Many parents use the terms preschool and kindergarten interchangeably. You might think your child is ready to attend school, but does this mean you can enrol them in any preschool in Singapore? Or are they ready for kindergarten? Maybe what you need is actually a playgroup or childcare. In this article, we’ll look at the differences between preschool and kindergarten in Singapore.
According to the Ministry of Education, preschool in Singapore is an all-encompassing term that refers to the education for children under the age of seven. Preschool includes half-day or full-day childcare programmes and Kindergarten preschool education. The primary learning goals of preschool are to build confidence, learn social skills, and develop a good foundation in literacy and numeracy.
Based on the MOE’s definition, kindergarten in Singapore falls under the general term preschool. However, kindergarten programmes are designed for children between age three to six years old, unlike childcare which can start as young as 18 months to six years old.
Kindergarten as a level (such as Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2) is also part of the preschool, together with the nursery levels or playgroups. The Early Childhood Development Agency (EDCA) regulates the Kindergarten programmes in Singapore.
What doesn’t fall under Kindergarten programmes are childcare centres that offer half-or-full daycare and offer naps and mealtimes. These programmes are not as academic as Kindergarten programmes. Kindergarten programmes do not typically provide nap times and have set class schedules that are a few hours long.
The MOE offers MOE Kindergarten (MK) for Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2 students for Singapore citizens and permanent residents. Private centres and preschools typically offer playgroup, nursery, and kindergarten levels and are open to all students.
Is your child ready for preschool in Singapore?
So, if you feel your child is ready to attend school, you will first need to consider both your child’s and your needs and, of course, their age. If you are working full-time and need to leave your two-year-old in a safe and caring environment, you will need a childcare centre.k
Age is the primary determinant of the preschool level your child will enter. If your child is older and you want them to experience attending a more formal school setting, enrol them in a Kindergarten programme. However, both are part of the kindergarten programmes in preschool.
Preschool vs. Kindergarten in Singapore
Let’s take a closer look at the levels of preschool in Singapore. Typically, preschools offer programmes beginning at 18 months old to 6 years old. A playgroup is the earliest type of class or group your child can join. These are for very young children, or toddlers, who are ready for their first taste of school.
In a playgroup, students are at least 18 months old, and these classes focus primarily on play and socialisation. Take note that you aren’t (or shouldn’t) be enrolling your child in a playgroup to become a genius or academically gifted. A playgroup allows your child to play with other children, develop their fine and gross motor skills (such as catching a ball or running) and expand their vocabulary.
After playgroup, the next level in a preschool is typically Nursery. These are for children three to four years old. Some preschools in Singapore offer Nursery One for three-year-olds and Nursery Two for four-year-olds. The nursery level is the level before kindergarten.
Each preschool offers a different experience, but at Little Oxford Schoolhouse, nursery students begin preparing for kindergarten by learning through purposeful play. While play is still the primary experience, there are more lessons intertwined in these play experiences.
For example, teachers begin teaching simple Maths and Science concepts through group activities and role-playing. These prepare children for more structured school activities and experiences. Language, communication, and critical thinking skills are developed by asking open-ended questions.
The last level of preschool in Singapore is kindergarten. This level is the final step before entering primary school. If your child is five years old, they are ready for Kindergarten One; if your child is six years old, they can enter Kindergarten Two. Because this is the final level of preschool, expect your child’s kindergarten experience to be more like “school” and less like a playgroup.
Kindergarten in Singapore is mostly spent preparing your child for primary school. For example, they spend more time developing language and literacy skills, numeracy, and logical thinking. Different mathematical concepts are intertwined throughout the school day. Natural consequences of their actions develop problem-solving skills during play and while interacting with classmates.
While your child will still play with friends, Kindergarten 1 and 2 are also considered essential levels in preparing kids for higher-level academics they will encounter in primary school. More “formal” school skills, such as rote counting, numeral recognition, and counting, are also developed. Vocabulary and language are also a significant focus, with letter recognition, spelling simple words, and for some children who are ready, reading.
They will also spend more time at school when in kindergarten. While playgroups usually last about 90 minutes and a nursery class lasts for three hours on average, the Kindergarten level is four or more hours long.
The student-to-teacher ratio will also change. The ratio set for Kindergarten 2 in Singapore by the Early Childhood Development Agency is 1:25, or one teacher for every 25 students. Other levels have a smaller ratio, such as 1:15 for Nursery 2 and 1:8 for playgroups. Kindergarten students are also expected to be more independent than other playschool levels.
All preschools in Singapore must follow these ratios. Still, some implement a smaller ratio to give more attention to each child. For example, the Little Oxford Schoolhouse follows a 1:15 teacher-child ratio for the Kindergarten level and a 1:6 ratio for playgroups. This means they offer more individualised attention to students than what the government mandates.
We hope this clarifies the differences between preschool and kindergarten in Singapore. Whichever you decide on, ensure that you choose the programme that will allow your child to learn and thrive.