Friday, November 11, 2005

Timeline of an institution.

In context of this entry, it would refer to the kindergartens which are operating in Malaysia as at this point of time.

In the past 5 years or so, new kindergartens have been mushrooming up in my area. This is even more so at the centre I am in service at. I was just reflecting on the timeline of a kindergarten here locally, especially those which are of sole-proprietorship, and not a franchise. Many principals either hold a diploma or a basic certificate then, which would meet the minimum requirements of opening a kindergarten.

However, from my perspective, having a diploma is not adequate, especially as childhood education is dynamic and approaches change from generation to generation, and year to year. Fortunately, the authorities have upgraded now the requirements to a 2 year diploma level in opening a kindergarten. In my opinion, even that is not adequate to actually manage the planning of a kindergarten, including the staff, parent-teacher relations that studies may not have been covered in many basic teaching courses.

Among the problems in Malaysia is the issue of licensing, where there are many unlicensed kindergartens opened and there are not adequate staff from the authorities to go around to check whether these so called “kindergartens” are actually registered. Most teachers are not adequately trained, and many do not hold a degree, which is a reason why they are not trained in the proper strategies in handling the child emotionally and socially.

I was in this particular kindergarten, which is a franchise, which has their own program and textbooks. I was there for a short while, and from what I saw, it was not very child centered as it focused a lot on writing and academic work, and not so much activity based. Yet, these kindergartens pose a threat as competition to other long established ones.

Today my colleagues went around to scout at a particular kindergarten, and came back with feedback. They could not introduce themselves as preschool teachers as the threat of competition is something which is real and prevalent. Here it is not so much of the motive of providing what is best for the child, but more of a mercenary motive.

The school fees charged by that kindergarten was very much higher than the one in my school, but this is because the school employs a curriculum that of an activity based, and not focused so much on academic and written work. The school boasts the usage of an educational approach on a "child-centered, teacher initiated" approach. In my perspective, that should be right methodology, but because teachers here are not trained, they do not understand what it means and are only teaching within what they have been brought up or exposed to.

Reflecting on this, I feel that it is not really so much of the tutelage fees, that parent may be reluctant to pay, as I would have thought initially. It is true that there are parents still, who bargain about the school fees, even though it may be very low already! That is a minority though.

The much educated parents (especially those who are educated overseas, and exposed to western approaches), would themselves look for kindergartens who use the same approach. From my perspective, I do not think that parents actually want their children to have so much academic work, and would actually prefer more activity based programs.It is just that a huge majority of our society is like that, especially the less exposed, and those who prefer the chinese style of education, which focuses on rote memory and lots of writing.

These activities, as any trained educator can tell you, are not suitable for young children, as much as people would like to in their own mind to think so. I had a former student who came to kindergarten today for our end of year school party (she is now in primary 1 of a chinese school), and she complains that she wants to go back to kindergarten as there is too much homework in Primary 1 and dislikes it immensely. The only thing that keeps her going she says is the "company of her friends".

Sometimes adults neglect to listen to the voice of the children and instead impose their own wants and needs on the child. Unfortunately, it is highly improbable to provide individualised attention to children in our public schools, as classes are big, with as much as 50 children stuffed like sardines in one class, and the limited number of schools (physically existing) that is. Hence, the need for tutorial classes which is essential these days for the child to succeed in class. *this shall be another topic altogether on another day though*

In about ten years time from now, most of the parents would be my age, or even younger. I would be a parent myself too. I would predict and I would not be wrong if I were to say that parents would be looking for a more activity based education program as what it is I can see from this sample of feedback. Solely-owned kindergartens have to move with the times, and as old as the kindergarten is, they have to learn new approaches, in order to compete with the new ones, that would appeal to desires and needs of new parents. This also includes the incoming flux of diverse ethnic races into our country and to have a curriculum that shows respect to the multi-cultural spread of children and families that enrol in.

I attest this, as I remember the words of my lecturer, who told us that her own kindergarten had a drop in enrolment as she did not think it was important to market or advertise her kindergarten to go with the social trend that time, and when the students left, no one knew the existence of her kindergarten. She was a trained educator, with a good program, but not in marketing. Fortunately, she wised up and now her kindergarten is still thriving!

Kindergartens that use an academic approach, would have to change to a more activity based approach, and move along and conform to the expectations of the main social trends to meet the parents' need and wants. It is either a go with or die thing!

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