Good Schools Guide

Parents seek best fit for children at Kindergartens Festival

Adults get advice to help them navigate confusion of finding ‘right’ kindergarten at the SCMP Kindergartens Festival (Kowloon)

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 2:47pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 2:49pm

Parents seeking to provide their pre-primary school children with the best early-learning foundation are naturally anxious about choosing the “right” kindergarten or preschool but, with a range of choices available in Hong Kong, choosing a kindergarten that matches children’s needs and parent’s expectations can be confusing.

Education experts at the recent South China Morning Post Kindergartens Festival, said the key to selecting the “right” kindergarten was going into the process prepared.

Among the things parents should pay attention to are language of instruction, what type and how much, if any, homework is expected, focus on learning through play or teacher-led learning and ensuring a kindergarten offers an environment where a child will be happy and be absorbed into the joy of learning. Parents were reminded that what works for one child might not work for another.

Held at the Cordis Hotel on Saturday, May 26, with strategic partner, Top Schools Hong Kong, and media partner Whizpa, the Kindergartens Festival (Kowloon) brought together families, principals and representatives from kindergartens that spoke about their education programmes and provided advice to help parents make informed decisions about choosing a best-fit kindergarten for their kids.

Joanne Lui, marketing manager at Woodlands Pre-Schools, said the SCMP Kindergartens Festival provided a convenient platform where parents, including many first-time and soon-to-be parents, could ask about different curriculums and how they are delivered.

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Lui said parents were able to ask the Woodlands teaching team questions about the difference between a Montessori education, which places emphasis on children self-directing their own learning, supplemented by teachers, or traditional, group-based teaching methods with an emphasis on teacher-led learning. Offering preschool and kindergarten programmes to children aged six months to six years, Woodlands Pre-Schools has seven facilities offering traditional education and two offering the Montessori system.

Featuring three information sessions delivered by principals and vice-principals of leading Hong Kong schools, the Kindergartens Festival also featured two panel discussions with prominent speakers from Hong Kong’s international education community and the city’s innovation and technology sector.

Speaking on a panel discussing “Raising Little Thinkers” moderated by Sophia Lam, SCMP assistant education editor, Yat Siu, founder and CEO of Outblaze, a digital services and solutions company, suggested that children need to be provided with multiple experiences from an early age to enable them to learn and explore. “We should be preparing our children so they can identify problems they want to solve, instead of working towards a traditional career,” Siu suggested.

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Fellow panellists Joanne Mallary, assistant principal, America School Hong Kong, and Dr Helen Kelly, lower school principal, Canadian International School of Hong Kong, cautioned that instead of stimulating the minds of young learners, over-scheduling their agendas, with additional programmes to their kindergarten lessons, could stifle their enthusiasm for learning. “Children are naturally curious and need to have some free time to explore the things they find interesting by themselves,” Mallary recommended.

Focusing on the transition from kindergarten to primary school, during a panel discussion moderated by Ruth Benny, founder of Top Schools Hong Kong, education professionals Gazel Razavi, principal of EtonHouse International Pre-School Hong Kong; David Sheehan, head of pastoral care, Nord Anglia International School Hong Kong; and Larry Leaven, founding principal, Dalton School of Hong Kong, stressed the importance of parents supporting their children through the adjustment period. At the same time, they said children should be allowed to take the first steps towards independence.

“Transition is a process that takes time and is different for every child,” noted Leaven who also advised that giving a child time to play – the pathway to self-discovery – is important to ensuring a smooth transition process.

According to Brian Cooklin, principal, Nord Anglia International School Hong Kong, it is never too early to start preparing today’s young learners for future success in an ever-changing world.

Cooklin said the Kindergartens Festival provided an opportunity to explain to parents how the performing arts and sports are as important to a child’s well-being and holistic education as academic studies. “We want children to not simply imagine a world of infinite possibilities, but to be ready and eager to take advantage of a world of infinite possibilities,” Cooklin said.

Meanwhile, Bernita Teixeira, a native English teacher at ABC Pathways, said a number of parents attending the festivals were surprised to discover that ABC Pathways offers trilingual English, Cantonese and Mandarin early-learning programmes. “For a lot of parents the attraction of being able to provide their children with a trilingual education widens the options when it comes to choosing a primary school,” Teixeira said.