As your little one’s first step into the outside world, preschool research and selection can be daunting. With a multitude of teaching styles, cost and location restrictions, and of course, your kid’s needs, there are tons of things to consider. There may not be one best option, but this handy guide will help you through all the steps to make the best choice for your child.
What is preschool?
Preschool, as the name suggests, is a space for your child to learn and develop before they begin their formal education. While not mandatory, there are several benefits of early childhood education, including increased cognitive development and improved behavior.
Your tots can interact with their peers and adults; a great opportunity for them to develop their social skills. In addition, through the use of play and informal education, preschools build essential skills such as speaking and listening, creative abilities, and mathematical awareness.
Preschool caters primarily to children from 2-6 years of age, but the requirement for each preschool differs. Also, some preschools are not held every day, and of course, they have shorter hours than a school or kindergarten.
As with all educational institutes in Hong Kong, getting into preschool is also highly competitive. There are long waiting lists, so you should apply as soon as possible to ensure your child’s attendance at the school of your choice.
How to choose a preschool
Given the overabundance of information and extensive choices, choosing a preschool can be not only overwhelming but even scary! To find the ideal fit for you and your child’s needs, you first need to consider these three factors.
- Location: You ideally want the preschool to be close to your home or work in order to ensure you’re able to drop and pick them up with ease. While Hong Kong is not huge, you might not want to be traipsing to the Kowloon side every day if you live on Hong Kong Island.
- Budget: Preschool costs vary substantially dependent on each school, location, and time. Annual fees can range from HK$40,000 to over HK$16o,000. On top of this, there are often extra fees or costs such as application, stationary, or special outing fees. Therefore, it is essential to keep your budget in mind, and while we want the world for our kids, their preschool doesn’t need to cost us the world.
- Time and Schedule: Most preschools run for 10 or 11 months out of the year and offer both morning and afternoon schedules.
School structure and the right approach in Hong Kong
While there are several teaching and learning approaches practiced at different preschools around the world, the catch is finding the right one for you and your family. In Hong Kong, some prevalent methodologies include the following:
Montessori is a student-centered approach that emphasizes the importance of independence. With a multi-age classroom, your child will develop their social skills first by emulating, collaborating with, and helping their peers. Their hallmark “work cycle” is a time of free exploration and self-paced learning, growing your child’s curiosity and capabilities. With qualified teachers who guide rather than direct, Montessori preschools create a close, caring community where your child feels valued as an individual.
Waldorf preschools follow the goal of creating a system that allows children to immerse themselves in practical activities and imaginative play. A key feature is predictable rhythms and routines, which help provide a sense of security. In addition, your child is offered opportunities for self-initiated play, and there is a strong emphasis on artistic activities and meaningful, practical tasks. This holistic development model is a true delight for the most creative and curious kids.
The Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum drives learning and development through individualized attention, positive relationships, and enabling environments. Utilizing 1) play and exploration, 2) active learning, and 3) creating and critical thinking, your child will be nurtured in specific areas of knowledge, including literacy, mathematics, understanding the world, and expressive arts and design. The EYFS is the ideal preparation for your child’s future education and success.
What to look for during your visit?
Visiting potential preschools is essential in the selection process. Not only will you have the opportunity to see the facilities and resources, but you will also be able to speak to the teachers and clarify your questions. It is also deeply beneficial to witness the children going about their days in order to gauge their happiness, safety, and motivation, as you would desire the same for your own child.
“When evaluating the facilities, some key things to look out for are the general safety and condition of the room and outside play areas. You can also request to observe the classroom in action, as watching how the children and teachers interact can also give you a ton of information. The student-to-teacher ratio is another essential aspect; the ideal ratio is two teachers for a classroom of twelve children. And of course, lots of toys and playthings are always a good sign!” says Mr. Suria from Tutor Time, which offers five kindergartens and preschools in Hong Kong.
You can also request to speak further with the teachers or administrators to ask questions and clarify any concerns. Questions such as ‘What is a typical day like?’, ‘How are children corrected?’, ‘What are the key learning outcomes for a year?’, and ‘How often do they go on field trips?’ can help paint a clearer picture and thus make the choice a lot easier.
Ultimately, choosing a preschool is about your child’s happiness. While academics are, of course, important, you want to pick a place where your child can discover their love of learning and have fun while developing socially and emotionally. So follow our guidelines and, most importantly, your heart, and watch your child embark on their very first journey.