October 27, 2008

Kindergarten hunting – Part 1

Yiu Yiu will turn three in November, but since she was born in 2005, she will be four by calendar year next year. We are planning to enroll her in a kindergarten so at least she doesn’t spend all her time playing and watching Barney.

Our main objective is for her to learn and have fun, to interact and socialize and to develop the habit of going to school. Our initial thought is to enroll her in a Montessori-type kindergarten next year, which is more focused on learning through play, and change to a more formal academic based kindergarten when she turns five, in preparation for formal schooling. The other consideration is the kindy must have transport service to send her back to the babysitter’s house after school hours.

I started trawling the Net for information and shortlisted a few kindies – both franchise and standalone establishments. Then, armed with a checklist by Montessorimum, I started my hunt for the kindy that matches our requirements.

I took two days off work and visited seven kindies: R.E.A.L Kids, Smart Reader Kids, Q-dees, Kinderland, Juara Cerdik, Educare and Peter & Jane. The first four are franchised centres; Juara Cerdik and Educare are standalone establishments while Peter & Jane has several branches. Below are my take of the first three centres (disclaimer: my assessment below applies ONLY to the centre I visited and not a reflection of the general condition of the said franchise):

R.E.A.L Kids, Smart Reader Kids and Q-dees

Approach to education
All three are very much academic-based, with the R.E.A.L Kids and Q-dees centre offering Chinese medium classes for children planning to enroll into Chinese primary schools. Classes are conventionally arranged with tables and chairs facing the whiteboard. Smart Reader Kids and Q-dees also emphasise on reading skills, with both having their own set of reading materials. I think R.E.A.L Kids may have similar reading materials but when I visited, classes were over but daycare was running. The person who entertained me couldn’t tell me a great deal about her school, and I earnestly hope that she’s not a teacher at the centre, coz if she is, I’m afraid she doesn’t give me a good impression of the quality of education offered. I was also appalled when she implied that they use bribery to make the children behave!

Timetable of the R.E.A.L Kids centre

Anyhow, through my visits, I have a hunch that teachers in all three centres are of mixed quality – some qualified, experienced ones, while others are simply SPM school leavers who completed the compulsory basic childcare course (Kursus Asas Asuhan Kanak-Kanak) organized by the Department of Social Welfare, the department that governs the running of pre-schools in Malaysia.

Physical characteristics
As with most kindies, this R.E.A.L Kids centre is housed in a corner terrace house. It has child friendly facilities (toilet and wash basin) but not very well maintained. It also has a swimming pool and computer lab.

All Smart Reader Kids centres, as I understand it, are housed in the upper floor of shoplots, and the one I visited was no different. Despite being a relatively new centre (~3 years), the appearance was less than pleasing, and the toilets and wash basins were not child-friendly. The Q-dees centre is housed in a single storey bungalow building with a swimming pool. The interior is bright and cheery, though a little run-down; the facilities however, are not child-friendly. The kitchen and toilets were rather unkempt but I was told that it was due to water supply disruption. Classes just ended when I visited, and children who stayed back for the daycare service were having lunch. I took a peek and if I’m not mistaken, it was instant noodles! The principal had earlier told me that besides biscuit and bread, the children also get fried rice, fried noodles and chicken porridge for snacks. But instant noodles for lunch?!! I’m not sure if this is again attributed to the water disruption but I didn’t ask.

The exterior of the Q-dees centre

Security
Security was lax at both the R.E.A.L Kids and Q-dees centres. There’s a latch at the gate but it was not locked so anyone can just pretty much walk in. At the Smart Reader Kids centre, the principal installed an automatic lock at the entrance to the stairs, and access is only granted after screening the visitor.

$$$$$
Smart Reader Kids and Q-dees fees are about the same, while R.E.A.L Kids costs about RM800 more per year. Mind you, the fee is close to double what I paid for my tertiary education in a local university! Kids really don’t come cheap these days.

In conclusion
In the website of these centres, there are impressive write-ups about their philosophy, great pictures of their facilites, etc but after my visitations, I can conclude that what I see on the internet is not what necessarily what I'll get. Nevertheless, if I had to choose between these three, I’ll probably opt for Q-dees, but instead of this centre that I visited, I’ll probably scout around for a centre with better facilities.

Next post: Kinderland, Juara Cerdik, Educare and Peter & Jane

12 comments:

jazzmint said...

looks like you've done alot research. hope u get the right one. I've chosen fungates, but it's not juara cerdik, another one in PJ

beckysmum said...

We are also hunting a kindergarten for Anne. In Netherlands, kindergarten starts at 4 years old. Anne shall start going to kindergarten the day after her 4th birthday...

mybabybay said...

Wow they even put pictures of their toilet.

Liew said...

Wah lau.........for a perfectionist like you, good luck with the hunt!!

So which ones did you take Yiu Yiu to today?

chanelwong said...

wow..you really did a detail research....
I am not soo rajin as you...

A Mom's Diary said...

Jazz - there are not many Fungates in PJ. Let me guess, Sri Nobel?

Beckysmum - I thought Anne is already attending kindy? Or is that just playgroup?

Mybabybay - no lar, I snapped that picture during my visit

WK - none of these three, see my next post

Chanel - hehe...I guess you are looking at one kiasu and kiasi mum

KittyCat said...

MANY of these kindies spend most of their money on marketing, which impresses many Mothers :-)

How much is Smart Readers? I'm surprised at how academic they are coz I thought the focus is on reading! Sounds like another franchise gone wrong.

I'm not surprised REAL kids cost that much! A GIANT billboard is posted around where I live in Penang...

A Mom's Diary said...

Kittycat - exactly, I think the franchiser should exert more control and have more stringent requirements on the franchisees. Smart Reader cost about RM3500/year.

IW said...

i agreed to everyone comments above esp the price that somehow not worthy. and i did not get to search for your part 2 story. wondering what is your conclusion for yiu yiu? now, am in the midst of scouting for one.

Anonymous said...

May i know which qdees u have been to?

Steph said...

Can I know which educare u visited last time....I was visiting Sunshine Educare Centre at taman mayang....the environmen looks clean...just don't know good or not....

Anonymous said...

i have bad experience with real kids ampang...my daughter 2 year at that school but still can't read anything compare to the money that i have spend...gggrrr...