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Preschool Confidential: Mama real talk about the most popular preschools in Singapore

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Wouldn’t it be cool to get the lowdown on preschools in Singapore without the gloss of advertising? We thought so, too, so we recruited dozens of mamas from across the island to tell us what they really think about the places where they send their kiddos. These quotes are almost completely anonymous (first initials only), and mamas told us about the good, the bad and the ugly (fortunately not too much of that). What’s great to see is that most mamas seem to really love their schools — it’s all about finding the right fit for you and your child. Want to know more? Don’t forget you can always check out our comprehensive Guide to the Best Preschools in Singapore!

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Avondale Grammar School

What do you love about your school?
“The environment is so similar to back home, even some of the teachers are Australian. It is very nurturing, and I find my child’s confidence has just soared since he started. He has made some lovely friends, and so have I, through the school. I love their big, open classrooms and play areas, and the curriculum is really fun and creative while also encouraging the kids academically.”
-A.

What do you wish you could change?
“The location is tricky for pick-ups and drop offs, as parking is difficult and there are limited places for cabs to stop. Being an international school, it is also quite expensive, though I guess it’s comparable to other international schools.”

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How receptive have you found the administration in dealing with problems or special requests?
“Great. I wanted my son to move language classes, and all requests were met within a timely manner and all staff were very supportive.”

What do you love about your school in comparison to other schools that you considered?
“I like that my son can continue on to primary school, so we won’t have to change his environment. It will make the transition to ‘big school’ so much easier. He’s already comfortable catching the school bus, he knows the playground and lots of the different teachers, and of course his classmates. Plus we don’t need to buy a new school uniform when he needs to start ‘big school’! That’s why I chose Avondale rather than a conventional preschool that only goes to age 5.”

Avondale Grammar School, 318 Tanglin Road, Phoenix Park, Singapore 247979, Tel: (+65) 6258 8544, www.avondale.edu.sg

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Between Two Trees

What do you love about your school?
“The warmth of the teachers and staff, the values it breathes through everything they do (gratitude, respect, kindness, listening, curiosity), the child-focused way of learning, and the fact that being outside and nature is an important part of the curriculum.”
-C.

“It’s not just a school, it’s a community. The teachers and staff are genuine, nurturing folks with a true love for the children and care for their families. Older kids from other classes know the young’uns by name, and you’ll see fellow parents giving other kids high fives and asking about their day. It’s a wonderfully welcoming environment. B2T has a very expressive culture, where learning comes to life through stories, song, dance, and art. Our daughter especially loves all the painting and craft – it makes her eager to share stuff she’s learned with other friends too because it’s so fun!

Being rather hopeless in our mother tongue, my husband and I are also very appreciative of the immersive (and imaginative!) bilingual curriculum. Our daughter brings home animated stories and has even started teaching us Chinese songs! It’s great to see how the Reggio approach encourages the kids to have a sense of ownership and deep connection with each topic that is explored. Even though the kids are young, their ability to learn is never underestimated by the school.

We have seen our little girl transform over the past year, with her teachers calmly but firmly weaning her from bad habits (such as venting her frustrations via tantrums, fighting naptime, etc.) to helping her, and us, better understand and manage her emotions. We like that though the formal teacher-parent update is a weekly one, the teachers are always open to chatting on how the children are doing at any time. This close relationship has been nothing but beneficial for our child’s growth. She has become a happy, articulate and inquisitive bub.

As apartment dwellers, we also chose this school because of its outdoor garden space. The double-storey house has a rustic, homey charm, and especially because B2T brings nature into its classroom and lessons, our girl has learned to better appreciate and respect the life that surrounds us. From helping to harvest papayas from the garden to helping cut said fruit to share with her friends, she is also learning to value where the food on the table comes from. It’s a taste of the wholesome kampung childhood we’ve always wanted to give our child!”
-T.

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What do you wish you could change?
“Not much, except in one class windows were changed into walls due to fire safety rules which takes the wonderful daylight out of the class. Wish the windows could come back!”

“The fees are on the steeper side, which may initially puzzle some because the facilities aren’t exactly brand new, and they don’t have modern bells and whistles. However, as a parent of a B2T kid, it quickly became very clear where the value is going. The teachers are all graduates, the school works with a nutritionist to ensure that everything that is prepared in-house is packed with goodness for the kids, and the school works consistently to upgrade doors, playground sets, tables, etc. to ensure the child is always in a safe, enriching space. I suppose it would also be nice if the kids had a larger outdoor area to play with. However, with B2T recently setting up their new Early Learning Center at Loewen with its huge garden, it’s great that other parents now have the option to choose between two campuses if that was a concern.”

