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A well managed mental and physical development programme will be of tremendous benefit to a child's growth. In utilising mental development programmes, well documented methods such as Montessori methods, Sachida methods, Kumon etc have proven to be effective in accelerating a child's learning capacity. These methods have infused an element of fun whilst increasing knowledge. The 3 Rs together with mental sharpness and greater absorption of knowledge will be the fruits of such methods.
On the physical aspect, children are also to be encouraged to participate in outdoor activities such as outdoor sports, martial arts, swimming lessons and ballet classes to help in their physical development, improve on their dexterity and also develop ball sense. These activities will also encourage camaraderie among their peers and turn them into well rounded individuals as they grow.
Children of different age groups learn in a different way within different environment. This can be seen as according to Harmer (2007), younger children respond to meaning even if they do not understand individual words and they often learn indirectly rather than directly, in simple words, they take in information from all sides, learning everything around them rather than only focusing on the precise topic they are being taught. Parents must be free to choose the school that best fits their children. Parents know their children better than any educational expert or ministry official (Harmer, 2007).
Education must serve more than just to educate the young (Musa, 2003).The course syllabus is the compass of the course. Many people, having underestimated the value of the course syllabus, will wonder at the end of the semester or quarter why they failed to succeed. The answer lies with the course syllabus. If you did not get a syllabus, chances are that the course will be disorganized and you'll end up frustrated and, perhaps, unable to learn. They can better organize a class when they know what the purposes are, and what kind of materials they will need to use to achieve and uphold those purposes. (Inong, 2002-2009)
So, childhood education is a process to bring out the best in a child's formative years through structured programmes whereby a child is stimulated through academic programmes to develop mental skills and enhances brain development together with appropriate physical programmes to promote physical development. Both programmes will also help to develop a child's emotional quotient whereby a child learns through interaction with his or her peers as well as his or her teachers and other adults in a simulated school environment.
Syllabuses are used as guidelines for teachers and helps teachers for not going off topic while teaching. Other than that, syllabuses are used to also help teacher manage their time and prepare resources and activities for teaching.
Components in Preschool Syllabuses
The professionals at the schools would set the curriculum, choose the textbooks, and assess the students. The ministry's role would be to provide guidelines and to set the minimum standards for the core subjects (Musa, 2007). One of the materials used by teachers are course books. For years, methodologists have been arguing about the usefulness of course books, questioning their role (Allwright, 1981), defending their use (O'Neill, 1982), worrying that they act as methodological straitjackets (Tice, 1991), promoting their value as agents of methodological change (Hutchinson and Torres, 1994), or arguing yet again about their relative merits (Harmer 2001, Thornbury and Meddings 2001).
good course books are carefully prepared to offer a coherent syllabus, satisfactory language control, motivating texts, etc. they provide teachers under pressure with the reassurance that, even when they are forced to plan at the last moment, they will be using material which they can have confidence in. They come with detailed teacher's guides, which not only provide procedures for the lesson in the student's book, but also offer suggestions and alternatives, extra activities and resources.
Students like course books, since they foster the perception of progress as units and then books are completed. Course books also provide material which students can look back at for revision and, at their best, their visual and topic appeal can have a powerful engaging effect.
And the restrictions:
Course work used inappropriately, impose learning styles and content on classes and teachers alike, appearing to be '"fait accompli" over which they can have a little control.' (Littlejohn 1998: 205). Many of them rely on Presentation, Practice and Production as their main methodological procedure, despite recent enthusiasm for other teaching sequences. Units and lessons often follow an unrelenting format so that students and teachers eventually become demotivated by the sameness of it all. And in their choice of topics, course books can sometimes be bland or culturally inappropriate.
They base much of their teaching on the contents of the course book, they reserve the right to decide when and how to use its constituent parts. (Harmer,2007)
According to The Star newspaper, preschool education was proposed to be a compulsory education system in future for children, as it serves as a stepping stone when the child reach the age to primary schools which will not spend time on basic learning such as holding the pencil correctly and lining-up outside the classroom as well as socializing and interaction with other children.
History of Preschool Education in Malaysia
Young children, learn differently from older children, adolescents and adults in:
They respond to meaning even if they do not understand individual words. They often learn indirectly rather than directly - that is they take in information from their surroundings rather than focusing only on the precise topic they are being taught. Their understanding comes not just from explanations, but also from what they see and hear and, crucially, have a chance to touch and interact with. They find abstract concepts such as grammar rules difficult to grasp. They are keen to talk about themselves and respond well to learning that uses themselves and their own lives as main topics in the classroom. They have limited attention span; unless activities are extremely engaging, they can get easily bored, losing interest after ten minutes or so. (Harmer, 2007)
Social economic status of a family unfortunately plays an important role for children. This however, is a true fact that a family in their poverty means that their basic needs are not met and education will not be a priority in Malaysia. (Musa, 2003).
