1. A Solid Reputation
Good ‘word-of-mouth’ recommendations by trusted friends who have had a good experience is a great way to start the process of researching preschools. That’s how most families usually narrow down their search for a good preschool. Was your child happy going to school? What did you like most about the preschool? Were the teachers experienced and nurturing? Is the program play-based, academic or both? While these are some of the questions you may consider asking to your trusted friends who recommend a preschool to you, if their child was enrolled during 2020 when learning was forced to go online, it would also be worth asking them about how well the preschool adapted to confront the challenges of the Covid pandemic. Questions like the ones below will help you gauge whether or not other parents found the response acceptable given the difficult circumstances:
· Did the preschool display the courage and resilience in quickly coming up with a plan when the pandemic forced children to stay at home?
· Did you feel that the preschool’s management did a good job of communicating with you on how you could support your child while you were grappling with the new normal?
· Did the preschool offer your child an alternative to classroom-based learning to ensure continuity of learning to help your child stay on his/her developmental track, and if so, was it efficacious?
· Many parents postponed enrolling their children in a preschool in 2020. As a result, their children are suffering a year’s loss of learning. Does the preschool have a plan to help the such children recoup their losses and seamlessly transition back on their developmental track in 2021?
2. Happy Teachers + Low Teacher turnover : The surest sign of a quality Preschool
Teachers are the glue that binds all the other elements of quality. They matter more than a fancy new building. Working with young children is a tough job. Their success depends on how often they receive regular professional development and planning time, not to mention a respectable salary and paid time off. Don’t be afraid to ask the director about how many years of service the teachers have put in and about rates of teacher turnover. A consistently high teacher turnover is a warning sign of systemic problems. When it comes down to it, teachers make or break a child’s experience, so focus on them. If you get a good feeling, chances are your child will, too.
3. Child Safety
As nothing in the world reassures a mother more than her child being safe and secure while being out of her eyesight, the very first thing you want to look out for is, whether the preschool campus safe and secure. Does it have high boundary walls? Are the gates manned to restrict entry and exit? Is the campus under CCTV surveillance? Does the preschool have an operational fire safety system? What about electrical safety? A good preschool will have ‘standard operating procedures’ in place to handle medical emergencies as well as someone trained and certified in administering First-Aid.
4. Cleanliness and Hygiene
When you arrive at the preschool, what kind of a first impression did it give you? Was the area outside the preschool clean? Are the campus and play area spotlessly clean? Are the classrooms, doors and windows clean? Is the drinking water area clean? Are the toilets clean or smelly?
5. Observe how educators are interacting with children
Are they talking to children in nurturing and encouraging ways? Do they get down on their eye-level, address them by name, listen carefully, and seek to understand what children want?
6. Observe how educators handle challenging behaviour
Are the educators focused on helping children or do they resort to punishing them? At their tender age, preschoolers are in the process of developing their social and emotional skills for e.g. how to share toys and learning new words to express their feelings of joy, anger, frustration, etc. Good educators strive to build these skills through consistent routines. Routines that help children to develop the patience to wait for their turn, how to handle conflict, how to develop mutual respect and engage in songs and games when a child needs to be physical.
7. Nothing in the world inspires learning in children more than the prospect of play
Play is the “vehicle” through which young children are inspired to learn everything. Children are active. They have tons of energy to burn. A Preschool must have sufficient open spaces for outdoor play. They are not expected to sit for more than 15-20 minutes at a time, and need plenty of outdoor time. Different play-based activities capture their attention and challenge them to think in newer ways. Play, encourages them to think deeper and ask thought-provoking questions. Play, spurs brain development and goes a long way in helping them gain control over their fine and gross motor skills, build their vocabulary, learn the concept of numbers and develop self-control.
8. Engaging Classrooms
Children are also active contributors to the classroom and their work covers the walls. Do the classroom walls display it? Are the classrooms airy and well lighted?
9. Quality of the school management
When the pandemic struck in 2020 and forced preschools to come up with an efficacious alternative to classroom-based learning to prevent children from suffering a loss of learning while they remained cooped up at home, very few preschool’s leadership had the foresight and could sum up the courage and display the resilience to quickly adapt to the new normal to ensure continuity of learning for children to help them thrive rather than simply survive. As per media reports, more than 1000 preschools in the State of Gujarat alone downed their shutters. And with the recent spike in Covid infections greatly diminishing the chances of preschools re-opening any time soon, identifying a preschool which is backed by a strong leadership and has the financial strength to pay full salaries to their teachers will merit serious consideration to ensure children do not suffer a further set-back in their learning.
10. Past track-record of children securing admission in reputed K-12 schools
After finishing preschool, securing admission in a reputed K-12 school is a major cause of anxiety amongst families. Therefore, before enrolling in a preschool, make it a point to ask the Director about how good has been their placement track-record and whether they offer any personal counselling to parents to help them identify K-12 schools that best caters to the specific needs of their family and child and matches their goals and priorities.
11. Does the preschool strictly adhere to the minimum ‘age-at-entry’ norms?
The singular aim of early childhood education is, to build a firm foundation for life in children and help them develop readiness for elementary school. And the only way to achieve this, is by ensuring that children are enrolled at the correct age and exposed to learning that is developmentally appropriate. That’s the reason why, a good preschool will refrain from enrolling ‘under-aged’ children. So, if a preschool agrees to enroll your child even if he doesn’t meet the minimum ‘age-at-entry’ norms, consider it as a big red flag! Such a preschool is not doing you a favour. It is only doing so, to entice you to enroll with them! As a parent, you ought to know the law as well as the demerits of enrolling an ‘under-aged’ child.
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