By Puja Chandra Nanda
Singapore offers a wide array of enrichment classes for children. From weekly lessons that reinforce school curriculum to holiday lessons in robotics, music and arts; there is an enrichment school for every age and every interest. As parents, we enroll our children in enrichment schools for various reasons – to keep them gainfully engaged, for them to learn a new skill, for them to get better scores in exams and sometimes, for all the the above reasons and more.
While the reasons might vary, there are some basic ground checks that parents must do and some important factors that they need to consider before zeroing in on an enrichment center for their child:
Your Child’s Age:
While the minimum age to join an enrichment school is not cast in stone; most children in Singapore start enrichment classes at the age of 4. It is important to judge the age suitability on the following factors:
- Duration of the class
- Teacher student ratio/ Class size
- Pre-requisite skills, if any
Younger children generally do not have the capacity to sit for long, have shorter attention span and need personalized attention. Classes that are conducted in small groups and encourage play based lessons are ideal for younger kids. Also, a child should be fairly capable of following teacher’s instructions and communicating with peers and teachers. It is also important to determine whether the child has the necessary gross and fine motor skills required for the class. Intensive sports that require oodles of stamina and muscle strength might not work for younger kids. However, lessons in language, music, art and low impact sports usually work well for younger children.
In fact research points at a growth window available for kids upto the age of 7 where they pick up skills and absorb knowledge like a sponge, as the brain forms synapses for every new input. So sign up for lessons that build the cognitive and mental capabilities of the child and help in his/her overall growth.
Your Child’s Aptitude:
While it is difficult to gauge the interests of younger children, it is beneficial to ask older children to choose non-academic enrichment classes according to their interests. This will motivate the child to put his heart and soul into the class and use it to his advantage. For younger kids, it is a good idea to try out multi-discipline classes such as multi-sport lessons to observe what they enjoy most. As this might not always be possible, one can ask for a trial lesson. Most enrichment schools are happy to offer a trial lesson. Since most enrichment classes are expensive and collect full term’s fee in advance, it is important to assess the child’s interest as early as possible.
It is important to set your own “realistic”expectations when sending the child for a particular enrichment class, to avoid feeling overwhelmed or disappointed later. Some questions that you can ask yourself include:
- Is the class actually enriching the child’s brain and unlocking his potential beyond the school?
- Is he/she learning a new skill?
- Is it reinforcing the school lessons and leading to academic progress?
- Is the cost of the enrichment school balanced by the gainful engagement/ benefit?
- Does the child enjoy the lesson and look forward to it?
Since enrichment classes involve a huge investment in terms of money and time, it is also important to do your research well before signing up. Besides the enrichment school’s website, you can also check their Facebook pages to read through parents testimonials. You can also read reviews on independent parenting groups and parenting websites for honest feedback and reviews. Some factors to consider are:
- Is the environment offered by the school conducive for the child’s growth?
- Are the teachers skilled, experienced and friendly?
- Does the school give regular feedback to parents and engage parents effectively?
- Does the school encourage parents to share feedback/concerns?
- How does the school compare with other similar schools in terms of cost?
- Is the school accessible easily by walk or public transport?
- What is the school’s policy on informed leave and make up lessons?
- Does the school have a track record of improved results in case of academic enrichment?
- In case of non-academic enrichment classes, does it encourage children to participate in competitions and events?
Your Child’s Schedule:
It is a good idea not to overly burden the child’s daily schedule with enrichment and extra curricular activities, as the child loses interest and treats these classes as an ordeal. Children also experience burnout when burdened beyond reasonable limits. This defeats the very purpose of sending children to enrichment classes as they fail to use them to their advantage. For children who have long school hours and spend a long time on class assignments, it is wiser to reduce enrichment classes so children get enough time to rest and play. It is also a good idea to keep at least one day in the week completely free from extra curricular activities and use it for family outings/ family bonding time.
Parents World has compiled a list of best enrichment schools in Singapore. Click on the embedded image or link to learn more: