I have 3 children and all of them went to different kindies (my term for kindergartens :P). No, it's not because of money (though I remembered a former colleague telling me that only her firstborn went to an expensive kindy, the rest ... you don't have to guess!). There are NO cheap kindies in Subang Jaya. Definitely no Tabika Kemas which would cost only RM 20 or so in monthly fee! The average monthly fee of kindies around SJ is RM 200++. Don't be fooled by the fee, though. The registration fee can cost you anything between RM 1 K to 2 Ks! Then there's the transport fare. Bus is the cheaper option (around RM 45) as opposed to van (RM 90++). So you can imagine how relieved I am, now that two of my children are in school :).
So, which kindy is best for my child, you might ask. Well, as they say, one man's meat could be another man's poison. What worked for my children might not necessarily work for yours. The factors that actually determined the choice of kindy for my kids (according to order of importance) are:
i) the children's personalities
ii) the teachers
iii) the kindy
Notice my emphasis on the humanistic aspect? So many parents (including me, the first time around) made the mistake of choosing the kindy first rather than analyzing the child's needs. They assume that if the kindy is good (normally based on reputation, testimonies or recommendations), their child would be assured of good quality pre-school education.
That was my assumption when I enrolled my daughter at Child Enrichment Centre (then, known as CEC; now known as REAL Kids). Other reasons why I enrolled her in that particular kindy: I wanted my daughter to have friends from all races, speak English more, be in touch with her multiple intelligences (which the kindy was promoting) and learn how to swim (she didn't, I did!). Although I didn't quite fancy the kindy's school-liked approach (they have homework and assessments), the daughter breezed through kindy because she was a fast learner. The teachers were kind except for the one she had in her final pre-school year. Obviously, that particular teacher - a retiree - was not cut to be a kindy teacher although she had taught many years in primary schools. She was grumpy, had no patience with the kids, and called them "dungu" (pronounced erroneously as "dunggu"! Hu! Hu!). I remembered a concerned colleague of mine, offered to report this to the kindy's exec, who was a family friend, but I did not encourage her.
CEC prepared her well for all the subjects taught in year one except for Agama. She got As for almost all of her subjects but failed miserably in her Agama! The school's JQaf programme did not help improve her marks, either. Therefore, I had to send her to KAFA classes. Because of this too, I did not send my son to CEC. I wanted him to have a good foundation in Agama so that he will not be clueless (like his sister) in year one. That's how Genius Aulad came into the picture.
This English-medium Islamic kindy is the first of its kind in Malaysia (some teachers need to brush-up on their English, though. He! He!). What I found interesting is that the kindy incorporated Islamic and sunnah practices into their lessons. My son was able to recite the doas in English and memorised all the ayat lazim for prayers (how the teachers did this, I don't know, but I respect them for that!). They also observed and celebrated auspicious days such as the Maulidurrasul on a grand scale: procession, TV-coverage and all. The only thing that I felt my son had missed out was the multiracial experience. Other than that, the kindy's approach was pretty much the same as CEC: school-like.
Why then did I not send my youngest son to Genius Aulad or CEC? Well, being the baby in the family, I knew instantly that he wouldn't survive in a school-like environment. So, during his first pre-school year, I sent him to Tadika Nurul Izzah. I pretty much know the teachers because they were the same teachers who taught my daughter KAFA and she liked them. So I thought the baby would like them too. Well, everything went smoothly at first. But after a fall and a bout of fever, he started to make excuses not to go to kindy. He threw tantrums, clung to his favourite teacher like a koala, found faults with his friends and did not seem to have progressed much in learning. So, I knew I had to find another kindy which was to his liking. From my observations, he craves for individual attention. So sending him to a highly-enrolled kindy was a no-no.
That was when my husband's friend recommended us Alim Kids. Although the monthly fee was slightly more than the other kindies, we enrolled our son there because we were sure that he will get his much-needed attention: there were only 4 kids on the first day! First week: everything went pretty well. He liked the teachers, his friends (though he's quite rowdy for their liking! He! He!), and even the food. His teacher observed that he liked playing compared to studying. However, hubby was convinced, with the teacher's knowledge in child psychology, our son would be 'transformed', eventually. And 'transformed' he did. The following week, the son started to read and finished his Ladybird 1A in a week! I was impressed!
So, which preschool is best for your child? The answer actually lies with you and your child.
i) Know your child - his/her strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, idiosyncracies, etc.
ii) Know your preference - medium of instruction, enrolment, fee structure, etc.
iii) Survey the kindy - teachers, learning approach, facilities, etc.
Then as the saying goes, tepuk dada, tanya selera.