Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The hunt for Ryan's pre-school (Part 2)

Next up on the list - pre-schools with very strong emphasis on Mandarin.  We didn't have to think long before deciding against these pre-schools. The chief reason is that, apart from the Mandarin emphasis, we did not hear many comments about the rest of the curriculum. We are looking for a pre-school that offers a well-rounded experience, so these pre-schools got crossed off our list pretty quickly. Anyway, this is the report.

First target of scrutiny was, what else, Nanyang Kindergarten.  Relatively near our home, it is extremely popular due to its sizeable alumni.  Parents with no ties to the school are attracted to the school for two reasons: first, the exclusive medium of instruction for its nursery years is Mandarin and second, the insanely long queue for a placement (ie. the longer the queue, the more I must make sure I don't miss out).

If you attended Nanyang Kindergarten as a child, or if you live on its doorstep, then I can understand why you want to send your child there. If not, then it is hard to understand why you would want to join the hordes of parents in the neverending queue. It seems that the only "outstanding" trait of the pre-school is its exclusive Mandarin nursery and I am not convinced that this is something that should be so highly coveted.

From my reading on learning languages, I don't think that being taught exclusively in Mandarin in nursery is going to make a huge impact on Ryan unless Mandarin is regularly spoken with him outside of school. Having a non-Mandarin home environment as we do, I would be concerned that my son might be uneasy, scared even, at being plunged into a complete Mandarin environment. Of course he will adjust and adapt, but why would I want to send my son to a Mandarin bootcamp when I can provide him with a less stressful introduction to school life? Although Richard and I recognise the importance of learning the language, we certainly do not intend pre-school to be a way to have Mandarin drilled and tortured into him, whether he likes it or not.

My view is reinforced by my understanding that Nanyang Kindergarten follows a regimental routine, driven by worksheets and results.  This very much reminded me of the typical Chinese high regard for paper qualifications. I would prefer a method where Ryan is given more freedom and is allowed to develop without the stress of being compared against other children. I believe that learning should be a process where the child is himself motivated to learn rather than a situation where he is forced against his will.

Reading the forums, one comment in particular bothered me: the high staff turnover. Apparently, the teachers go through a revolving door and even the principal and the vice-principal left without replacements last year. I would prefer a more stable environment where the teachers and the students form strong bonds and relationships.

Generally, the comments I received were to the effect that Nanyang Kindergarten leaves much to be desired (especially K1 and K2) although Nanyang Primary School is a very good school. Unfortunately, there is no formal affiliation between the two - a child in the kindergarten does not gain automatic admission into the primary school. Having said that, as a parent of a child in the "Nanyang family", you get to attend Nanyang gatherings and functions and can get to know lots of "Nanyang parents", which may better your chances of being selected as a parent volunteer for Nanyang Primary School (oh, the politics of primary school admission in Singapore!).  We have no ambitions to get Ryan into Nanyang Primary School so that put the matter to rest.

I'm sure there are lots of parents who have different and equally valid views and whose children are very happy at Nanyang Kindergarten.  It all boils down to a matter of preference. The long and short of it is that Nanyang Kindergarten is not for us.

Also up for consideration was Newton Kindergarten, also quite near our home. Founded by Newton Life Church, it is also very popular and has a long waitlist. Compared to Nanyang Kindergarten, I hear the students from Newton Kindergarten learn more difficult Chinese characters and have a higher proficiency in the language.  However, as with Nanyang Kindergarten, apart from the Mandarin emphasis, we did not hear many comments about the rest of the curriculum, so there was no firm attraction for us.

The search continues.


vivien said...

Hi Leona

I love reading your blog, it is inspiring me to do more with my three year old at home! i am looking for a preschool for her. Which one is your son ryan attending now?


Pinkie Pirate said...

hi Vivien, thanks for dropping by. Do email me at and we can talk about Ryan's pre-school. :)

Subscribe to our feed



(function (tos) { window.setInterval(function () { tos = (function (t) { return t[0] == 50 ? (parseInt(t[1]) + 1) + ':00' : (t[1] || '0') + ':' + (parseInt(t[0]) + 10); })(tos.split(':').reverse()); window.pageTracker ? pageTracker._trackEvent('Time', 'Log', tos) : _gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Time', 'Log', tos]); }, 10000); })('00');