As your toddler starts getting older you will find yourself looking for good pre-school education. Wherever you are in Sri Lanka, chances are there will be no shortage of preschools. However, there are many systems and you will see that these preschool institutes offer different methods of teaching. You will hear terminology like Montessori, Play School and International Baccalaureate and it might at times get a bit confusing! Especially when it comes to education, you want your child to have the best and you also want to choose the system which will give your child a strong foundation on which he can build his educational career.
If you are looking to choose between these three kinds of preschool education systems, I can tell you that it’s a very personal choice. All three systems have pros and cons and if you ask the parents who send their children to any one of these systems, they will swear by what they have chosen and quite rightly so! As I mentioned earlier, none of these systems can be considered better than the other, they just have different pros and cons.
To help you make a choice between these systems, let’s start first by understanding what these systems are:
Developed by Maria Montessori, the Montessori Preschool Educational System is based on five principals that include: 1. Respect for the child, 2. The absorbent mind, 3. Sensitive periods, 4.Tthe prepared environment, and 5. Auto-education.
The Montessori Method is a somewhat rigid system that is highly academic and promotes self learning. Fundamentally, the Montessori Method believes that the child should be in charge of his learning, not the adult. Learning takes place within a prepared environment with the teacher introducing educational learning equipment when the child is ready. Over decades of experimentation, Dr. Montessori identified an assortment of learning materials that children would be keen to use that would help them learn certain skills such as improve hand strength, distinguish musical tones, shapes of letters, counting. Each process builds up to the next activity and helps develop a child’s skills. The equipment have been carefully designed and are self correcting thereby allowing children to work independent of adults and learn to problem-solve on their own.
Work periods are unstructured and focused on the fact that children can learn independently. Activities are usually scheduled 30 minutes, which is relatively long in ‘child time’ particularly their ability to concentrate for such long periods but this is in fact one of the pros of Montessori, children get used to concentrating and solving or completing a specific activity. The ‘work period’ is followed by 30 minutes of ‘unwind’ activities such as circle time, crafts, snack, outside time, story time etc.
The key pros of the Montessori sytem are that children are taught to be independent – they learn skills on buttoning a shirt, tying up shoe laces and other such activities. The independent and long work periods teach them to concentrate alone and extend their attention span. They further start learning academic concepts such as counting up to 20 and learning the alphabet. For most people however, one fact of Montessori remain ‘confusing’ and that is of course the fact that work periods are multi-age. In a typical work period you will find kids between the ages of 3 and 7 all together in one class. They will share learning equipment and observe and learn from one another.
Play school is a system where children learn everything through play. It is an opportunity for kids to socialise and develop socially along with some learning. As most people believe, a child younger than five years essentially should play. Do not confuse with day care and play school, they are both different. There is some sort of learning that takes place but not as academically rigid or structured as Montessori. Children of certain age groups will have circle time, singing time, craft time, etc, all of which will help them with their gross and motor skills and later help them when they are introduced to academics before entering mainstream school. For many who believe that children will have years and years of academics to go through and that the childhood can be spent with learn through play – play-school is an excellent choice. Also please note that what is taught during playschool is often enough for entrance to mainstream schools.
The International Baccalaureate is an educational system that spans through the school years of your child. The International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IBPYP), is for students aged 3 to 12. The IBPYP focuses not only on the development of the whole child in the classroom but also in the world outside, through other environments where children learn. The IBPYP structure meets children’s academic, social, physical, emotional and cultural needs.
As per the IBPYP curriculum, they encourage their students to have the following personality profile:
As mentioned earlier, no single system can be credited as being better than the other. They all have their pros and cons. When deciding on which system you would like to enroll your child it is best to choose based on your child’s personality and temperament, your expectations of his academic achievement before school as well as your parenting style. There is also an increasing tendency for a lot of preschools to mix the styles of these systems and offer different aspects of them.