Any tips for parents navigating the admissions/registration process?

“Go there and have a chat with the teachers and the head of the school to get a good feeling of the place. Submission forms are self explanatory but take some time (lots of info required, I guess as for every admission process!).”

“If the school’s philosophy and pedagogy speak to your heart, get on the waitlist early. And by early, I mean we registered our little girl at 9months old to ensure her a place for the Pre-nursery program (for tots at 18months). The teacher: student ratio is low, so spots are very limited.”

How receptive have you found the administration in dealing with problems or special requests?
“They have a great mindset of customised solutions. We have a very good relationship with them and problems are always solved.”

“Oh, they’re great. Emails are always attended to within a day, and the school administrators are always prompt with addressing any billing/registration inquiries. Before I became a SAHM, I truly appreciated how they would give us advice on subsidies and also how they are open to a flexible schedule (e.g. it didn’t have to be a 5-full day week. We could go MWF full days and half days in between). Because the administrators are present in the school every day, it’s also easy to quickly catch up during drop-off/pick-up time.”

What do you love about your school in comparison to other schools that you considered?
“The child-centered learning philosophy, the way they accept each child for who he is, the outside space, the email report with pictures we get every week, and the playful project approach to teaching.”

“A lot of schools that we shortlisted and visited prided themselves on their facilities, their process, their achievements, etc. At B2T, people come first. The trust and love these children have in their teachers is palpable in the way these kids carry themselves so confidently and approach learning with so much joy. We believe empathy is a great foundation for any education, and the B2T family has that in heaps.”

Between Two Trees, 7 Ming Teck Park, Singapore 277375, Tel: (+65) 6733 9768 and 73 Loewen Road, #01-19/20,  Singapore 248843, Tel: (+65) 6509 8296, www.betweentwotrees.sg 

bibinogs preschool confidential Bibinogs (River Valley)

What do you love about your school? 
“Its convenient location at UE Square, the beautiful teaching staff who really care about my daughter, and the excellent bilingual environment. My toddler’s Mandarin is coming on in leaps and bounds, and she really enjoys learning a new language because they make it so much fun for her.”
-A.

What do you wish you could change?
“The hours it is open — they open at 9am and they close at 1pm; I would love to be able to extend my daughter’s time there are she gets older. Also, there is no outdoor play space.”

Any tips for parents navigating the admissions/registration process?
“All very straightforward and the team are very responsive and helpful. We pay a term in advance, just via NETS. They also have a refundable deposit system.”

What do you love about your school in comparison to other schools that you considered?
“Location and staff are great. I felt she would be safe there, as the location is secure. (Not next to a busy road like some others nearby). I also really like their dual-language classes and all of the creative activities — the games, songs and craft they do are all really fun and interesting.”

Bibinogs, #02-11 UE Square Mall, 81 Clemenceau Avenue, Singapore 239917, Tel: (+65) 6733 0416, www.bibinogs.com

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Blue House International School

What do you love about your school?
“My son was previously at a local preschool.  As he has special needs, the school was unable to cope with him and it was difficult and draining having to deal with frequent calls from teachers with details of what he was unable to do in school.

Blue House welcomed him with open arms.  They accommodated his needs and encouraged his abilities and he’s blossomed under their care.  What impressed us, and our therapy team, was the way Blue House accepted him for who he was and adapted their classroom and activities to include him.  He was happy going to school every day — he enjoyed himself so much that there were days he would be devastated at the end of the school day! I was so impressed by their out of the box approach I sent my pre-nursery daughter there.  She is now in a local preschool and the teachers have commented on her confidence and inquisitive approach to learning.

I feel that Blue House offers children the sort of childhood that every child should have without compromising their learning opportunities.  They have created a welcoming and warm environment and an inclusive community.”
–P.

“They don’t try to put kids into a certain “box”; they really respect each individual’s personality/character, and always try to develop their interest to the next level, rather than judge them. Our boy is quite active, and we had the unpleasant experience of receiving harsh commentary from a previous instructor [at another school] on my son being “different (=difficult)”, so it’s been a blessing for us to hear his teacher telling us he’s enthusiastic about something (which could, in other places, just contribute to make him a difficult kid).”
–Y.

Blue House Preschool

What do you wish you could change?
“I wish Blue House was a full school instead of just a preschool!  It would also be perfect if they started the day at 8.30am instead of 9am, which is difficult for working parents.”

“Sometimes they don’t provide enough reminders of class events (like parent-accompanied mornings, for instance) so unless you regularly check your email and put all those events on the calendar, you only realise that on the very same day of event.

