The one thing that has changed in Malaysia in terms of education over the past 30 years is – choice. Back then, we went to a kindergarten where we learnt nursery rhymes, leant our ABCs and numbers, listened raptly as our teachers told us stories and waited for break time when we could play freely with our friends. Today, teaching methodologies have changed tremendously with pre-schools offering various different curriculums for parents of today to pick from. It can get quite confusing when you are faced with so many choices. Let’s look at some of the teaching methodologies available in Malaysian pre-schools.
The Montessori Method is guided by two important development requirements for children, namely the need for freedom within limits and a well prepared environment where careful thoughts have been put in to guarantee a child the perfect amount of exposure to experiences and materials. The child develops his intelligence and abilities, both physical and psychological through these development needs. The Montessori Method of education takes advantage of a child’s natural desire to learn and develops their capabilities at their own pace in a perfect environment
In the Montessori environment, children are respected as much as an adult is. Teachers here are required to undergo a Montessori Education diploma. Children are given the freedom to pick activities to learn from. Each activity they pick teaches them a great big skill needed in their lives; from reading to writing, from counting to adding, from hooking up buttons to tying up show laces, from washing his plate to putting his clothes away. Real life skills are blended well with academic skills in this warm environment.
The traditional method of preschool education focuses on a curriculum developed by the preschool itself. It may not have the elements of the Montessori Method where children are exposed to learning practical lessons for life, but it does focus on academics that a child will need for his Primary School entrance. Teachers here are trained to ensure that children learn how to count, read and write. They also have structured lessons based on story telling, art and crafts and a good play routine. Discipline in the traditional method of pre-school education is a little bit different form the Montessori Method. Where children are given free choice in a Montessori environment, in the traditional method pre-school children are required to follow a pre-set curriculum.
The Waldorf method is one you may not find mushrooming everywhere simply because each of its schools and teachers must be Waldorf certified. Another play-based approach that has a structure that is predictable, it engages children with a dependable routine. Activities like baking and gardening are implemented in the curriculum. Classrooms usually have kids of different ages and the emphasis in this method of teaching is on creative learning, reading, acting and singing. What makes this method different is their stand against the traditional method of grading and the absence of media in their entire curriculum. This includes computers and electronics. Their curriculum does not include any academics either – no handouts, worksheets, homework, tests and exams. Children here spend a lot of time outdoors and only read how to read in Grade 1.
International Schools have a very different methodology when it comes to pre-school education. In Malaysia, we have British, American and Australian International Schools. These schools have their own different curriculums for the Primary Years. They all have a pre-requisite for students who are entering Year 1. They thus have their own set curriculums for their pre-school departments too. If you are positively sure that your child will be attending these schools, it is a good idea for them to spend at least a year in these pre-schools so that their transition to Primary 1 is easier.
Whichever method you pick, the most important thing a pre-school should posses is a set of qualified, experienced and motivated teachers who will nurture your children during their crucial and tender years.