Seeing the Light in the Early Years

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 British International School (BIS), Jakarta Montessori School and Pat’s Schoolhouse.

As play is the most relevant context for young children, early childhood programs at these schools emphasize on play-based learning activities. Guided by skilled teachers and using various interactive teaching materials, their programs in general take students into developing their full potential.

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, children have an inborn motivation to learn. In other words, children learn as they experiment with objects around them. Through interactive participation or self-experimental try, children can learn using their hands to button their shirts. “This connection between the brain and motoric movement has the potential to develop a child to be creative,” Carol Engmann, Jakarta Montessori School’s principal, said.

Jakarta Montessori School (JMS) 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.

Jakarta Montessori School (JMS) is one of the schools that has fostered creativity in its curriculum. In the pursuit of fostering creativity to its young age students, from the age of 18 months to six years, Carol said that there are six development stages these children need to go through – sensitivity to order, language, walking, the social aspects of life, small objects and learning through the senses.

She continued that children, particularly those 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.

Experts will agree that the fundamentals of early human development rely on early childhood programs. 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 proficiency, motor skills, adaptive abilities and social-emotional functioning. These elements 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,” Patricia Koh, a Singaporean expert on early childhood and founder of Pat’s Schoolhouse, remarked.

In line with this, Koh has designed the unique teaching methods at Pat’s Schoolhouse, which ensure the children enjoy learning, starting from the age of one until six. She believes that great success can be achieved by educating through fun in the teaching environment and approach to learning.

One of the best known methods that Pat’s Schoolhouse uses in its learning approach is called 4C celebration. This consists of celebrating Curiosity, Confidence, Creativity and Continuity, which emphasizes children’s need for time and space to enjoy the learning process through experiences.

Koh said that in addition to the 4C, 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.” (Aulia R. Sungkar)  

Jakara Globe, May 08, 2009

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