In my opinion they have too many breaks (half-term breaks etc.) so it’s a bit of a headache for parents to think of what to do during the holiday. (They offer holiday programmes, but at extra cost on top of the already quite high tuition fee we pay!).”

How receptive have you found the administration in dealing with problems or special requests?
“Very receptive.  They accepted a shadow teacher support for my son and schedule frequent meetings between the teachers and his therapists to ensure that the school is able to reinforce what he is taught at therapy.  There have also been many occasions where the school and the teachers made specific accommodations that went beyond the call of duty.”

“They are very responsive in terms of specific requests for each child. My son was wearing his nappy till very late (3.5 years old), but they changed his nappies and when it was his time for toilet training, they took initiative so that we started toilet training at home as well. Without their help, he might still be wearing nappies!”

What do you love about your school in comparison to other schools that you considered?
“I love the inclusive spirit of Blue House.  Many schools in Singapore trumpet their learning support programmes but in searching for the right school, I realised that reality was different … so thank you Blue House!

None of the nursery/preschools I checked out could beat the beauty of this school: harmony with nature, green, clean but still feeling warm when you enter the classroom. (Some schools are too clean if you know what I mean… too artificial, or too modern for our taste). Kids also get to see horses and dogs walking from the polo school in front of the school and doggy daycare facility down the street – I’m not sure any other school has such a unique offering!”

Blue House International School, 2 Turf Club Road, Singapore 287988, Tel: (+65) 6734 0824, www.bluehouseinternational.com

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Brighton Montessori

What do you love about your school? 
“I love the way the rigorous curriculum is catered to prepare our children for primary school. It’s largely centred around a hands-on, Montessori approach, but is also personalised and tailored to the individual child’s learning style and pace.

The teachers are very passionate in their dealings with the children and they are very committed to providing close attention to the children and ensuring the child progresses. For example, the way the teachers have taught phonics to my son has eased him into reading simple books at an early age of 3 years old. The regular communication between the teachers and the parents of the children is very much appreciated. Personally, I feel this regular communication is crucial as it takes a village to raise a child!”
-D., mother of two students

“I love the layout — small and private, yet with outdoor areas for kids to play and eat so they are not in aircon all day. I like that the school is a Montessori, so the kids learn through play. Yet, being a local mum through and through, the fact that there’s a very rigorous curriculum with much emphasis on Mandarin is also a key consideration for me.”
–I.

What do you wish you could change?
“I wish they could retain the experienced teachers so that there would be more continuity in the relationship building between teachers and students.”

“I’d like to see better staff retention as through the years, some long serving teachers have left the school for other institutions. Also, I would very much like the school to take the kids out more often for excursions/plays on a monthly basis instead of only during the school holidays. It would give the kids a welcome break.”

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Any tips for parents navigating the admissions/registration process?
“Plan in advance. I might sound kiasu but from experience, if there is time to do research while you are on your maternity leave, why not? If you want your kid to go to school at 18 months, time flies faster than you think.”

How receptive have you found the administration in dealing with problems or special requests?
“Very receptive. Brighton Montessori is all about catering to the different needs and styles of the children, hence, any special requests by parents are also dealt with very well.”

“Brighton @ Frankel has been quite proactive with dealing with any special instructions for the kids from my experience. The teachers are dedicated and are always open to chat whenever required.”

What do you love about your school in comparison to other schools that you considered?
“One of the key considerations was that the school had to be private, not too big in terms of the number of students and – very importantly – that there is a large outdoor play area and eating place for the kids. My husband and I are absolutely against a full aircon school. Also that it is a Montessori and I love the uniform!”

“I specifically like the way Brighton prepares the children to embrace the primary school curriculum and the challenges that accompany this transition. The Mandarin curriculum is also very strong as it adopts an MI (Multiple Intelligences) approach with aesthectics incorporated in the curriculum. My son, a non-native speaker, has grasped the basics of the Mandarin language and looks forward to the lessons in school, especially the ICIP (Intensive Chinese Immersion Programme). The school has managed to inculcate in my son the desire to go to school and to meet his friends daily. As an educator myself, this is very important as half the battle is won when a child loves attending school and comes home saying he had fun!”

Brighton Montessori, Ang Mo Kio, East Coast, River Valley and West Coast, Tel: (+65) 6588 3883, www.brightonmontessori.com.sg

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British Council Preschool

What do you love about your school?
“I myself enrolled with British Council at Napier Road in the 90s during my high school years, so my first impression was, This is it! Nonetheless, I was impressed starting from the orientation with Principal Vivien where I brought up some concerns about my son’s adapting the K1 module as he is a late talker. She reassured me, and had confidence in my son even before meeting him and suggested he visit the school’s library anytime before term starts to familiarise himself and hopefully meet her and the teachers. So what do I love about the school? The principal, ultimately his teachers who were ever so patient with him despite his speech delay, even the administration executives and cleaner were totally friendly and kind. I love everything!”
-M.

