Indian cities offer a range of preschools that follow various methodologies – Play Way, Montessori, Reggio Emilio style as well as traditional preschools and play schools. Moving to India with a preschool aged child is much simpler than moving with older children because there are no compulsory language requirements at this age.
A Summary of Preschool Education in India
- Preschools typically start from when the child is 18 months old and up to Senior KG (5 years old) though age may vary depending on the schools
- Many preschools are now franchises or part of national preschool chains
- Most programs range between 2-3 hours per day till first grade with some offering a choice of morning or afternoon programs
- Teacher-student ratios may range from 1:6 to 1:12 (excluding 2-3 helpers/maids). Some may have a larger overall class size (35-40 kids) though maintaining the same student-teacher ratio
- Most preschools do not have a day care attached and don’t necessarily have a tie up with a specific day care. However there are usually day cares nearby to preschools and in some cases, van facilities are provided either by the preschool or the day cares to transport students from one to the other.
- Most seem to allow for a phased in separation for the child, allowing parents either to stay in the classroom with the child or to wait outside and gradually lengthen the time kids are without parents in the classroom.
Preschool Curriculum Choices: The curriculum followed by the preschools varies by school. Most follow child-centric methods - some have developed their own proprietary approach whereas others use a combination of approaches. Some of the methods used are:
- Focus on Multiple Intelligences Method: Based on Dr. Howard Gardener’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, this approach basically takes into account the fact that different kids learn through different mediums. So the same concept – e.g. colors is taught through different activities such as reading, art, singing, sports and so on.
- Combination of Play Way & Montessori: The Play Way method has emerged from Germany’s Froebel and is based on the theory that maximum learning takes place when kids are playing. So schools following this method use informal ways of teaching through activities such as puzzles, blocks, field trips. This is not generally used exclusively on its own but many combine it with either Montessori material or other formal teaching aids.
- Reggio-Emila Approach: Originating from Northern Italy, this is another wholly child-centric method; this is similar to Montessori but provides a little more focus on creativity and use of different learning material in the classroom. The classroom itself is made to look very appealing to the kids since it is seen as the third teacher. The method emphasizes observation of the child and maintains extensive documentation on how the child learns and focuses in school. It can be used in combination with other approaches such as the UK Early Learning method.
- Montessori: Montessori in its pure form may or may not be implemented since Indian parents often do not like the concept of mixed age classrooms. Typically the Montessori system is followed in tandem with the PlayWay method. Montessori materials are used mostly for spatial reasoning, and language (tracing letters in sandpaper etc).For an understanding on pure Montessori programs, read our article - What is Montessori - A Personal Experience.
Preschool Choices: When choosing a preschool in India typically there is a choice of:
- Home-based playschools (up to 4 years of age)
- Independent preschools
- Preschool franchises - KidZee, Eurokids, Podar Jumbo kids etc
- Montessori and special curriculum preschools
- Preschools that are part of regular K-10 schools
NOTE: In choosing the type of preschool, keep in mind that admission processes for regular schools tends to get more demanding as a child grows older - for instance a 5-year old seeking entry into Upper Kindergarten (UKG) of a school may need to go through an interview/assessment whereas there may be very few requirements for admission into the same school for a 3-year old.
Also the lower LK (LKG) classroom is the starting class for the bigger, popular schools and will admit 35-40 kids per class. In higher classes, there will be very few vacancies in the classroom (created when a child leaves) and it is extremely difficult to gain admission then. So if you are aiming for one of these schools, your best bet is to try and gain admission in the lower grades.