The school year has come to a close and some of you might be considering enrolling your kids in some enrichment classes for the coming year. I thought I’d share with you 5 key points I look out for when I choose pre-school enrichment classes and also an enrichment centre that I’ve recently discovered which offers quality classes for pre-schoolers. I mean, they’ve been like around for a long, long while now and we associate it with learning British English (get the hint?) and there’s even free trial classes coming up soon – but more on that later.
Choosing pre-school enrichment classes – what to look out for
1. Professional, trained staff who can connect with kids
I think we all agree that when we choose to send our kids for enrichment classes, we’d expect that the teachers are professional and trained. I mean, if not, we could jolly well do it ourselves. But what usually makes me pay more attention to an enrichment centre is how well the teachers connect with the children. And those are the ones who will usually stand the test of time.
2. Good teacher-student ratio
Since we’re paying for these extra classes, I would expect a good teacher-student ratio so that my kid can get the attention to progress faster, in whatever field it is. I think this is especially crucial for pre-schoolers because they definitely need a lot more guidance and teaching compared to older children. I’d say probably not more than 10 students to 1 teacher would be good.
3. Well structured/ thought-out curriculum
When I visit any enrichment centre that I’m interested in, I’d always ask to look at their curriculum. Some things don’t ever get out of my system even though I’ve left the education service I guess. But I think it’s a reasonable request to ask for the curriculum to see if it suits what you’re looking for, and whether it actually covers what you want for your child.
4. Adopts a multi-sensory approach
Even for older children, I think it’s useful to adopt a multi-sensory approach. I mean even at tertiary level, I was far more engaged in a lesson if the teacher incorporated various approaches instead of expecting me to stay in my seat for the duration of the class. I’m not a particularly kinaesthetic learner but I do appreciate having the opportunity to not be stuck in a chair or on the floor for prolonged periods of time. And for a pre-schooler, prolonged periods of time could mean 15 minutes, so it’s a must to find out more about the structure of the lesson when you’re checking out an enrichment centre.
5. Builds confidence
While most of us actually send our kids for enrichment to learn something new or to enhance learning of a particular subject, I think it’s important that the enrichment class helps to build the child’s confidence over time. After all, enrichment class serves to ‘enrich’ the child’s life and I see character development as key to success in other pursuits in future.
I visited British Council’s Marsiling Centre recently to find out more about the enrichment programmes, in particular the pre-school enrichment programmes and had a chat with Sarah Mills, Head of Preschool, so I could share more about their programme with you.
I’ve always thought that British Council only offers classes for older students but apparently in recent years due to popular demand, they have opened up enrichment classes for the pre-school level as well.
If you’re wondering how the enrichment classes at British Council compare to others, you’d be glad to know that you can do the comparison yourself by having your children attend FREE trial classes during their Open House which is coming up soon (details at the end of the post) at all four centres.
You may remember that I’ve reviewed their daily 3-hour Preschool programme that was launched this year at only the Tampines centre. These once-a-week enrichment lessons, however, are available at ALL four centres throughout the island and cater to a range of students from the ages of 4 to the age of 18. These weekly enrichment courses address the various concerns of students at different ages. For example, the enrichment courses for pre-school children will focus on Phonics, Literacy, Creative Writing, confidence building, to help them get ready for Primary school. The enrichment courses for Primary, Secondary and JC students focus on teaching the skills and knowledge to help them achieve exam success and prepare for the key examinations such as the PSLE, O-Levels and A-Levels.
The pre-school enrichment lessons are recommended for students who need additional support and practice with phonics and language development, but of course this is not limited to those who need that extra guidance. I find that having native speakers teach the children at the centres is very beneficial for building the foundation in the language, especially when they are just starting to learn to read.
The British Council Singapore is also committed to inclusion therefore they have a range of academic abilities with the classroom, and you do not need to worry whether there is any sort of ‘ranking’ within the class.
Any prerequisites for attending their pre-school enrichment classes? N2 and K1 are infilled by age, i.e. 3-4 year olds are Nursery 2, 4-5 year olds are K1. For new K2 students (who are not from their existing K1 classes), there is a placement test. This is to ensure the student has the required level of phonics to start the K2 programme rather than to place any judgement on the child. For non-Singaporean students, a simple placement test is done to ensure their language ability is adequate for the Pre-school course.
Since my girl is 6 this year and many parents of 5-6-year-olds are similarly worried about being adequately prepped for P1, I thought I’d find out more about the K2 course. The K2 course at British Council covers a range of skills such as comprehension skills and simple creative writing based on course themes (e.g. Families and Friendship, Sea Creatures) on top of their phonics programme.
There is also a weekly spelling test and practice of simple vocabulary clozes. The K2 course also encourages learner autonomy and fosters classroom routines in preparation for P1.
The Pre-school courses at British Council focus on whole child development in a friendly and safe environment. The classrooms are child-friendly and decorated with the children in mind, well-equipped with interactive white boards,
and the classes are fun, communicative and interactive.
They also believe in the use of a multi-sensory approach to teaching the children as they acknowledge that everyone has different learning styles – this is why they have chosen to use Jolly Phonics system in their curriculum.
The N2 class takes in a maximum of 12 students, while the K1 and K2 classes have a maximum of 16. All classes have a teacher and a teacher assistant so effectively, the teacher-student ratio is 1:6 and 1:8 for N2 and K1/K2 respectively.
The class is 1h 45min, and typically begins with Settling Time where children are allowed to play independently for up to 20 min (the time taken to settle down is longest for the youngest age group, N2). Circle Time is next where children get to share news, do a show and tell, read aloud session and this is where they will get to build up their confidence in speaking to a group, learn turn-taking and listening to others. For the K2s, there will be a spelling test after that. All pre-school classes will then cover the Phonics component followed by an interactive Storytelling session.
As you can see, there is a focus on social development and confidence building apart from academic achievement. But I’d suggest that you don’t take my word for it since preferences for enrichment classes are highly subjective. The best thing you should do is to go ahead to take full advantage of the Free Trial Lessons and Free Parent Workshops that will be available during the Open House at ALL four centres –
|Free Trial Lessons||Free Parent Workshops|
|Stories and Language Games(N2 to K2)||Introduction to British Council Methodology|
|Reading, Vocabulary and Comprehension(P1 to P3)||Early Literacy Skills for Pre-school|
|Get Ahead for PSLE (P4 to P6)||Creative writing, with Duncan Watt|
|Secondary Comprehension Skills||PSLE Skills|
|O-Level Exam Skills||Parenting Skills, with Noreen Boyle|
|Open House Location||Date||Tel|
|Tampines Centre||29 Nov (Sat)||+65 6653 8040|
|Toa Payoh Centre||30 Nov (Sun)||+65 6653 8059|
|Napier Road Centre||06 Dec (Sat)||+65 6653 8046|
|Marsiling Centre||07 Dec (Sun)||+65 6653 8049|
Open House is from 10am to 4pm.
Trial lessons by British Council Pre-school (daily 3-hour programme) are also available only at the Tampines Centre.
More information about the Open House can be found here or call ANY of the four centres to find out more. A more detailed description of the Pre-school enrichment classes can be found on the British Council website.
Disclosure: This is an advertorial. All opinions are mine.