How has early years education changed since you started?
Education is like a pendulum. A lot of the time it swings from the traditional to all of a sudden being very progressive – currently I think it’s leaning to a more traditional approach. Additionally, kindergarten is being talked about a lot more, parents want their children to have as much of a head start as possible. Parents seem to be planning right from the word go, sometimes even before the mother’s pregnant! Whereas, in the past, they would look at options when kids were one or two years old.
Early years education is very centred around play. How is this structured?
Play is part of children’s language, so it’s a great way of communicating with them. Take flashcards, for example. If you just go through them, they’ll get bored, but if you put them on the table and get them to match them – make it a game – they’re more motivated.
There are four types of play that we use to engage the children. Firstly, we have free play, where kids can run around and do what they want. Then we have guided play, where they’re encouraged to take part in different activities, like setting up a tea party, which would relate to a book they may have been reading. Then there’s discovery play, where they may be experimenting with light and shadow or something else. Then finally there’s intentional play, which has an objective. You want children to learn something through what they’re playing.
What key things should parents ask and look for when selecting a kindergarten for their child?
Structural things like teacher to student ratio, of course. But other important questions that parents often omit to ask are things like, ‘What sort of role do you expect parents to play?’ and ‘What sort of professional development do you provide for your teachers?’ This is really important. It shows the progression of the school and the development of the staff. Parents may also have something in mind for their child’s education, so asking about the philosophy really helps them to understand if they’re getting the right sort of environment – it’s like a matchmaking service in that way!
Victoria Education Organisation victoria.edu.hk.