Now even though there has been regulations set out for nursery programmes, or taska, as they are known in Malaysia, how it thrives also depends on the cultural and social context of Malaysia. Now so far, the demand for nursery programmes in KL is still not there. Children here are still sent to be taken care of by extended families- whereby which, includes aunties, grandmothers, mothers-in-law. Families have yet to come to the stage and practice of sending their new born babies or toddlers to a nursery. It is just not done.
Childcare Centres in Malaysia are registered under the Welfare Department, whereas Kindergartens are registered under the Education Department. Child Care centres in Malaysia are categorised under two, which are home based child care centres (less than 10 children) or institution based centres (more than 10 children).
However, home based child care centres may not be very popular in the city area as far I know. As I have never been to a home based childcare centre, I do not know what kind of services they provide. However, in my knowledge, most parents prefer to send their children to a proper kindergarten, where learning activities are provided. It's more of a "value for money" thing. If the kindergarten does not provide after-school care (or taska services), the parents will send their children to someone who provides nannying services. There is politics that exists between the nannies & taska services, but that's a different subject altogether.
Demand begates supply. As such, daycare programmes (most of it that is), is incorporated to as part of the services that kindergartens offer, and not so much as an independent service by itself. To do so, would be akin to committing economical suicide on oneself, unless it was specifically for that purpose. I am sure there are some, but the ratio of kindergartens to daycares is probably about 100:10, or probably less?
Now, this afternoon, I went to visit a kindergarten that is operated by a classmate of mine. She's in her mid 40s, (if you are wondering). Now, this lady runs about 4 kindergartens, and is on the verge of starting another one.
For her kindergarten, she applied for licences under the Education Act 1996 and also under the Child Care Centres Act 1984. Yup, technically, both licenses have to be applied for.
However, knowing the political situation in Malaysia, the situation is always is always "one eye shut". Many so called kindergartens in Malaysia are unlicensed and not registered. But that is for another story.....
Now I needed to go and observe children in a daycare setting, but to be able to just observe her children who were in the range of 2-4years was more than sufficient. I was actually hoping to see babies in diapers, like how they have in creches, however, that is most likely not something possible yet in this part of the world for a long long time lar!
It took me a while to go and find her kindergarten as it was right smack in the middle of Petaling Jaya, and I got lost and had to drive a few rounds before I could finally reach the place. Heh.
It was a surprise for me, as when I went in, one of the teachers who was teaching one out of the 3 toddler classes happened to also be another classmate of mine (who is doing the same unit as well!). That was such a God-sent miracle! That would just mean we were both on the same line of thought for our assignments, that is!
So after the principal had brought me around the school, I told the principal that I would like to sit in and watch the class.
Now, I shall analyse the toddler area settings based upon some of the criterias mentioned.
Conducive Learning Environment:
I liked the way the settings were done up. Now, the principal is Montessori trained, so you can be sure there is no running away from using that approach in that kindergarten. The Practical Life and Sensorial materials were placed against the wall, and there was a lovely wall display with all the children's work on display.
What I liked about the art display was, for every type of artwork displayed, a note was written there stating the kind of skills that the artwork required/entailed.
The furniture was child sized, and the tables were small enough to accomodate the children moving around.
There was this circle on the ground, where the children and the teacher (or aunties as they are called in Montessori schools) would sit in.
Now, this one of the things I love watching about the class that my classmate taught.
The children and the teacher have such lovely and warm interaction, I could almost melt!
It's not what you would see in a lot of asian schools, "children are seen and not heard", and everything is study, study, study!
The interaction between the teacher and the children was warm and friendly. Even when the child tried to misbehave, the teacher did not raise her voice, but was very firm.
And no, she didn't beat the children (which is exactly my point that most "so-called" teachers in Malaysia tend to do when the children misbehave!). The children were not afraid of her, but enjoyed talking and interacting with each other.
The children were having so much fun just being there. I am sure you would have enjoyed being a toddler in that class as well. I wouldn't want to go to a school where the teacher expected all the children to keep quiet while she herself only talked!! Such a boring class. If I were the child, I would have run outside to play. Nevermind that the teacher started scolding me instead!!
The other thing my classmate mentioned aside to me was the, Show and Tell activity that the students in the west do (meaning the western based activities).Show and Tell is where the child brings something from home or from a visit somewhere, and tells the class where they went or what happened.
Now we don't really have these kind of activities here, but such activities do help the child to feel as part of the classroom. Now only that, it helps them to develop their language skills and self esteem.
My classmate says that she will incorporate such activities into her circle time in future.
Planning- Supporting learning and development
Now I am not sure how many kindergarten teachers keep a reflective journals, but I do. (I have no option in my case). :-P
If one wants to improve in their vocation and profession as a teacher, the skill to be able to evaluate and analyse one's use of teaching strategies, skills and ability to translate/innovate one's knowledge of theories into practical usage is pivotal to improving one's self.
I had the priviledge of being privy to the planning records, (which actually is private & confidential), so most professional staff will not allow anyone access to such records in respect of both the school and the child's privacy.
Now one of the first things I observed was that there was a Nature Table in the classroom. The theme for the lessons was on Ocean Life, and there all these beautiful collections of sea shells, sea creatures, artwork, and all brought by the children themselves. None of it belonged to any of the teachers at all! It was lovely, as it would provide children with a sense of belonging to know that THEY had contributed to the learning/activity of the classroom.
Of course, for the children to be able to contribute materials the class, it is the teacher's role to inform both the child and parents, so that they can participate in their child's learning. I am sure the parents must have enjoyed searching for things with their children (if the parents had done all the work, it doesn't really matter!).
I was observing one toddler class at work. The teacher had had filled an ice-cream container with sand. The children were seated around the circle and one child was searching through the container for what the teacher called "Buried Treasure". It was just so exciting to watch!
My classmate was doing an artwork with her class on Octopus tentacles. Isn't is lovely to see such a thematic curriculum in place?
Another class had their Free Choice activities. Now, for this, the children would take one activity that they have already been taught from the shelf, and the teacher recorded down each activity that the child had done.
Now, if you want to talk about Montessori schools, Free Choice does not mean the teacher simply allows the child to take any activity to do, and the teacher goes and do her own thing. The teacher has to record down whatever activities the child had chosen to do, and
The settings are child-friendly. The approach is child-led and not entirely teacher directed.