Which Pre-school is Best For Your Child?

What are the advantages of sending your child to a nursery or pre-school attached to an international school in Singapore – and where can you find one?
Which Pre-school is Best For Your Child?
By Carli Allan
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Several international schools in Singapore offer pre-school education for children from as young as two months through to five years. But is this right for your child? While these schools attached to all-through campuses will often follow the same curriculum and play-based learning as standalone nurseries and kindergartens, they offer a variety of pros and cons.

Some of Singapore’s largest schools, including Singapore American School and Tanglin Trust School, have opened a pre-school on campus in response to demand from parents. To help create that ‘small school feel’, these schools house their nursery and kindergarten classes in a self-contained early-years’ centre with its own community of classrooms, learning pods and recreational areas. This can offer families the best of both worlds – many of the advantages found in smaller schools with all the benefits of a large, fully-equipped campus.

In the past three years there has been a noticeable increase in the number of international schools opening a nursery and pre-school for children as young as two months.The most recent openings include a nursery at GEMS World Academy (Singapore), which launched Little GEMS for two to three-year-olds in January 2019.

GEMS says: “We were seeing so many mums sitting in the school café with little ones after drop -off or before pick-up. We had the space to open this nursery, so it just made sense.”

By far the largest is the Early Learning Village in Serangoon, which is run jointly by Stamford American International School (SAIS) and Australian International School (AIS). Fondly known as The Village, this 50,000 sq m shared campus has the capacity for 2,100 children aged two months to six years. North London Collegiate School (NLCS) meanwhile will open in 2020 with facilities for children as young as three years.


The pre-school at GESS

Why should I send my pre-schooler to an international school?

Children can benefit from being part of a larger school environment with all the opportunities that an all-through school can offer. These can range from access to sports and arts facilities to after-school activities and bilingual programmes. They often have lessons from specialist subject teams, such as Mandarin, swimming, music, dance and PE, and have access to outstanding facilities that smaller nurseries simply cannot offer.

From a young age, children become familiar with the ‘big’ school surroundings and with the routines and boundaries of a school. For example, they will become a member of the same house as their siblings and get involved in house events from day one.

For families with more than one child, it is convenient to send all children to one school. It can mean automatic enrolment into Year 1 or Grade 1 once the child reaches primary age. And, if the school offers a sibling discount, it can be cheaper too.

Nexus International School (Singapore), an all-through school with more than 1,000 students, has a nursery and kindergarten for three to five-year-olds. Paul Beach, head of primary at Nexus, explains the advantages of sending your child to Nexus’s early years.

“It is not essential but it does make the transition smoother for children when moving from kindergarten to Year 1. They are familiar with the building and the faces they see every day. This familiarity builds their confidence. Also, access to specialist art, music, swimming and PE teachers, as well as the facilities, broaden their experiences in early childhood.

“The main advantage is building the community of the school; some may have an older sibling in another year group, and they take part in our all school events. For example, our Climbathon and house sports days involve our older and our youngest children coming together. Our families really value this.”


The climbing wall for pre-schoolers at Singapore American School

What are the disadvantages?

Attached pre-schools such as the one at Nexus have followed the example of most nurseries by offering flexible timings, as well as weekly and daily options. However, they cannot always match the small class sizes, low teacher:student ratios, and intimacy of a standalone nursery – and they will only offer pre-school childcare during term-time. Also, parents may simply prefer the charm and warmth of a small nursery that has a genuine village feel.

One of the strengths of a standalone pre-school is that it’s easier for children to have that feeling of belonging – and this can be harder to deliver in a school that has hundreds of students as old as 18 years. However, as Paul Beach from Nexus explains, schools work hard to ensure that their youngest students feel settled from day one.

“Parents are very much a part of our school. Parents go into the classroom every morning to settle their child with their teacher, helping put their belongings into the cupboards. They are also invited to learning exhibitions and are often involved in shared experiences with the class.

“Our Early Childhood has its own dedicated space, including play areas and cafeteria. We recognise that learning in Early Childhood is unique and differs to primary school experience as the focus is more nurturing. Nexus only appoints specialised and experienced Early Childhood teachers and classroom assistants. We have 1:6 adult to child ratio to ensure that we are able to offer the right guidance and encouragement children need to lead their learning.”


Nexus has dedicated facilities for its early years

Which school groups have standalone pre-schools?

Parents also have the choice of enrolling their child into a standalone pre-school that is run by an international school group. These standalone pre-schools offers various advantages: students are given priority for admission into primary school; they prepare their students for a smooth transition into ‘big’ school; and students who stay with the same school group have a greater chance of continuity in terms of friends and routine.

EtonHouse has pre-schools in East Coast, Bukit Timah, Central and Sentosa; Stamford American International School runs one half of the Early Learning Village in Serangoon; and, when Brighton College (Singapore) opens in 2020, its youngest students (aged 18 months to five years) will also attend the Early Learning Village.

One World International School (OWIS), which has an all through campus in Jurong, will open a pre-school for children aged three to six years at its new Mountbatten campus in eastern Singapore in January 2020. 

And the White Lodge Education Group, which owns five pre-schools and three childcare centres across Singapore, has partnered with Invictus International School to provide schooling from pre-school through to Year 6. All graduating White Lodge students will receive direct admission into Invictus International School's Dempsey Hill and Sentosa campuses from 2020.


OWIS will open its Mountbatten pre-school campus in January 2020

What are the differences in pre-school curriculum?

In terms of curriculum, parents have a choice at both standalone and ‘attached’ pre-schools. From ages three upwards, most schools will follow the International Baccalaureate Programme (PYP), the UK’s Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS) or a Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum. Most pre-schools will teach Mandarin, but this can range from one lesson per week to a full immersion programme at schools including Canadian International School and Singapore American School.

Which international schools offer a pre-school education?

Before making a decision about which pathway to follow for your pre-schooler, explore your options here. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has rounded up our top 15 international schools in Singapore with a pre-school on campus, with information on everything from facilities to flexible timings, specialist subjects to sibling discounts.

Read on to find pre-schools in your neighbourhood – across Singapore North, Singapore Central, Singapore East and Singapore West.

Next: Which international schools offer a pre-school education in Singapore North?

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