In the first part of this article, we viewed the three well-known early childhood learning methodologies -- Montessori, Reggio Emilia and Waldorf. This second part of our article will cover the more recently developed methods and systems, which you may hear during your many site visits to find a suitable kindergarten for your child.
In Malaysia, all kindergartens, except preschools operating under international schools, are required to follow the National Preschool Curriculum (NPC) implemented in 2003 by the Ministry of Education, which, the report states, “promotes the holistic intellectual, languages, social, art and creativity, psychomotor, cognitive and spiritual development of the children”.
The NPC lists four approaches of preschool teaching and learning: learning through play, thematic approach, integrated approach, and information technology and communication. However, these approaches are broad and kindergartens have the flexibility to use any teaching methods they wish as long as they fulfil the guidelines of the NPC, among which are: the Malay language to be taught at least two hours a week in preschools not using Malay as the main language, and at least two hours a week of Islamic education for Muslim children and moral education for non-Muslim children.
Teaching methods used by a kindergarten usually depend on how the kindergarten operates. Kindergartens in Malaysia can be stand-alones using their own teaching methods; franchisees that follow the methods used by the franchisor; or kindergartens that purchase ready-made systems, which come together with the syllabus, workbooks and lesson plans. Here are some names you may hear during your site visits to find a suitable kindergarten for your child.
Thematic Approach – an integrated approach to learning
The thematic approach, which the NPC mentions, is a way of teaching and learning whereby many areas of the curriculum are connected together and integrated within a theme. It allows learning to be more natural as it guides connected ideas to follow on easily, and is a favourite with teachers as well as children.
The theme can be transportation for the next few days or until the teacher feels that the children can move on, then pets or plants, etc. The beauty of the thematic approach is that cognitive skills such as reading, thinking, memorising and writing are put together in a central theme that allows for real life situations and creative exploration. For example, the theme of transportation can help your child explore concepts such as motion (cars, trains), buoyancy (boats, ships), safety (safety belts in cars) and take part in activities such as craftwork (sticking on words and pictures of cars on a “road” drawn on the whiteboard) and drawing (guided drawing around cardboard cut-outs of a car).
The way the thematic approach works in creating connections is believed to be the best way for a child to learn. Learning is also more effective and efficient when the subject taught is directly associated to real life examples. All these are supported by research on how the brain works and how human beings learn. Ultimately, the use of this approach may help your child achieve higher levels of learning.
Multiple Intelligences – 8 different potential pathways to learning
Some kindergartens in Malaysia have adopted the theory of Multi Intelligences, which was developed about 30 years ago by Dr Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University. Dr Gardner suggests that the traditional notion of intelligence based on I.Q. testing and examinations is far too limited and has proposed six other types of intelligence in addition to the linguistic (verbal) and logical-mathematical (reasoning, numbers) intelligences that schools have traditionally focused on. The six types are:
• Spatial (i.e. picture smart)
• Bodily-kinesthetic (i.e. body smart)
• Musical (i.e. music smart)
• Interpersonal (i.e. people smart)
• Intrapersonal (i.e. self smart)
• Naturalist (i.e. nature smart)
This theory may explain why children who show potential in these other intelligences may not have received much recognition in school and may even end up being labeled as under-achievers or, worse, as having attention deficit disorder -- just because their unique way of learning is not addressed in the classroom. It could also mean that when our child is slow in learning, he/she may not be learning in the way that best suits him/her.
Today, more and more educators are adopting the theory of Multiple Intelligences and have found that it actually provides eight different potential pathways to learning. If a child is having difficulty learning in the more traditional linguistic or logical-mathematical ways of teaching, the theory suggests that there several other ways in which the material might be presented to facilitate effective learning.
Kindergartens that recognise this concept will use several ways to address the different intelligences. They may use, for example, word games, rhyme recitation, storytelling, numbers, pictures, music, role play, inner reflection, a physical experience, a social experience, or/and an experience in the natural world, so that each child has the opportunity to learn in ways harmonious with their unique minds.
For more information on this theory, go to:
Accelerated Learning Method – a preferred learning style
There are also kindergartens that use the Accelerated Learning Method, the techniques of which were first propounded by Colin Rose in his landmark book Accelerated Learning in 1983. Rose had incorporated the work of Dr Howard Gardner on Multiple Intelligences and that of more than 100 other educational researchers to develop his techniques – which, incidentally, have also been incorporated into the human resource training of many Fortune 500 companies.
The method is based on the concept that each child has a preferred learning style -- a way of learning that suits him/her best. Some children are more visual, others more auditory, and others are more physical (more ‘hands-on’) and when the way the child is taught closely matches the way he/she likes to learn, the time taken to learn is reduced -- hence the name Accelerated Learning.
The kindergartens that have introduced the Accelerated Learning Method in their teaching syllabus say that it also helps children develop the full range of their intelligences when they are provided a variety of learning activities which encompass all of the intelligences.
For more information (and to find out your personal learning style), go to:
The Victoria Readers – a reading system based on the phonetic system
If you want to make sure that your child learns to read in kindergarten, you have to check whether the kindergarten focuses only on pre-reading skills or emphasises on actually teaching the child to read. A number of kindergartens which take the stand that reading must be taught explicitly and systematically use The Victoria Readers programme, a systematic reading system based on the phonetic system, which is supposed to teach a child to read and spell in the shortest time possible. The system was developed by Victoria Wong, an English language teacher, about 20 years ago.
At Level 1, the child learns to read three letter words with a vowel in the medial position and simple sentence structures. At Level 2, the child learns to combine a vowel with consonant blends (“voiced” combinations of two consonants, e.g. fl, bl, sl) and simple sentence structures. At Level 3, the child learns to read diagraph (“voiceless” combinations of two consonants, e.g. ch, th, wh), new sentence structures and simple comprehension passages. At Level 4, the child learns to read diphthongs (a sound made by combining two vowels), and new sentence structures. The child then reads short stories to expand his vocabulary.
For more information, you can go to:
Orff-Schulwerk Approach - integration of music, movement, speech, drama
There are kindergartens that offer the Orff-Schulwerk Kids programme as part of their syllabus. The Orff-Schulwerk approach was developed to build musicianship in every child through the integration of music, movement, speech, and drama. If you wish to stimulate the potential musical abilities of your ready-for-kindergarten child, this is actually the best time to do so as a child’s sense of hearing is said to develop most rapidly between the ages of 3 to 8 and creativity between the ages of 0 to 5.
As children’s fine motor skills are not yet well-developed, Orff Schulwerk has designed a special group of teaching aids and instruments such as xylophone and metallaphone, which suit a child’s capabilities. Children can improvise freely and explore their creativity without being restricted by their physical development.
Lessons are presented with an element of play, helping children to learn at their own level of understanding. After that imitation, experimentation, and personal expression will occur naturally as they become confident, life-long musicians. It is only much later that technique and theory come in. Outside of music, the Orff-Schulwerk programme has been shown to improve perceptual functioning, concept formation, concentration, motor skills, and performance in other academic areas such as reading and mathematics.
For more information on the Orff-Schulwerk Kids programme, check out
It is hoped that the above information has helped you to see how early childhood education has developed over the years in Malaysia. Its scope has vastly expanded and so has its potential for making a difference in the life of your child. Whatever kindergarten you ultimately decide upon, at least it will be a decision based on an understanding of teaching methods used and a parent's unique intuition as to what is best for your child.
Read Part 1: