Pre-schools with arts focus growing in popularity

At Nafa Arts Kindergarten, children have an hour of lessons each day on topics such as music, dance, art and drama. -- PHOTO: NANYANG ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS
At Nafa Arts Kindergarten, children have an hour of lessons each day on topics such as music, dance, art and drama. -- PHOTO: NANYANG ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS

Parents book places years ahead as two operators have long waiting list

Project manager Patrina Lew started making plans for pre-school when she was still expecting daughter Heather.

By the time Heather was three months old, Ms Lew, 36, had already registered her for a place at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) Arts Kindergarten.

She said: "I didn't want my girl to be in a purely academic environment, and quite a few of my friends said that Nafa's pre- school has music and dance in its lessons." Heather, now four, has attended the pre-school for more than a year now and enjoys art and craft, she added.

Like Ms Lew, a small but growing group of parents is putting more emphasis on the arts when it comes to pre-schools, swelling the demand for places in at least two pre-school operators here that specialise in the arts.

Nafa Arts Kindergarten is one. It has seen demand grow so much that it opened a second centre at Derbyshire Road, near Novena, to add to its East Coast branch in March. Another is Creative O Preschoolers' Bay, which has also seen enrolments go up.

The Nafa Arts Kindergarten, which takes in children three to six years old, includes a daily art programme in its timetable. Every day, children attend an hour of art lessons on topics such as music, dance, 2D and 3D art, and drama.

A Nafa spokesman said the parents register a place for their children as early as three years in advance. The waiting list at each level has more than 150 pupils too.

At Creative O Preschoolers' Bay, lessons revolve around art- and craft-themed projects and outdoor activities such as camping. Embedded within these are language and maths lessons.

The pre-school had only a handful of pupils when it started in 1998. These days, it is so popular that each level at the pre- school has about 30 children on its waiting list.

Principal Tan Beng Luan said parents do not worry that their children are unable to catch up in Primary 1. "We show them the progress of their children regularly, and they are pleased with their child's readiness for P1," she said.

Ms Claire Ng, principal of Nafa's pre-school at Derbyshire Road, said some parents were concerned that an arts-led education will be less rigorous. "But children learn and develop skills in our programmes too," she said. "For example, during music lessons, children have to read and count notes."

Feedback from parents also showed that the children do not lag behind in reading, maths or speaking long sentences when they start Primary 1, she added.

Last month, the National Arts Council and the Early Childhood Development Agency launched an Artist-In-School Scheme, a two- year pilot for about 300 children in 10 pre-schools. Children learn about plants and animals by moulding clay figurines and develop their physical movements through dance and stretching.

leepearl@sph.com.sg