Nepali Times
Baby ready for preschool?

If you have a toddler at home, you are most likely scanning through newspapers, asking friends and relatives, and making a list of possible preschools.

Although it is difficult to determine the number of preschools in the valley, you are sure to find at least one school in every neighbourhood.

As nuclear families become the norm, urban Nepali couples no longer have the privilege to leave their young toddlers with grandparents, cousins or relatives. The absence of a family safety net, coupled with working parents, have led to a surge in demand for preschools in the past decade.

However, with preschools mushrooming everywhere including international franchises, choosing the right fit for your child can be a daunting task.

Nawaraj Baskota of Kavya School says that as long as parents do their homework and prepare ahead of time they should be fine. His advice to anxious parents: "They should visit schools, talk to other parents, decide on their budget and then make an informed decision for their children."

Most preschools in Kathmandu cater to the 18 month to 5 year age group and offer classes, extra-curricular activities and childcare.

"Young children need special care," explains Roshan Singh of Bal Batika Day Care and Preschool and adds, "We train our teachers to understand the requirements of each child and create a nurturing learning environment."
While previous generations of Kathmandu residents learnt to read, write and calculate only in schools, children today are expected to acquire these skills before they even begin first grade.

Moving away from the traditional rote learning, preschools today use interactive methods to help children understand the basics of alphabets, numbers, colours and shapes. Preschools have thus become places where children are prepared to transition successfully to formal educational system.

"Preschools help children develop social and emotional aptitude as well as language and cognitive skills," says Binti Basnet of Euro Kids, "we provide them with a strong base so that they go on to do well academically and socially when they enter schools."

However, some parents are worried that their children will not able to cope once they leave the safety of preschools and go into more 'traditional' schools. Dipti Acharya of Bridge Water International School feels differently and says, "Students who areused to progressive methods of teaching while in preschool have better understanding of concepts, and can thus easily grasp the lessons in their new schools."

Anwesh KC of Olympia Primary School agrees with Acharya and adds that primary schools are beginning to apply alternative methods and use technology in classrooms.

However, all this comes at a premium price which many parents cannot afford. But preschool owners explain that the fee they charge is appropriate for the range of facilities on offer.

Trained teachers, colourful classrooms, toys, games, spacious playgrounds, and even swimming pools mean that preschools today are well equipped to keep children busy and provide a interactive learning environment for your little ones.

Stuti Sharma and Paavan Mathema

Preschool checklist

Stimulating curriculum
Qualified, trained and caring staff
Low student-teacher ratio
Clean and safe facilities
Hygienic food
Welcoming, friendly and homely environment
Spacious playground

Nurturing young minds

After successfully launching the International Baccalaureate diploma program for the first time in Nepal, Ullens School has now opened its kindergarten wing. Inspired by the teaching practices of Bank Street College of Education in New York, Ullens Kindergarten aims to provide quality education with a focus on experiential learning. The school recently redesigned its infrastructure to make it child friendly. Reshu Aryal Dhungana of Ullens Kindergarten says, "Our classes are designed to allow children to learn through their interactions with nature and practical activities. We don't want to teach only alphabets or numbers; we want them to become creative thinkers who have strong social skills and problem solving technique."

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)