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Any tips for parents navigating the admissions/registration process?
“Name all the concerns you have about your child at a new school and hear the them out. It depends on your child, but it will be good to arrange for a meet up with the principal and teachers during the process. British Council do allow trial classes so that’s a great way to help you make the decision. The rest of it is easy; pay and feel excited!”

How receptive have you found the administration in dealing with problems or special requests?
“This is one of the reasons I love this school. They’ve been very receptive to any special requests; problems were dealt with immediately. I was impressed and touched by their initiatives for things that didn’t cross my mind but were nonetheless executed for the benefit of my son.”

What do you love about your school in comparison to other schools that you considered?
“I had gone to several preschools and even made deposits to secure his place at two others before I come to know British Council has a preschool faculty in Singapore. Big thumbs up for its classroom amenities, location, principal and teachers!”

British Council, 11 Tampines Concourse, #01-02/03/04, Singapore 528729, Tel: +65 6783 9209, www.britishcouncil.sg


EtonHouse International School and Pre-Schools (various campuses)

What do you love about your school?
“There were two main reasons why I chose this school – the environment and the curriculum. Throughout the years that I have been at the school, I have also come to love and appreciate other aspects such as the wonderful teachers and staff, the high level of interaction between the parents and the teachers, and the strong social aspect of the parent community.

The school environment is so beautiful and inviting. As a school influenced by the Reggio Emilia approach, it uses the environment as the ‘third teacher’ so careful attention is paid to the look and feel of the classrooms, the ateliers, and the outdoor spaces, with great consideration and priority being given to natural materials.

The classrooms are bright and spacious, with lots of natural light. The school has two large sandpits, a vegetable garden, sensory gardens, a water course, a tricycle track, climbing structures, in addition to sufficient open green space.

Along the walkways, there is always something inviting exploration – an easel with paint, a basket of books, a chalkboard, some balls of yarn for winding around a chair or a column, some flowers frozen in blocks of ice, an overhead projector showing a video on the wall, a tub of sand with brushes inside, a water wall, etc. Often you will find the parents playing with these provocations too!

The school is a candidate for the IB World School (Primary Years Programme) and this was an important factor to me. I wanted a curriculum that was child-led and play-based, which is what the school is about. Within the framework of different units of inquiry, the students take charge of their own learning – what they learn is driven by their own theories and research, working collaboratively with each other, discovering and exploring together. I am continually amazed by how motivated the children are when they are in control of their own learning, and I am always impressed with their ideas and creativity.”
-L, parent of two students at EtonHouse Mountbatten 718

I love how new the school is. The buildings are in perfect condition. I really love how hygienic everything is. This school just looks perfect!”
-A.

What do you wish you could change?
“I guess I wish I could change the fact that students have to graduate and leave.  It is such a perfect place for children to enjoy being children.”

“I wish the uniforms were a little bit less rough, with smoother cotton. And it would be great if the half-day time finished at 14:00pm.”

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How receptive have you found the administration in dealing with problems or special requests?
“Very receptive. There are parent liaison officers to help the parents with any issues. The principal and the vice-principal are always around and they are always willing to stop and listen/talk to you. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone takes an interest in everyone.”

What do you love about your school in comparison to other schools that you considered?
“I love the bilingual environment. The educational philosophy just matches my views on education. I love seeing the teacher giving hugs to the kids. I love that parents get Whatsapp videos, pictures and feedback from the teacher.”

EtonHouse International School and Pre-Schools, Mountbatten Road, Broadrick Road, Newton, Claymore, Thomson, Robertson Walk, Bukit Timah, and Sentosa locations, Tel: (+65) 6746 3333, www.etonhouse.com.sg

LittleSparks Montessori

What do you love about your school?
“It’s small, the principal is very involved and all the teachers are genuinely loving with the children and helpful.”
-A.

What do you wish you could change?
“I wish that they had an outdoor play area.”

Any tips for parents navigating the admissions/registration process?
“It’s small so vacancies are limited. Try and visit and enlist your child early.

How receptive have you found the administration in dealing with problems or special requests?
“I honestly haven’t had any problems yet because they are usually addressed before I can even bring it up. For any special requests, they are super super receptive.”

