Preschools aim to enhance basic skills
EARLY EDUCATION HAS DEVELOPED TO MORE THAN JUST AN OUTDOOR PLAYGROUND.
Parents enroll their children in preschools, toddler classes and other baby programs, sometimes starting from as young as six months old with the hopes of putting in place the basics for their elementary and secondary education down the road.
According to UNICEF, gross enrollment ratios in pre-primary education in Indonesia last year reached 46 percent. This shows the growing concern and awareness of today’s parents for their children’s education. As during their own childhood, these parents didn’t experience the same type or early education, they feel the urge to start sending children to school from an early age.
Laksmy, a mother of two who lives in Bintaro, enrolled both her children in school at the age of two. She is concerned about her children’s social skills because she and her husband are both working and the kids are left with maids. “We live in a neighborhood where kids don’t go out and play in the park. So my children don’t have friends.”
But she admits that, as a new parent, she was clueless about preschool enrollment. “Most of my friends enrolled their children at 2 years old, so I followed their lead.”
Child psychologist Ine Indriani M.Psi said that preschool was not part of the 12-year compulsory education program. “But preschool can have a positive affect for those living in big cities where people usually don’t know their neighbors and children are under-stimulated. Pre-school can be a great place to learn basic concepts like left and right.”
Still, parents need to watch out to make sure that their children are ready for school. “Parents can see if the child is happy and excited to go to school. Don’t force them to go if they’re not ready because it can be a traumatizing experience for the children. Children aged zero to five need plenty of play time.”
Laksmy recalls that her oldest, Alban, started at a nature-based school, otherwise known as sekolah alam.
“When we decided to enroll Alban, he was more than ready for school skill-wise and attitude-wise, so regular preschool may not have been of much use. We were hoping he could learn something new. That’s why we decided to sign up for a sekolah alam with a religious bent. There he can learn to the proper praying rituals as well as channeling his boundless energy.”
THE RIGHT STIMULI
But her second child, Binnar, is totally different. “She had yet to talk when I enrolled her at preschool this year. She also has some problems expressing her emotions. So when I enrolled her in preschool, I expected her to be able to socialize with other children.” So far, it’s only been a few months and Binnar has seemed to improve.
“She used to hit people if she didn’t like how things were done. Now she’s a little calmer. She also seems to understand the concept of ‘waiting’, which is a great relief for the whole family,” Laksmy shared.
As for which school to choose, Laksmy said she depended on the Internet for information. She started searching for preschools near her house and attended trials and open houses.
Ine suggested parents do the same before signing their children up for anything. “First, find the one school your child is comfortable with and look for preschools with loving teachers. Preschool teachers shouldn’t be judging kids as naughty, and they should have enough knowledge and passion to help children develop. Then look at the curriculum. Preschool should be about playtime and not learning how to master reading or counting,” said Ine.
Both of Lakmy’s children are currently enrolled in a private preschool, and she is hoping they can score a seat in its elementary school.
“I like the system in that school and I hope both my children can enroll there for elementary education. That’s why, aside from the location, I chose the school because I want to continue to their elementary school. If you’re enrolling since kindergarten, you have a greater chance of being accepted.”
From educators’ perspective, preschools are getting more attention. Ruth Maureen, the principal of Sekolah Cita Persada in Cinere, Depok, believes that preschool plays an important role in preparing children for further education because learning starts as soon as the child is born.
“It is very beneficial to give children the right stimuli for them to be able to maximize their potential along with providing a supportive and appropriate learning environment.”
Sekolah Cita Persada applies a creative curriculum at its preschool, focusing on the social, emotional, cognitive and physical aspects of education. They also teach young children the skills of problem solving and the ability to connect what they learn at school with what they see in the real world.
Maureen suggested parents become actively involved in their children’s education, especially when they are very young.
“The children will benefit if they are sent to the right place where the right stimulation is given and the right environment is prepared for the children.” (