August 5, 2016

Preschools –A bridge from home to school

The last decade has seen a plethora of preschools open, giving the young parents of India many choices. Preschool education generally refers to the organized and well-structured pre-primary education programs for toddlers, particularly in the age group of 2-4 years. According to a research report, “Indian Preschool Market Forecast”, Indian preschool market has been witnessing rapid growth for the past few years. There is an increasing awareness among parents about preschool being an important aspect of their ward’s education. Research states that 90% of the brain develops in the first 6 years. This lays the foundation for all future learning. Research indicates that children who receive a high quality early childhood education have better math, language and social skills as they enter school, and as they grow older require less special education, progress further in school, have fewer interactions with the justice system and have higher earnings as adults (Barnett, 1995).

The reasons for the preschool industry growing at 36%, surpassing the growth of the overall education industry at 15% per annum, can be attributed to the following:

  1. Adult to Child Ratio – Higher staff to child ratios are better for young children, allowing more individual attention, reducing the time and effort devoted to classroom management, and reducing the number of stressful interactions. Improving educator to child ratios allows staff to give more individual care and attention and contributes to better social and learning outcomes for children. Educators are able to develop more effective and meaningful relationships with children, resulting in more engaged, happy and relaxed individuals. Better staff-child ratios offer health and safety benefits. Higher ratios and low turnover allow teachers to respond to the individual needs of children, to give each child ample attention and to create a strong bond, adding to the child’s security.
  2. ‘Local’ nature of business – With the ever-increasing traffic woes, pollution and safety concerns, parents prefer preschools that are within a short distance from home. Preschools cater to a limited target area. One of the biggest criteria in choice of school is the distance the child will travel, an the time taken to travel.
  3. Small Group Size – Studies suggest that preschool children do better in smaller classes than in larger classes. Smaller class sizes provide the opportunity for personal attention and additional instructional help when necessary. Teachers have more flexibility to use different instructional approaches.Fewer students are less distracting to each other than a large group of children.Teachers have more time to teach because there are fewer discipline problems. Students are more likely to participate in class and become more involved.
  4. Brain Development – One of the most important findings about brain development shows that the brain has critical periods for learning. early experiences can forever enhance the development of a young brain, and potentially change behavior across an individual’s lifespan. Early experiences have an enormous influence on children’s absorbent sponge¬like brains and also strongly affect the way they mature.Preschools expose the child to a variety of stimuli and allow the child hands-¬on interaction with three ¬dimensional materials.
  5. Social / Emotional Development – Nobel Laureate James Heckman, an economist at the University of Chicago, has noted that the long-term impacts of early education on social and emotional development — the skills that allow people to interact appropriately and effectively with others — may be the most important takeaways from preschool.
  6. More women in the workforce – The last decade has seen an increase in the number of women in the workforce. This has necessitated alternate modes of childcare. Rather than worry about how a nanny might handle their children, parents decide on daycare. Other benefits include clear-cut rules for parents to follow (specific pickup and drop-off times, for example), low-fuss installment payments, and the opportunity to meet other parents, who may be able to lend support.
  7. School Readiness – Are all children going to learn to write letters well at the age of three? No. But given the opportunity to have a writing center with all different kinds of writing utensils and paper, the child will begin to strengthen his fine motor skills which are needed to learn how to write properly. Academic benefits aside, some experts believe preschool teaches kids how to be students—how to listen well, how to share, how to be patient and how to participate. These are all skills that will prove tremendously helpful in your child’s transition into kindergarten.
    Time in the classroom teaches young students how to respect the world around them and how to be inquisitive, channeling all that built-up curiosity into a hunger for learning. High-quality preschool programs attempt to help students attain school readiness.
  8. Safety – Preschools and daycares are taking extra measures to ensure each child remains safe and unharmed while at school. With higher adult to child ratios and lower group sizes, the possibility of keeping the child safe is higher. Faced with issues of safety, parents prefer the approachability of a preschool since the center manager is more easily accessible. Preschools are also able to tailor make their services based on the parent’s or child’s requirement, allowing for greater safety measures to be put into place.

Preschools vary in their approaches to teaching philosophies. The ‘Montessori’ method and the ‘Playway’ method have been hugely accepted in the Indian context. Whatever may be the approach, it is clear that preschools are here to stay and are providing the necessary bridge from home to school.

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