Decoding Popular Preschool Curricula in Singapore!

There are several great preschool curricula but it can be daunting understanding how each one works and even more finding the one that fits your child’s needs. At Parents World, we hear you and are here to help.

The five popular curricula adopted by preschools in Singapore are:

  • Montessori
  • Play-Based
  • Reggio Emilia
  • Waldorf Steiner
  • Theory of Multiple Intelligences


A revolutionary education system founded by Italian physicist Dr. Maria Montessori in 1907 for young children, the Montessori pedagogy has been followed for over 100 years and has proved hugely popular in early childhood education around the world including Singapore.

The Montessori philosophy is a child-centered scientific approach. It centers around the belief that children when left to make their own choices in a conducive environment will naturally choose optimal development. Unlike other curricula, the Montessori approach does not leave gaps in learning as it is customized to meet the individual needs of every child in the group, allowing children to thrive in a mixed age classroom setting.

The hallmarks of this approach are specialized learning materials, a thoughtfully curated environment and teachers who are trained in Montessori methods of teaching. The Montessori method is suitable for all children and is beneficial to children who are gifted or those with special needs as they can move at their own pace.


Experts say children learn best when they learn while playing! A play based curriculum recognizes that play is the most effective way for children to gain and retain knowledge. Play based learning allows children to enjoy the learning process while interacting with materials, peer group and the environment in a manner that is fun, interesting and engaging. It leads to development of gross and fine motor skills, muscle strength and flexibility. Additionally, play based learning instills important life skills in the children including team work, critical thinking and problem solving in a subtle, non-obtrusive manner.

A play based curriculum is not cast in stone and can differ from school to school as it draws inference from many other curricula like the Reggio Emilia, Montessori and the High-scope curriculum. The hallmarks of this curriculum are plenty of opportunity of outdoor activities and play, less academic stress and more time for free and spontaneous play. Play based curriculum is suitable for all children, especially the kinaesthetic learners and the restless little souls who find it difficult to sit in one place to study!

Reggio Emilia 

The Reggio Emilia approach to preschool education stems from a belief that every aspect of the environment can potentially contribute to a child’s learning process. Thus the pedagogy revolves around project-based, sensory and experiential learning, rather than promoting pure academic vigour.

The teaching framework is ever-evolving with a constructive, pro-active approach where teachers are observers and learners themselves. The teachers then curate their reflections into a guide for future lessons. This represents a child-led (emergent) curriculum in the true sense of the word.

Hallmarks of the Reggio Emilia approach are in-depth projects with emphasis on collaboration, team work and problem -solving. Other important contributors are teachers as facilitators, an emergent curriculum-based on the child’s interest and a conducive environment (akin to a Montessori programme). The Reggio Emilia is very popular in Singapore preschools and is suitable for all early learners -gifting them with a lifelong love for learning!

Waldorf -Steiner

The Waldorf-Steiner educational pedagogy was established by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the early 1900s. This approach strives to bring a human touch to education focusing on the growing child -his or her innate abilities and potential. This pedagogy takes into cognizance the “whole being” – that is a child’s heart and hands along with the head.

The hallmarks of this educational approach include practical, meaningful programmes that cater to the overall development and well-being of the child. They include a holistic understanding of a child’s intellectual, emotional, physical needs and social needs. Thus the curriculum stresses on outdoor play, nature walks, art & craft, music & drama as ways to nurture a child’s creativity and contribute to their development.

Thousands of preschools around the globe have adopted the Waldorf-Steiner educational pedagogy including preschools in Singapore. The teaching approach that values every child’s total well-being, is suitable for preschoolers.

Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardener, a Harvard psychologist propounded The Theory of Multiple Intelligences in 1983. This theory shuns the conventional and narrow method of defining a human’s intelligence by his IQ (a score that primarily measures academic intelligence). Instead, Gardener proposed that a human could have eight intelligences or smarts: 1.Spatial (Visual Smart), 2.Linguistic (Word Smart), 3.Logical (Number Smart), 4. Kinaesthetic (Body Smart), 5.Musical (Music Smart), 6.Interpersonal (People Smart), 7. Intrapersonal (Self Smart) and 8.Naturalistic (Nature Smart).

While not all agree with this multi-dimensional concept of intelligence, many preschools around the world including in Singapore, have adopted this inclusive approach. The hallmark of Multiple Intelligence approach is exposing children to multifarious activities -academic and non-academic so their innate dominant trait can be identified and encouraged. Multiple Intelligence approach is suitable for all early learners though it may not work too well for older children as it is too broad based.

Making the Decision:

While each of the above preschool curricula has its merits, choose one that is best suited for your child’s learning style. Some children thrive with a structured approach to learning while others feel stifled in it. A curriculum which is well-rounded and combines elements of both classroom and outdoor learning as well as a mix of academic and non-academic activities works best.

These are some questions that you can ask while selecting a preschool for your child.

Also, read Parents World Best Preschools of 2020