Your little darling has just stepped into her toddler years. Her babyhood days feel like just yesterday and now well-wishers are already asking, “Which school will you enroll her in? Getting a good school is so hard.” Like most parents, you’re probably panicking a little because you don’t know which of the numerous preschools around you qualifies as a ‘good school.’
To put these fears to rest we asked, stellar educationist and founder of the Born Smart parent-toddler program, Swati Popat Vats how should a parent go about it!
What are things that a parent should look for in the pre-primary school while enrolling her child?
I always recommend that parents look for these five important points:
The background and expertise of the people running the preschool. Are they in this field just for the sake of business or do they have an understanding of early childhood care and development?
The philosophy that the school follows. Is it Playway, Reggio etc. and how well are they able to explain their philosophy and convince you about it?
Are all their staff trained in early childhood education?
Do they have safety standards in place? Ask them to show you their fire drill procedure, for example or open balconies.
Are their toilets clean? It all starts and ends here. If the people running the preschool are able to keep their toilets clean, then you can be rest assured about overall hygiene!
Over and above these, you can put the preschool through the 5 senses test-
The Visual Test:
1. Look for peeling paint on walls and furniture. Kids can touch, scratch or eat the paint!
2. Look around for Cobwebs. Spiders can only build cobwebs around the presence of insects, which in turn shows lack of cleanliness.
3. Look at the fingernails of the staff. There should be no long nails or chipped nail polish on any of the staff, especially on those who will serve food or look after the hygiene of your child. Chipped nail polish can go into your child’s food and harm him. Long, sharp nails can hurt and scratch the delicate skin of toddlers.
4. Check the mops. Mops tell you how the preschool staff cleans the vomit, urine and potty from the floors, especially if it is carpeted.
Ask if the ayahs/ mausis/didis are well -trained to wipe vomit or potty from floors with paper, disinfectant and then a mop! There should be a separate mop for cleaning tables or other surfaces.
5. Look at the flannel board displays. You should see ‘children’s voices’ even on the displays. The boards should be full of drawings, paintings, worksheets and loads of photos of children indulging in fun activities. It all points to a great learning experience immersed in the 8 intelligences.
1. The sounds at the center. Are they those of clanging furniture, shouting teachers or of the management screaming at the domestic staff? The sounds should ideally be of children giggling, talking, enjoying or singing.
2. Can you hear constant crying? A good center ensures that crying kids get settled within a short span of time by consulting and coordinating with the family.
3. Can you hear adults constantly ‘shushing’ the children or reprimanding them? When preschool staff constantly shouts, it means the atmosphere is extremely formal and teachers are not trained to get a child’s attention appropriately in a positive manner.
The Touch Test:
1. Touch surfaces around the center. Do you get dust on your fingertips? If yes, then the premises may not be cleaned regularly.
2. Check how the staff touches the kids. Are they manhandling the kids? Or are they gentle?
3. Check how the toilet staff takes care of the kids. If possible, check how they clean a child after he has done potty.
4. Touch the edges of furniture. Are they too sharp? Furniture edges should be smooth and well-rounded with lots of open space in between.
5. Look for the kind of toys available for your child to touch. Will your child get a multisensory experience? Is there a mix of soft, hard, plastic and wooden toys? Are there a variety of toys that develop various skills in a child?
The Vocal Test…
1. Ask for the qualifications of the teachers. The teachers should not only be trained to teach but should also be trained to handle children with different needs, temperaments and personalities.
2. How many hours of training do the teachers get regularly in a week? Teachers must be trained every week for 2-3 hours.
3. Ask who trains the teachers and if there are educationists on board.
4. Ask about the curriculum used by the center and about their educational philosophy.
5. Enquire about the school’s safety and security guidelines. Does the school have a safety and emergencies docket and are the staff trained in it? Do they have a fire safety drill?
6. Are children taught about good touch and bad touch? If yes, how?
7. How are children assessed? Is there a simple A-B-C grading or is there a detailed observation that will help you understand your child’s stage of development?
The ‘Smell’ test:
1. Does the center smell of food or urine? Young children are sensitive to smells and these must not bother them.
2. Does the environment smell of strong bleach? Residues of heavy chemicals are dangerous for kids!
3. Does the center smell of fresh wall paint? This too, is bad for kids.
4. Does it smell of the local gutter? Many centers do, and this can make kids cranky. Smells have a direct impact on a child’s learning and focus.
5. How often are the air conditioners serviced? Children can fall sick with subserviced air conditioners. Servicing should be done each month.
To understand more about the importance of philosophies, stay tuned for the next interview with Swati Popat Vats.