What do you love about your school in comparison to other schools that you considered?
“Once again, size, personal attention (we can whatsapp principal and owner anytime) very accommodating, very reasonably priced with no compromise on quality.”

LittleSparks Montessori, 20 Siglap Drive, #01-03/06/07, Bowmont Centre, Singapore 456192, Tel: (+65) 6876 0198 and 103 Jalan Kembangan, Sngapore 4191341, Tel: (+65) 9820 8609, www.littlesparks.com.sg

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Montessori for Children

What do you love about your school?
“MFC very much has a spirit and culture where it’s a very child-centered environment.”

“The teachers are very patient; my daughter was initially hesitant about entering her classroom. They weren’t going to force her to do something against her will, but they also wouldn’t bend the rules for her to be accompanied by a parent. They just patiently waited until she was ready to enter on her own terms.”
-M.

Any tips for parents navigating the admissions/registration process?
“We love that they have a low registration fee, and because we have two kids, we’re able to pay monthly via GIRO and don’t have to pay the entire term at once.”

Montessori for Children, East Coast & Newton locations, www.montessori.edu.sg

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Odyssey, The Global Preschool

What do you love about your school?
“The wonderful outdoor space, lots of focus on fun activities and confidence-building. It is not just about learning to read and write in class, but more about encouraging the children to learn through enjoyable and practical activities. I also love that my daughter (age 3) can sing in Mandarin, understand and speak some words.”
-C.

“The location in a quiet residential area. The grounds with a large field with trees and play areas. The purpose-built, airy 2-storey building. It’s a small preschool where everyone is known by name. Families tend to know each other. Kids are genuinely happy.”
-S.

“The whole layout of the school is very child friendly, with a big playground which enables the children to learn about physical activities from an early age. I love the curriculum, very friendly and warm staff, the hygiene level maintained and a good mix of children from different nationalities coming together. Their various activities throughout the year makes the kids all-rounders, be it the year end cultural concert, the sports day, the Art Odyssey which brings the creativeness out in the kids or the little Chef day to try out their culinary skills.”
-D.

What do you wish you could change?
“There have been a few changes of ownership and principals. Fees are expensive for an essentially local preschool (staff are mainly local).”

“The monthly school fees are a bit on the higher side.”

Any tips for parents navigating the admissions/registration process?
“Put your child’s name down early if you want to enrol them to the toddler class. The waiting list is very long.”

“The waiting list seemed long which put me off. Started my kid in a different place and then was told a place was available at Odyssey. I believe in practise almost everyone can get a place.”

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How receptive have you found the administration in dealing with problems or special requests?
“It is easy to speak to the admin staff as someone is always around in the office.”

“Very responsive. Never had a problem. All our concerns were taken care of very early.”

What do you love about your school in comparison to other schools that you considered?
“We chose the school as it had the most outdoor space with airy classrooms full of arts and crafts that the children had made. There is a good daily structure with a range of different activities throughout the day.”

“Most of the schools don’t have playgrounds and classrooms that are so kid friendly, and not many have IB recognition. The teachers are sent to Reggio Emilia in Italy and incorporate the very best in the children. After graduation the kids go on to well-known international and local schools. When our son joined his elementary school it was a breeze for him to adjust to international standard. The Mandarin classes are every day with a dedicated Chinese teacher in the class.”

Odyssey, The Global Preschool, Tel: (+65) 6781 8800, www.theodyssey.sg

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Pink Tower Montessori

What do you love about your school?
“The size of the school and the family/community feel. All of the teachers know all of the children by name and obviously spend time getting to know each of the children; my son often shares jokes and smiles with teachers from other classes, showing that he is comfortable with them and knows them well. I went to a small school as a child and had this same experience; it makes you feel very connected and I love that my son is getting to experience it, too.”
-M.

What do you wish you could change?
“My top two would be 1) The food menu: I would like to see a healthier and more balanced menu presented (having said that the school is perfectly happy for you to send your own food into school with your little one) and 2) More of the class time spent using Mandarin as the instructional language. The Mandarin session is only 20 minutes a day and given my family doesn’t speak Mandarin at home I would prefer for my son to have more exposure in his daily learning.”

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Any tips for parents navigating the admissions/registration process?
Admissions / registration was a very straightforward process given they are a small school and I also found them to be very flexible. My second son was arriving last November and our son had done his first term of school when he turned 18 months at another school that we weren’t happy with. We wanted to move him to Pink Tower for this year’s school, starting him in the holiday program at the end of last year so that his routine was not too disrupted and he had continuation with schooling, especially with his new baby brother coming into the house. He was actually slightly too young for the holiday however we talked through our concerns with Pink Tower and they were very understanding and took him into the holiday program despite his age at the time. He had a fantastic time on the program and hasn’t looked back!

