Foun­da­tions for the mod­ern child

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - BRIGHT KIDS -

At Nexus, for ex­am­ple, the IPC is com­bined with the Prob­lem Solv­ing ( Math­e­mat­ics) and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion ( Lit­er­acy) strands of the EYFS.

“We chose the IPC as we be­lieve learn­ing hap­pens when de­vel­op­men­tally ap­pro­pri­ate ex­pe­ri­ences are planned for and scaf­folded by ex­pe­ri­enced teach­ers. The com­bi­na­tion of the best of IPC and EYFS al­lows us to en­sure that learn­ers are chal­lenged so­cially, emo­tion­ally and aca­dem­i­cally,” says Ed­wards.

The Montes­sori ap­proach was brought to Malaysia al­most 30 years ago by Nan Civel, founder of The chil­dren’s house preschool chain.

Char­ac­terised by in­di­vid­ual learn­ing and de­vel­op­ment through free­dom within lim­its, this method shifted the role of teach­ers from in­struc­tors to fa­cil­i­ta­tors in the class­room.

The ap­proach recog­nises that chil­dren have their own mile­stones and must be given space in the right en­vi­ron­ment with tools and ma­te­ri­als that help them achieve th­ese.

Be­sides The chil­dren’s house, preschools such as Brainy Bunch In­ter­na­tional Is­lamic Montes­sori and Mod­ern Montes­sori In­ter­na­tional ap­ply this unique preschool de­sign.

This phi­los­o­phy has in­spired the Reg­gio Emilia method, which is named af­ter the Ital­ian town in which it orig­i­nated.

It is adapted at Odyssey, The Global Preschool, where chil­dren are en­cour­aged to be in­volved and im­mersed in learn­ing by en­gag­ing, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing and ma­nip­u­lat­ing with their hands.

Pa­trick Ter­ence Lim, pro­gramme spe­cial­ist at Odyssey, says that the montes­sori method de­vel­ops chil­dren to be cu­ri­ous, par­tic­i­pa­tive and in­ter­ested by in­volv­ing them in the plan­ning process, the en­gag­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and cre­ative ex­pres­sions.

“For ex­am­ple, our Lit­tle Chef lessons help to make math­e­mat­i­cal con­cepts and sci­en­tific skills more ap­pli­ca­ble to chil­dren – as they mix in­gre­di­ents they mea­sure and ap­ply heat to dough they cre­ate, they learn to build on skills and con­cepts in ev­ery­day sit­u­a­tions. Learn­ing in con­text is the key to learn­ing in chil­dren,” he says.

There are also other play- based meth­ods that nur­ture skills through sen­sory ac­tiv­i­ties such as the Bea­con­house and Wal­dorf ap­proaches.

In the 2013 study Preschool Education in Malaysia: Emerg­ing Trends and Im­pli­ca­tions for the Fu­ture, an up­ward trend was ob­served among par­ents opt­ing for pri­vate and in­ter­na­tional fa­cil­i­ties for their child’s first years of education.

At this stage, the Na­tional Preschool Cur­ricu­lum em­pha­sises com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, so­cial skills and other skills to pre­pare them for for­mal education be­gin­ning in pri­mary school.

In th­ese early years, learn­ing takes on a very fluid mean­ing as chil­dren are not yet in­volved in for­mal education.

Sev­eral cir­cum­stances af­fect par­ents’ de­ci­sion on when and where to en­rol their young ones in preschool, in­clud­ing the skills or ex­pe­ri­ences they want their chil­dren to pick up.

For ex­am­ple, there are cen­tres with lan­guage im­mer­sion cour­ses for chil­dren to learn a lan­guage such as Ba­hasa Malaysia or Man­darin while they are in the prime pe­riod for lan­guage ac­qui­si­tion.

In re­cent times, religious preschools ( par­tic­u­larly Is­lamic in Mus­lim- ma­jor­ity Malaysia) that fo­cus on fun­da­men­tal teach­ings and val­ues have also cropped up to cater to par­ents who want faith education in­cor­po­rated in their child’s early years.

Is­lamic preschools such as Ge­nius Au­lad and Nuh’s Ark Is­lamic Montes­sori, for in­stance, of­fer Ara­bic and Qu­ranic lessons. ex­pos­ing him to so­cial norms, cues and in­ter­ac­tions.

Two months into his time at kinder­garten, Nitha says her son is not only min­gling with oth­ers his age, but also learn­ing how to be more con­sid­er­ate of oth­ers.

“There were some things that were harder to teach an only child at home, such as wait­ing for his turn in a queue or sit­ting down with ev­ery­one else for a fuss- free meal.

“At school with other chil­dren, he is learn­ing to make friends and be more un­der­stand­ing,” she says.

The pri­or­i­ties and ob­jec­tives of preschool education are def­i­nitely evolv­ing to match cur­rent needs, which Lim says is im­por­tant for 21st cen­tury chil­dren.

“Chil­dren th­ese days are bom­barded with an im­bal­ance of vis­ual stim­u­la­tion via mo­bile devices over the de­vel­op­ment of other aspects such as phys­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, prob­lem- solv­ing skills, so­cial in­ter­ac­tions and ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion, which are sorely ne­glected,” he says, im­ply­ing the ne­ces­sity of hand­son ex­pe­ri­ences that en­gage chil­dren to think, rea­son, in­ter­act, com­mu­ni­cate and ne­go­ti­ate.

“We are pre­par­ing chil­dren for a fu­ture we know lit­tle about, thus in­still­ing the dis­po­si­tions and at­tributes of self- mo­ti­vated life­long learn­ers is in­te­gral.”

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