The proliferation of child education centres point to the need for such facilities to assist children to enter the formal school system seamlessly. Having being taught the basics, teachers in the formal school system can proceed at an accelerated pace in imparting knowledge to their charges. According to Musa (2003), the education system must also prepare students for the challenges of the global marketplace. There is much more to learning than the mere transfer of information from teacher to student. The class discussion and the social interactions are also very important (An Education System Worthy of Malaysia, 2003).
The fact that the Malaysian Government is contemplating making childhood education compulsory as had been reported in the press lately together with the stringent supervision by the Ministry of Education in Singapore on such centres clearly indicate that such programmes are beneficial and should be encouraged to develop further. Musa also relates that an education system would prepare citizens for the highly competitive world of globalization and simultaneously foster national unity while respecting the cultural and linguistic diversity. A diverse curriculum and school system but with a minimal core of commonality would simultaneously meet the needs of the various communities as well as foster greater integration (Musa, 2003).
History of Preschool Education in Singapore
From the beginning, education was regarded as an investment in human resource development. For a large part of the 1970s, education managed to provide a workforce to meet the manpower needs of a burgeoning industrial economy. However, as the economy matured, the types of skills required were changing. In addition, there was high attrition when the education system became too rigid and inflexible and thus inefficient. The bilingual requirement, as understood then, was also seen to be making an excessive demand on the students. Reform of the system was therefore inevitable. The system underwent some drastic changes with the publication of the Report on the Ministry of Education (1979), which recommended a method of streaming pupils based on academic ability, principally ability in languages and mathematics. On the basis of a series of tests, examinations and teachers' reports, pupils were to be streamed into different courses of study to cater better to their needs and pace of learning. This type of academic tracking or streaming was adopted at both the primary and secondary levels, marking a major structural innovation to the system. With further refinement of the streaming system, there is now greater flexibility for pupils to move from one stream to another (i.e., a lateral transfer).
The implementation of the Report on the Ministry of Education led to what was then called the New Education System. This system comprised the provision of streaming and changes to the school curriculum including the provision of an additional year in school for those in the weakest stream. Notable changes in the curriculum included greater emphasis on language education in primary schools, the provision of moral education as a subject in both primary and secondary schools, and the introduction in 1982 of religious knowledge as a compulsory subject in the upper secondary curriculum.
In relation to reform of the system and the school curriculum, two other developments, namely, the establishment of the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore (CDIS) in 1980 and the Schools Council in 1981 were very significant. CDIS was designed to produce teaching materials for schools, including textbooks, multi-media materials and educational television programmes. The Schools Council itself involved principals in the decision-making process at the Ministry level. The establishment of the Schools Council was also seen as the first step towards giving school principals greater autonomy and wider responsibility with regards to decision-making.
The idea of 'decentralisation' underpins the new 'cluster school' scheme, which at the pilot stage (from January 1998 onwards) involves 59 schools. The cluster scheme is intended to be a decentralised approach to problem-spotting and problem-solving. Although the colonial experience and historical factors continue to weigh heavily in areas such as maintaining a national examination system partly linked to an external British examinations syndicate and adopting curricular orientations that are traditionally subject-based, Singapore has, for good reasons, taken in some areas a direction seemingly against trends in mainstream Western practice if they do not suit its purposes. In fact, the streaming scheme as practised (with the provision of lateral transfers) has provided greater access to learning opportunities within the system than was the case before as fewer students leave the system prematurely because of an inability to cope with an inappropriate curriculum (Soon,1988).
There has been a close connection between educational provision and the economy in the case of Singapore. As a former Minister for Education in Singapore put it, "Particularly in the modern world, education and economic performance are indivisible" (Tan, 1992, italics added). This strong connection has so far prevented a mismatch in Singapore between the nature of schooling and what is needed to maintain and promote economic growth. However, this does not mean that schooling and education should be best defined exclusively in economic terms. Since the 1980s the government has become more conscious of some serious omissions in its educational provision. How Singapore has attempted to bring about a more rounded education for her young will be mentioned briefly here and discussed in greater detail in the next half of this chapter. For example, there is greater emphasis than before on community service in the students' extra-curricular programme. More particularly, the fine arts (music and art) programme received much attention in the early 1980s in the school curriculum through the provision of Special Art and Music Elective programmes, located in selected schools.
