THE OPEN HAVERSACK: The right pre-school
Many parents go through the headache of searching for and choosing the correct pre-school. They query if their child should go to a public or private pre-school. Regardless of the choice, there are some basic things parents should look for so as to get children off to the right start.
Plan a visit: Visit the school and talk with the principal and if possible the teachers. Ask for a tour. In addition ask permission to observe in a classroom. Stay about 20 to 30 minutes to get a sense of the classroom environment but stand or sit quietly away from any action to avoid being a distraction. If you cannot tour or observe the children in the environment that is a red flag; move on.
Stimulating curriculum: A well-thought out curriculum provides a wide range of activities that will stimulate creativity, imaginative play and aid in the social, physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual development of the child and makes school fun. TV and videos should not play a big part in the day of the child. If the child is not allowed a wide range of age appropriate activities move on.
Qualified, caring staff: The staff should be trained and qualified, having sound knowledge in early childhood education and pedagogical methodologies. The teacher to student ratio should be adequate so that the child gets the attention and care he or she needs. If the staff do not stick around long, seem overwhelmed, or do not have enough experience, the school is not for you. If the classes are too crowded, keep searching.
Clean, safe facilities: The safety and well-being of the child is paramount in an early childhood environment. They should be adequate ventilation, clean floors and surroundings. Broken toys and play equipment are a no-no. Food preparation areas should be far from toilets and the school compound should be secure. Spot a safety hazard? Keep looking.
Play area: Look for a school with an outdoor play area. Play is a significant part of the development of the young child, for play is to the child what work is to the adult. No physical activity equals stunted growth. Move on.
Good reputation: A good pre-school should have a welcoming, friendly atmosphere and be known for its nurturing environment and stimulating curriculum. Ask other parents about the school.
However, do not always go by the opinion of others be your own judge. A disgruntled parent may have a bias of the particular school. If the children do not seem happy or you do not hear too many good comments then look somewhere else.
Nutrition: The school should promote and encourage healthy eating habits. Pre-schools that do not restrict candy or other sweets may not have the interest of the child at heart. If nutrition is not the focus, keep looking.
The early education of a child is not an experiment; it is the foundation of life. Choosing the correct pre-school will make a difference.
• Rhonda A. Blackman is an educator, a National Development Scholar and former president of the Early Childhood Association of Barbados Inc.