26 December 2012, by Tan Yi Lin
Merry Christmas, Everyone!
I hope that no matter how you chose to celebrate the holidays, you all had a fulfilling and enjoyable time spent with your loved ones.
As for us, all I have to say is: What a difference a year makes!
In other news, WE DID IT!
We registered Coco for preschool last Saturday – in what we hope comes across as a sign of efficient joint decision-making rather than annoying kiasu parenting. Heh.
In my previous entry, I had shared that we were checking out options for preschool and had enquired at centres with fees for half-day programmes ranging from $235/month (after subsidy) to $900/month (subsidy not applicable).
This entry is a continuation of our experience in sourcing for (what we think is) a suitable school for Coco and a sharing of our findings.
Contrary to what some parents (including me, at first) might think, December is actually a pretty good month to schedule school visits in. Childcare centres, unlike regular schools, operate as per normal throughout the school holidays. This means that you would be able to get a feel of the schools’ regular operations and observe the teachers conducting classes as they would on any other day. The added perk is, with fewer young charges around during this time of the year (when parents take their kids out of class for family vacations), the school principles and teachers have a little more time on their hands to entertain requests for visits.
With January around the corner (marking the start of a busy school year with new students and charges), we decided to buckle down and schedule visits to four more schools before the year came to an end.
Since we had already enquired at a PCF centre near home charging $235/month (which was already full for 2013) and an independent playschool offering a montessori programme at $900/month (which we considered our upper limit), we zoomed in on what we thought would be mid-range options charging fees closer to the national average of $622/month (before taking into account the $150 subsidy.)
On our shortlist:
– School A: Franchise of a widely-known brand of preschools, located in an office building
– School B: Franchise of another widely-known brand of preschools, located in a landed house within a private residential estate
– School C: Branch of a smaller school, located in a landed house within a private residential estate (through an advertisement in a parenting magazine)
– School D: Branch of another smaller school, located in a landed house within a private residential estate (through a friend-of-a-friend’s recommendation)
The thing with franchisees, including PCF centres, is that there is no fixed fee scale across all locations. Each centre runs independently (except for certain directions set by the headquarters) and fees charged depend largely on each centre’s individual programme and facilities.
We struck out options C and D immediately as we didn’t like the physical state of the schools (dark, dingy, messy, cramped) and weren’t comfortable with the thought of leaving Coco there for a good part of the week.
Plus, while School C charged fees below the national average, the $500+/month fees excluded all enrichment programmes such as art and music, which meant that you were pretty much obliged to top up an additional $100-$200/month — or have your child feel left out while other kids had fun with art & craft or music & movement.
We had expected options A and B to charge about $600/month for their half-day programmes, given that each ran centres in approximately 50 over locations across Singapore. However, we were surprised to find that their charges — at $900/month (before subsidy) — matched that of the independent montesorri-type preschools we had visited previously.
While the principle of School B came across as a very passionate, capable and experienced lady, we had to forgo the option because the school only operated full-day programmes. Plus, we didn’t really like the private-house location either.
Truth be told, even before visiting Schools B, C and D, we had quite set our hearts on signing Coco up at School A. For one, we were impressed with the school’s spacious, neat, clean and bright compound. The centre seemed administratively well-run and information presented (both on the Parents’ Notice Board and by the centre manager) was clear and orderly. Its office location meant that kids were kept away from busy roads and vehicular traffic (unlike landed houses in private residential estates) and yet, offered an open space within the building compound for outdoor activities.
Programme-wise, we were satisfied with the centre manager’s brief of the school’s “thematic approach” to learning and were happy that the half-day kids got a good mix of core curriculum (English, Chinese, math, science) as well as the fun stuff like music & movement, art & craft and outdoor sports. All the other schools we visited catered mainly to full-day students and had a rigid daily regime whereby core subjects were taught in the morning and enrichment sessions conducted in the afternoon. At this age, it is more important to us that Coco is exposed to play and interaction, rather than master her ABCs and 123s. School A was the only one who assured us that they exercised the flexibility to tailor well-rounded programmes for both their half-day and full-day kids.
As for the amount of school fees, while it was above the average at $750/month (after $150 subsidy), it included all enrichment classes and 3 meals a day (in the span of a short morning in school!) so we were willing to give it a go.
What sealed the deal for us was that upon revisiting School A to initiate the registration process, the bubbly centre manager actually remembered me and greeted me by name. She checked if she had pronounced “Colette” correctly, showed interest in interacting with Coco and carefully noted Coco’s allergy to egg white. More importantly, Coco seemed to really like the school: she perused the learning exhibits with interest; she danced and twirled to music playing in a classroom; and refused to leave the pretend kitchen set-up in the “dramatic play” corner because she wanted to “wash” bottles in the miniature sink.
I can’t wait to let her start for real! We have enrolled her for the March 2013 intake after she turns 18 months. It’s slightly earlier than we had initially planned (to start in June at 22 months) but we thought it might be better to start her off before Baby No.2 arrives, so that she doesn’t think that we’re getting rid of her because we have a new baby.
Thus ends our (short and quick) search for the perfect preschool for our daughter.
I don’t know for sure if this really is the perfect match but we’re looking forward to March 2013 to find out.