2.6 Children's Language Learning and Acquisitions
"Language acquisition is a complex and gradual process for children. The process works on two levels. Part of it is innate, and part is learned. As they advance developmentally, children absorb what they hear in their interactions with others, especially in their home environments. Phonological development is a gradual process during which speech patterns are first reproduced, and then eventually acquired. It is normal for mistakes, or phonological deviations, to be made during this process. Since young children are still developing their sound systems, their speech can at times be difficult to understand. Anyone who has tried to communicate with small children will have experienced this at some point. This is particularly true in very young children, specifically those under the age of five, since they have not yet mastered the ability to organize sound systems in the same way that adults do."
One important discovery using this technique has come from the work of Saffran and colleagues, who have examined the powerful role that statistical learning-the detection of consistent patterns of sounds-plays in infant word segmentation. Syllables that are part of the same word tend to follow one another predictably, whereas syllables that span word boundaries do not. In a series of experiments, they found that infants can detect and use the statistical properties of syllable co-occurrence to segment novel words. More specifically, infants do not detect merely how frequently syllable pairs occur, but rather the probabilities with which one syllable predicts another. Thus, infants may find word boundaries by detecting syllable pairs with low transitional probabilities. What makes this finding astonishing is that infants as young as 8 months begin to perform these computations with as little as 2 min of exposure. By soaking up the statistical regularities of seemingly meaningless acoustic events, infants are able to rapidly structure linguistic input into relevant and ultimately meaningful units.
To what extent do infants' capacities to detect the statistics of linguistic sounds extend to learning in nonlinguistic domains? Interestingly, infants are also able to detect the probabilities with which musical tones predict one another, suggesting that the statistical learning abilities used for word segmentation may also be used for learning materials such as music. In particular, infants, but not adults, can track the statistical structure of sequences of absolute pitches in a tone sequence learning task. These findings suggest that at least some of the statistical learning mechanisms described above are not applied solely to language learning.
2.7 Common Problems in Preschool Educations
Before Starting School
After Starting School
The child has plenty of time to play.
There is no time to play.
The child asks questions all the time.
The child is to remain quiet in the class.
The child is free to pursue his own interest.
The child has to follow a fixed schedule.
The child runs and jumps as he likes.
The child is confined to his table and chair.
The child looks forward to the next day.
The child dreads going to school with all its compulsory homework and exams.
Taken from Chong, 2008 (p.g. 40)
The Montessori Method is a child-centred, alternative educational method based on the child development theories originated by Italian educator Maria Montessori (1870-1952) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. There are three key components in the Montessori Method of Education, which are the child, the favourable environment, and the teacher (Isaacs, 2007). Primarily applied in preschool and elementary school settings (and occasionally in infant, toddler, middle school, and high school), its method of education is characterised by emphasising self-directed activity, on the part of the child, and clinical observation, on the part of the teacher (often called a director, directress, guide) - to stress the importance of adapting the child's learning environment to his or her development level, and the role of physical activity in the child's absorbing abstract concepts and learning practical skills. Auto-didactic (self-correcting) equipment is used for introducing and learning concepts, and reading is taught via phonics and whole language, the comparative benefits of which are presently being recognised. Montessori viewed learning processes as a holistic process and learning should be associated with play and fun.
2.9 Froebel's Kindergarten
Froebel's kindergarten was a school for the psychological training of little children by means of play and occupations. The kindergarten method as defined by Froebel is based upon a series of geometrical gifts and a system of categories. In the kindergarten, the child plays with one of the gifts at a time to discover its properties and possibilites for design. The gifts were presented to the child in sequence and the child was allowed to play with them freely. Whenever the child ran out of ideas for play, the mother or teacher can invoke one or more of the categories to suggest another way to play. The child is thus encouraged to think about certain kinds of designs that can be made with the gifts.
Preschool is a basic education for all children. Therefore, the history of preschool is discussed in this chapter. However, there are only two histories of preschool syllabuses shown as the main context of this research focuses on the English Language syllabus in Malaysia and Singapore. The components of preschool syllabuses include text books, curriculum and classroom activities. Syllabus is known as important to every teacher, because the syllabus is a guideline for each teacher to teach the students the knowledge they should know and it is a plan for each and every class to be a unique and unforgettable. Moreover, preschool syllabuses are stated back from the 1970's. Other than that, preschool syllabuses are very important as it is a basic education that will lead to the future of a country. So, children's language learning and acquisition is also very important. Both founder of Kindergarten also known as preschools are also being introduced. These are the contents included in this chapter.