Early years are a period in our preschoolers’ lives when their mechanisms of existing in the world, i.e. personalities, are in rapid development as they absorb the world around them – both through their senses and our own modeling of behavior – like a sponge. Especially at this stage of development, education should follow a framework that stimulates holistic development, offers safety and stability, promotes a love of life-long learning, and involves parents. This kind of framework – with prescribed guidelines and materials, desired outcomes and specific roles for everyone in the school community, and more – is called a curriculum.
Singapore schools offer different curricula with bases in different philosophies and approaches, some even combining two or several or drawing inspiration from one or another. Since it can be overwhelming for parents to navigate all the options even just on paper, we’ve compiled this guide to early years curricula in Singapore – it will introduce you to the basics of each one, let you in on the schools that offer them, and hopefully steer you into the direction of exploring further as opposed to despairing.
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Developed by the UK government, the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets the standards for education and care of children from 0 to 5. The framework follows 7 areas of learning, taught mostly through game and play, with parents being highly involved in their children’s learning journey. Progress is followed through assessments based on classroom observation, so there’s no stress for the kids, only indispensable information for adults.
Early education is flourishing locally, too. The Ministry of Education (MOE) developed a Nurturing Early Learners Curriculum for kids aged 4 to 6 to help teachers provide high-quality early childhood education. Through comprehensive key areas of focus, the curriculum helps kids develop into a confident, adaptable, resilient person who knows themselves and how to think critically; a self-directed learner who takes responsibility of their own learning; a (pro)active contributor; and a concerned Singapore-based citizen with strong civic consciousness.
The PYP is inquiry-based, international-minded and concept-driven, a collaborative curriculum based in the principle of agency for kids aged 3 to 12 that builds conceptual understanding and transforms students, teachers and whole school communities in the process. Six globally significant transdisciplinary themes guide students’ learning and provide a framework for developing academic, social and emotional wellbeing, giving kids the tools to understand themselves, take ownership of their learning and meaningful action in their community.
In its 100 years, Montessori has been both tested by time and proven effective by modern research. It is more of a method than a framework – freely but within clear limits, children direct their own learning in a prepared environment, using scientifically designed, tangible materials, guided by their natural instincts. The approach promotes socialization, respect and solidarity in an authentic way, facilitated by the microcosm setting of the classroom that integrates kids of mixed ages (within 3 years). Certified teachers are only observers and guides, assessing, helping and stimulating learners’ own interests.
Here you can learn if Montessori is right for your family and read about Singapore Montessori preschools.
Reggio Emilia is an educational philosophy based in hands-on discovery and the notion of “a hundred languages”, the enormous potential that each child has to express themselves, construct knowledge and relate to others. We could call it a self-guided curriculum, but one with a deep foundation in the principles of exploration, respect, responsibility and community. Parents are thought of as first teachers and are expected to participate in the child’s education. The curriculum is constantly being refined as teachers inspire kids to express themselves and tap into the depths of their being.
Find out more about Reggio Emilia and Singapore preschools that strictly follow the approach here.
Forest school education is gaining momentum as parents are recognizing the benefits it has on learning outcomes and the sheer joyfulness of learning in nature. The learner-centered curriculum promotes holistic development and fosters resilient, confident, independent and creative learners. As structured and unstructured time alternate, kids organically learn concrete skills and abstract concepts both, as subjects are cross-curricular and taught using the natural world around them.
Read more about forest school curricula in Singapore and the schools that offer them here!