How receptive have you found the administration in dealing with problems or special requests?
Extremely accommodating. My son has a severe life threatening nut allergy that we need to manage and Pink Tower have been very thorough in their approach. They invited us down to educate their teachers, not just the ones from our son’s class, but the whole school, and are very diligent in monitoring this for us while he is at school.

What do you love about your school in comparison to other schools that you considered?
“It is small yet still operates as a school and not a daycare center. Their approach to learning is play-based (Montessori), which I feel is important at this age for my son (currently 2). I didn’t want him to be in an environment that was too structured so early on. One of the programs they do in class is “Around the World” where the students each have their own passport and they travel to a different country every term where they learn about the history, culture, cuisine…I think it is a fantastic multi-cultural approach to learning.”

Pink Tower Montessori, 252 Tembeling Road #01-07, Singapore 423731, Tel: (+65) 6444 2582, www.pinktower.edu.sg

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Playdays Mountbatten

What do you love about your school?
“I love the warm and caring staff, and the play-based approach. The fact that it’s a small centre means we know all the staff and they know us.”
K.

What do you wish you could change?
“I would love it if they offered longer hours, but they’re not a daycare centre. I would also make the lunches healthier.”

How receptive have you found the administration in dealing with problems or special requests?
“Very helpful. They try to accommodate any reasonable request.”

What do you love about your school in comparison to other schools that you considered?
“A play-based approach seemed hard to find when I was looking. I also love that the staff are very relaxed and happy.”

Playdays, Block F #01-03, Mountbatten Centre, 231 Mountbatten Road, Singapore 397999, Tel: (+65) 6634 2318, www.playdays.com.sg

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Preschool for Multiple Intelligences (Kembangan)

What do you love about your school?
“I love the small school environment.  The school in the East is a house set back in a quiet neighborhood but it’s easy to reach as the MRT is only 2 blocks away.  I love the low teacher/student ratio and the personal attention my daughter gets. The students are encouraged to ask about topics and direct what they’re studying. I like that she has both English and Mandarin-speaking teachers that interact with her all day. While it’s not immersion exactly, it’s certainly more than 1 hour per day or 3 times per week!  I love that the school is open 7am-7pm.  While our helper takes her to school and picks her up around 8am-5pm(the actual curriculm period), it’s nice to have flexibility during her annual leave.  I love the garden and outdoor play area.  There is a large sand play and climbing area, a poured concrete pad for riding toys, and occasionally pets such as rabbits and tadpoles!”
-S.

What do you wish you could change?
“I wish I could change how expensive schooling in Singapore is in general.  PMI is quite reasonable compared to others at $1500 monthly for 5 full days per week. “

Any tips for parents navigating the admissions/registration process?
“Visit the schools you are considering.  You will get a vibe from the teachers and staff and the environment.  I had a school picked out in my mind but when we visited every classroom was enclosed, not a single window.  The school had no outdoor play space or sunlight at all.  We immediately disqualified this school from our consideration.  We took many recommendations from articles like this, from Facebook, and from fellow parents.”

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How receptive have you found the administration in dealing with problems or special requests?
“Another reason why we chose this school was during our initial research and through the school visits and interview process we found PMI staff to be very welcoming and responsive. The director herself (Dr. Khoo) met with us to tour the school and explain their philosophies and methods. After that I wrote emails almost daily until all our questions were answered. We interviewed in April but didn’t want to start until September; they allowed us to pay the usual deposit but did not charge us for the interim months until she began in September. This accommodation was much appreciated. Our daughter’s school life is very stable and I truly appreciate that. We occasionally ask questions by email and we still get a very prompt response.”

What do you love about your school in comparison to other schools that you considered?
“We like the outdoor play space — many schools we looked at don’t have much or any. We like the local food that’s offered for breakfast, tea and lunch. Our daughter has assimilated to the local cuisine and she’s so easy to feed when we go out to dinner 🙂  We like the staff, they’re truly qualified teachers and not just child-minders.”

Preschool for Multiple Intelligences, 39 Lorong Melavu, Singapore 416923. Tel: (+65) 6747 1343, www.pmi.com.sg

preschool confidential_redhouse preschool 2

Red Schoolhouse

What do you love about your school?
“I think Red Schoolhouse has great teachers. They are a warm and friendly bunch, and they took great effort in helping my son ease into school. It was rather difficult for him to transition from being a completely homebound child to a school-going one, and some of the teachers really went the extra mile –even Whatsapping me daily updates at the end of the day. They never made me feel like it was a chore taking care of him, and it appeared they really understood his needs.

