dr Montessori also discovered that children aged 3 to 6 are potential to acquire sufficient knowledge of the world. A child during these ages has a mind like an empty tank, where it can be gradually filled up, as he or she develops better self-awareness of his or her surroundings.

Jakarta Montessori School is among the Montessori schools worldwide. In addition, there are a number of international curriculum schools across the world including those in Indonesia adapt the Montessori system as the system helps children develop creativity, problem solving, social and time management skills.

Also, the school’s interactive learning and teaching approach includes a number of activities that contribute to learning the language such as phonics, the sandpaper letters and the moveable alphabet. Such fun activities are very important in stimulating children to enjoy learning to read and write.

Jenti Martono, the principal and academic manager at Hope For Kids bilingual preschool, raised her concern that in spite of splendid programs a school has to offer, parents play a big role in raising children. It is getting more common nowadays, however, that both the father and mother work. Consequently, 50 percent to 75 percent of the time which should ideally be spent with their children, instead sees them substituted by nannies or maids. In many cases, though not always, these nannies or maids have significant influence in a child’s growth.

“The concern is that a child may pick up plenty of knowledge and skills from school, but his or her nanny or maid may not be able to support the child’s intellectual and spiritual growth,” Jenti averred.

Using both English and Bahasa Indonesia as the language of instruction, Hope For Kids has since July 2007 provided Caregiver Class Program for nannies and maids covering subjects such as English, Mandarin, basic childhood development, embroidering, handicraft and knowledge of hygiene and sanitation.

“We need to educate both the parents and nannies that their roles, being closest to the children, are just as important as the schooling children receive. The behavior of both parents and nannies has an enormous influence on children since they are very good at imitating what they see,” she concluded. “Educating nannies to have such awareness, therefore, can help in child development.” (Aulia R. Sungkar)

Jakarta Globe, March 11, 2009

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