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Preschool or formal school

Discussions in most parent forums in recent times revolve around the choice of school and pros and cons of a particular pedagogy. The latest dichotomy in parent’s minds is whether to start their child’s schooling in a preschool or a formal, mainstream school.

While the intent may be there to go with a preschool, the practicality of admission in grade 1 in a mainstream school is always worrisome to a parent. To those parents who want to make an informed choice, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Preschools have smaller numbers in the classroom, allowing for a better teacher student ratio. A smaller class ratio helps children settle faster, as they receive one-on –one attention and interaction.This also helps children with different learning styles; as they are not pressurized to keep up with the rest of the class.

Mainstream schools accommodate big numbers even in their preprimary classrooms and this may cause the settling process to be extended and not so smooth for the child /parent. Children most often don’t get the individual attention and are pressurised to keep up with the rest of the class.

Preschools are smaller spaces facilitating only the early years/ pre K programs. They are also set up in a warm cosy space, thus mimicking the secure space of the home for the child. Most preschools try and set up an environment that is colourful, child-friendly and welcoming

A mainstream classroom is part of the entire school infrastructure and can be overwhelming for a child of two and a half. The facilities like play area and transport are sometimes shared by the whole school which leaves the preschooler anxious and overcome with fear.

A preschool follows a specific early learning pedagogy like Montessori or Multiple Intelligences or Waldrof which have been specifically designed with the developmental domains required for this age group. All these are time tested and understand the needs of a preschool child. They prepare the child make the transition to formal school in a smooth and developmentally correct way.

Mainstream school may or may not follow early childhood pedagogy. The curriculum allows only for group instructions owing to big numbers and many preparatory activities maybe skipped.

For example; to prepare the child for writing, preschools go through an elaborate pre-writing exercise to make the child comfortable with the writing instrument, whereas in the pressures of a mainstream environment, this step maybe entirely skipped.

A preschool environ sees children with improved social skills. This is because of a variety of reasons like child directed learning, smaller numbers and less pressure to conform. In order to learn, young children need to feel cared for and secure. Preschool programs nurture warm relationships and their circle includes children, teachers and parents. And teachers build a close personal connection with each child in their care.

Formal schools are less personal, and are not able to nurture a warm emotional bond with each child in the class owing to big numbers.

While preschools are mostly located in the neighborhood, Mainstream schools are at a central location in the city. Young children should not be travelling long distance at their age as it tires and overwhelms them. In order to make the transition from home to school smooth, the distance and travel time has to be taken into consideration.

As a parent, you need to understand what kind of preschool experience you want for your child; one that is at the child’s pace and helps him grow in independence .For, after all it is your child’s first time out of the security of his home. Choose one that works for you as a family.