There was also a child with special needs in the school and I noticed that he was never left alone. There would always be someone with him so that he wouldn’t feel lost. I thought that was great. I’m pretty sure his parents did not pay extra but that was just how the teachers were.

Curriculum-wise, I wasn’t really looking out for much, though play-based learning was important to me because the children are young, and Singaporean children hardly have a super fun childhood that isn’t centred on academics. I think Red Schoolhouse struck a good balance. Also, there were always updates in English and Chinese to cover what was being done for the coming week in school so that parents were kept aware.

The other thing I really liked were the monthly field trips. This could range from a picnic at Katong Park nearby, or a visit to Kids Spot, or a play in Chinese. I think the teachers took turns organising these activities and parents or helpers were encouraged to go with the children.

Finally, I liked the way they always catered for diversity among the children. Throughout the year they celebrate different types of festivals etc. They always did it in a very big way and that was definitely a plus.”
-A.

Preschool confidential RedHouse Preschool 1

What do you wish you could change?
“Plenty. Nothing to do with the teachers though, more to do with administration of the place. The Margate Road franchise was pretty new when we enrolled and there were plenty of hiccups along the way. I felt the owner did not give the Principal enough empowerment to make certain decisions that were needed to run the school. For instance, having to repeatedly call the owner of the school to get approval for the repair of air conditioners that had broken down in the room where the children usually slept. The lack of trust and empowerment clearly was an obstacle in the running of the school.

Also, financial matters were a bit of a mess; I always got the feeling that local children were considered troublesome because they were entitled to various subsidies and these required applying for. Financial matters were handled by the owner, who wasn’t on site but conveyed messages via the Principal, which felt like a game of telephone. In short the communication with parents from the school management was terrible. The school is lucky to have great teachers to make up for those problems.

Finally, the school was in the process of being sold or taken over (I have no idea which) and while I appreciated that some details were still confidential, at appropriate junctures, there was really very little communicated to parents.

From an infrastructure point of view, since the Margate Road Campus is housed in an old bungalow with little space for expansion, it was always a worry for me that the school might eventually move to a bigger space. Also, while incredibly rustic, the outdoor play area wasn’t tiled, with uneven ground surfaces etc. Don’t think it would have passed MOE risk assessment to be honest.”

How receptive have you found the administration in dealing with problems or special requests?
“As mentioned previously, I had a pretty negative experience with administration money wise, when I felt things could have been communicated in better ways.

Special requests-wise, the Principal was very flexible in allowing me to play around with the various ways my son could attend school when he was adjusting.”

What do you love about your school in comparison to other schools that you considered?
“The low teacher-student ratio was important to me, and the constant feedback and suggestions from the teachers were valuable in helping me keep up with my child. I don’t have any other experience with other schools of course, but my experience with the teaching staff of Red Schoolhouse was really quite a pleasant one.”

Red Schoolhouse, Bartley, Upper Thomson, Woodlands and Katong locations, www.redschhs.com

preschool confidential SAIS
Stamford American International School

What do you love about your school?
“The campus is amazing, My son loves PE days. They get to get out of the classroom and play sports, do gymnastics, aerobics. Inside the classroom there’s so much to do!

They do things together like listening to stories and talking about a theme or discussing different topics every week and then they bring home books or drawings related to the theme. But they also have time to be “on their own” so they can choose to go to a corner and pick a book and read or draw or build.

A few months ago, for example, they were talking about transportation. They took the MRT, went on a boat on the river and rode back to school on a bus. My son loved it and still remembers and talks about it! They also talked about planes and took a trip to Changi Airport. At school they built a plane with chairs and a parent who happens to be a pilot went to visit them, he brought with him a big picture of a plane’s cabin and explained to them how planes work.

preschool confidential SAIS 2

I know everything he does at school day by day because there is a private website for members of the school community with daily updates. His teacher takes pictures almost every day of each kid while they are doing something by themselves or in groups. I know what they talk about every week, whether it’s an animal, a letter, the weather, so I can ask my son when I pick him up and we continue the conversations at home. I really like this system because we feel we are not only parents sending our kids to school but also we feel part of the process and we can also participate.

At the moment they are starting to read and every child does it at his personal level. The same thing happened this year with swimming lessons.

In short, my son loves his school and we love it as well!”
-O.

