Important to support kids' holistic development

Children at a baking class at enrichment centre Genius R Us.
Children at a baking class at enrichment centre Genius R Us. PHOTO: GENIUS R US

The early years are a critical period when the foundation for children's future outcomes is laid.

If the purpose of education is to develop the whole child and equip children with the skills and competencies that will prepare them for the opportunities and challenges of the future, one must then recognise that holistic education is beyond academic performance. It is, therefore, imperative to question the kind of foundation we want to build for children's later trajectory.

In Monday's report ("Helping kids make leap from pre-school to primary school"), parents said they send their children to enrichment centres to better prepare them for primary school.

While parents want to provide the best for their children, do enrichment centres really prepare children for primary school?

The proliferation of tuition and enrichment centres in recent years seems to suggest that private operators are increasingly capitalising on parents' anxiety and hopes for their children. Clearly, the economics of demand and supply are evident in the lucrative pre-school enrichment landscape.

While enrichment centres may be registered under the Education Ministry, this does not necessarily mean quality standards.

Are the enrichment programmes available in the market developmentally appropriate? What is the curriculum and pedagogy used in these programmes? If the intention is to prepare children for primary school, is it necessary for children to learn what they will learn at primary level before they are ready to?

How can parents support children's transition to school? They can support children's holistic development, as it focuses on the whole child.

Children mature across the five developmental domains - cognitive, language, physical, social and emotional - at different rates.

They need time, space and opportunities to explore and experience life. They need time to learn and grow. They need to play. Play is so intrinsic to them that they actually learn best through play.

Listen to their thoughts and ideas, as this teaches respect. Through interactions, they develop prosocial skills, build meaningful relationships and learn to manage conflict and negotiate with others.

When children believe that they can complete the task at hand, it cultivates perseverance, positive self-concept and resilience.

Support their sense of wonder, this inculcates a positive learning attitude in them. Last but not least, spend time with them. Because at the end of the day, what they remember from their childhood is the experiences they had.

Sandra Wu Pinhui (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2015, with the headline 'Important to support kids' holistic development'. Print Edition | Subscribe