Recently, ChubbHubs and I had a very serious discussion about Bubs’ education – how we wanted him to be taught, what we wanted him to learn and the kind of man we wanted him to grow up to be. To begin with, we had to select the best preschool in Singapore.

Bubs will be three years old next year, and we have decided to start preschool. 2016 sounds auspicious, right? Kidding. But we do think three is a great age to start because he has become more vocal, more sociable and more aware of his surroundings.

Criteria When Choosing A Preschool in Singapore

As such, we embarked on a school research frenzy with the below criteria:

  1. It must be full day – we are both working parents in Singapore, and we refuse to get a maid because we like making things difficult for ourselves. ChubbHubs’ family is in Australia, and while mine is more than willing to help, we don’t want to trouble too them too much.
  2. It must be close to either home or work – ChubbHubs works in the City Hall area while I am at Marina Bay. The ideal arrangement would be for ChubbHubs to drop Bubs off and have me pick him up.
  3. It must have an outdoor play area – we are huge proponents of outdoor play and having Bubs be in touch with nature. Let me clarify: we are NOT hippies. But we do want a boy who is comfortable running around in the grass in his bare feet, climbing trees and finding bugs fascinating. We also want a child who’s happy in the fresh air, rather than being in air conditioned premises all day.
  4. It must have a focus on art – at the young age of three, we believe art should play a big part in how Bubs learns to see the world. Music tends to get more attention from parents but less so for art, which is a great pity.
  5. It must have properly trained, emphatic teachers – the key being empathy. It’s not easy being an adult; neither is it easy being a child who’s still learning about himself. As such, we want teachers who have empathy. Oodles and oodles of it.
  6. We must like it.

Slowly, we started to whittle down our choices.

Finding The Best Preschool In Singapore

Of course, the trinity of preschools – Chiltern House, Eton and Pat’s Schoolhouse – were a shoo-in for the selection process. Learning Vision, Mindchamps and Brighton Montessori were early contenders but were dropped as they failed to meet some of our criteria. So the first tour we had was at Pat’s Schoolhouse in Beach Road.

As we were waiting for the lift to take us up, another set of parents rocked up with their three year old in tow. Friendly Mama greeted us and asked if Bubs was enrolled there, so we grabbed the chance to quiz her. Friendly Mama was more than happy to let us know how pleased they were to have their son there. To watch her son race in and be super enthusiastic about joining his class made us feel upbeat about the place too. But sad to say, it was not to be.

We are huge proponents of outdoor play and didn’t want him to be cooped up within four air-conditioned walls the entire day. At $1,800 per month for full day sessions, we felt the facilities could be better.

Tours with Eton at Bukit Timah and Chiltern House at Forum were not much better. The fees for both were phenomenal – roughly $1618-1715 per month for half-day sessions per term plus an additional 1-month equivalent refundable deposit at Eton; Chiltern was comparable. The major gripe we had was – for the money we’re paying, shouldn’t we at least have full day sessions instead of 3-hour sessions in the either the morning or afternoon? How dreadful for working parents.

Preschool Fees In Singapore

Also, the fees were starting to scare us a little. Goodness, were these preschools so essential to be in, so much so that they could charge so much for such little time? If we insisted on a preschool with half day sessions only or even one where full day ended at 4 pm, we would have to get additional help to pick him up and stay with him till I get home. This would add to the cost. Surely, enrolling your child in a less-branded preschool couldn’t hurt that much. No one I know has ever listed their preschool in their job applications.

According to Dr W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) in the United States as quoted in Parents magazine, “children who attend high-quality preschool enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies, and stronger basic math skills than those who do not”. A very informative article from Wired.com details several studies that prove the most crucial years of learning occurs before children can read. However, the same studies have also concluded that “the gift of preschool…closes the yawning gap between the life experiences of wealthy and poor toddlers, thus making whatever differences remain more important.”

This means that preschool was the most beneficial to children who were not being stimulated at home due to their surroundings. If parents were providing books, toys and learning experiences at home, the benefits of preschool were superficial.

Did this mean we could forego preschool? No. We viewed preschool as a must also because we needed the daycare aspect. But the articles did mean we no longer had to covet placing our son in the holy trinity of preschools, scrimping and pinching to pay the fees while surviving on $2 economic bee hoon every day.

Finding The Best Preschool That Fits Our Budget

As such, we started narrowing our search down to our immediate surroundings within walkable distance, which were not necessarily the best-known or most talked about preschool with revolutionary teaching methods. And by a stroke of luck, we stumbled across Global Tots at Chip Bee.

  1. It is in two adjoining bungalows with huge grassy outdoor play areas that had a trampoline, playhouses, water play and a stroller parking area.
  2. It is surrounded by giant old trees that lined the streets and provided shade.
  3. It had a teacher-student ratio of 2:8.
  4. Their Core Curriculum comprises of Language, Maths, Art, Outdoor Play & Social Skills, Self-Help & Safety Skills.
  5. Their supplementary add-ons include Music & Dance, Chinese Enrichment, Gym and Cookery!
  6. Full day sessions from 7 am – 7 pm cost $1,300 per month which also covered uniforms, stationary, books and miscellaneous fees.
  7. Our boy ran to join a class having an outdoor play when we had a tour, and he never looked back!

It fit all of our criteria and more, plus we weren’t going broke just to fund the fees – just brilliant!

The process of finding Global Tots taught me that as much as I want to provide the best of everything for Bubs, groupthink wasn’t necessarily the way to go. Branded preschools in Singapore weren’t a must; as long as you had a set of criteria and a budget (which we didn’t initially and suffered for it), there would always be alternatives that are better suited for your children education costs in Singapore and your family. Global Tots #FTW!

Update from TNS: All parents with Singapore Citizen children enrolled in child care centres licensed by ECDA  are eligible to apply for child care/ infant care subsidies. Refer here for more information: Child Care Link

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C.E.O @ The New Savvy
Anna Haotanto is passionate about finance, education, women empowerment and children’s issues. Anna has been featured in CNBC, Forbes, The Straits Times, Business Insider, INC and The Peak Singapore. She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen). Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).