Stamford American International School, 279 Upper Serangoon Road (1 Woodleigh Lane), Singapore 347691, Tel: (+65) 6602 7247, www.sais.edu.sg

Preschool confidential white lodge 1
White Lodge

What do you love about your school?
“White Lodge has a positive and happy atmosphere, which I felt from the first time we looked around. The staff are genuinely enthusiastic and show real affection to my daughter. We had left behind a nursery she loved in London, but she settled really quickly into White Lodge.

I also love the ever changing displays and children’s art work – the school is bright and cheerful and real effort is made to decorate the school according to the topics being studied at the time. Finally, the weekly email newsletter that features photos of the children and often quotes from them which help you to keep up with their activities.”
-R., White Lodge East Coast

What do you wish you could change?
“The exterior of the school is uninspiring and on my first visit I was quite put off (the school is above a car park in a small commercial centre). Fortunately when you get into the building, the colourful displays and artwork make it feel much more welcoming and inspiring than outside would suggest! The outside play area is a bit limited due to space, but they have an indoor gym so the children get plenty of physical activity.”

Any tips for parents navigating the admissions/registration process?
“This was actually very straightforward and the head teacher guided us through with no issues. They offer trial sessions and I spoke to other parents who had children there to get a feel for the place. The initial up-front payments (deposit etc.) seemed lower than other schools we looked at.”

What do you love about your school in comparison to other schools that you considered?
“The atmosphere at the school just feels extremely positive, friendly and welcoming. In addition to the bright artwork and displays it just feels like a nice place to be.”

White Lodge, Bukit Timah, Upper Bukit Timah, Central North, East Coast, Upper East Coast, Loewen Gardens, Phoenix Park, West Coast locations, Tel: (+65) 6440 6690, www.whitelodge.com.sg

Image #3 sourced via Pinterest

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5 thoughts on “Preschool Confidential: Mama real talk about the most popular preschools in Singapore

  1. We have a very bad experience with White Lodge Central North, the smallest of the White Lodges in serangoon gardens. The turnover is extremely high, no consistency, teachers always look stressed out, no transparency. Last update 2016 september; because the classes are small ( you hv to leave when child is 4)they put together the 1 and 4 year olds without announcing to parents. Negative vibe, where rules are more important then children. And the fees keep increasing. It’s such a shame!

    1. White Lodge sincerely apologises to the family for any shortcomings that they may have experienced in our service. We understand the family detailing this comment have now left the White Lodge community and we would like to take the opportunity to wish their child well in her future schooling. In time, we hope that she recalls happy times of her schooling and friendships at White Lodge.

  2. I sent my child to Odyseey Preschool at Still Road campus but lived to regret it. She was literally bullied by her head teacher because we expressed our dissatisfaction with various things like their extreme exposure to youtube video, the inappropriate content shown to children, their lack of outdoor activities, teacher’s negativity. We brought these issues up on a Friday with the center director and our child was specifically identified, ostracized and bullied by the head teacher on the following Monday. Her head teacher even told her that she had to go to a new school. That made her felt rejected, sad and emotionally devastated as my child looked up to this teacher and felt that she had done something drastically wrong to deserve such treatment.

    Curriculum wise, she learnt next to nothing in her 3 months there. She watched tons of video on Youtube and picked up random words of mandarin. Still road has a huge campus with ample outdoor space but it’s just a white elephant. Activities are confined to a tiny space in the front poach. In her 3 months there, she never had waterplay .. although we were told to leave her swim costumes in school for such activities. Regardless of activities or curriculum, the worst experience was with the teachers. Besides being bullied and emotionally traumatized by the head teacher, the Chinese is constantly on her phone, messaging! 7 out of 10 times I see her, she’d be on the phone while watching over the kids.

    We pulled her out of Odyssey the same day we learnt about the mistreatment and it’s been 1.5 months since my child enrolled in a new school. In her short 3 weeks at the new school, my child can recite some chinese poems though not perfect, did regular art works and enjoy playtime everyday. I’m glad we pulled our child out early and she’s in a much happier and educationally conducive environment now. Her new teachers really cared and ultimately, that’s what matters if your child spends more than half a day at the center. By the way, my child is in N2 this year.

  3. If you are looking for a loan broker to help you find a great deal we can help. We are reputable loan broker we have numerous reliable lenders who we have worked with for many years in securing loans for our customers at a very reduce interest rate.we will find you the best loans that match your requirements and credit profile.The application process only takes a couple of minutes with no obligation to proceed.
    We also pay 1% commission of loan principal sum to Brokers who introduce project owners, business developers and general business facilitators who seek for loan to achieve their project goal or expand their businesses.

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  4. You have mostly talked about schools that are on the more expensive side, what about less expensive ones out there, so that there is a more balanced outlook from all pockets of view.

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