Preschool is not compulsory in Malaysia.
Yet, according to the Malaysia Education BluePrint 2013-2025, 77% of children register for preschool, in either private or public schools.
And as of recent years, this percentage has been increasing as Malaysia has been focusing on improving and providing quality early childhood education for all Malaysians.
If preschool or kindergarten is not compulsory, why do so many people choose to enrol their children there?
What are Preschool and Kindergarten?
Preschool and kindergarten are very similar. Sometimes, people often equate them to each other.
This is because most early childhood centres provide services for both.
For a more detailed explanation on the differences between preschool and kindergarten, you can read our article: Taska, Tadika & Preschool – What’s the difference?
Simple, most updated term: the Malaysia Education BluePrint 2013-2025 defines preschool education as programmes that are catered for children aged 4 to 5.
Institutions that cater to children younger than that are called daycare centres.
There is no magical age for preschool. Children in Malaysia typically start attending preschool at age 3, sometimes between the ages of 4 to 6. However, formal schooling in Malaysia begins in primary school at age 7.
But there are indeed other factors aside from age that you can consider when deciding whether or not your child is ready for preschool.
Read more about preschool readiness here: Best Age for Preschool in Malaysia: A Quick Guide for Parents.
How Important Is Preschool?
Though it is not compulsory, the preschool years are a critical period for children.
As stated in this ground-breaking research on the importance of early childhood education:
The foundations of brain architecture, and subsequent lifelong developmental potential, are laid down in a child’s early years through a process that is exquisitely sensitive to external influence. Early experiences in the home, in other care settings, and in communities interact with genes to shape the developing nature and quality of the brain’s architecture.
Because children can easily absorb all kinds of information, your child needs to learn and grow in the right environment and from high-quality resources.
This is why parents send their child to preschool.
Preschool programmes play a vital role in a child’s psychological and intellectual development.
Aside from academics, they are mainly designed to support children’s social-emotional, cognitive, physical, and linguistic development.
This is because being ready for primary school and beyond isn’t just about learning basic academic skills; it’s also about how a child can regulate their emotions, behaviours and attitudes.
Academic performance based on excellent test scores, and self-regulation of one’s character and behaviour, are equally important for your child’s future.
Many studies have proved that the most successful students, behaviourally and academically, are children who have higher levels of self-regulation and self-discipline. These are skills taught thoroughly in preschool.
A study by Harvard University adds on, stating that by investing in Early Childhood Development, it can lay the foundation for a prosperous and sustainable society.
This is because it’s far more effective, if not less costly, to provide support in early childhood rather than addressing the educational or behavioural problems developed from young later in life:
The first years of life are important because what happens in early childhood can matter for a lifetime. Science shows us what children must have, and what they need to be protected from, in order to promote their healthy development. Stable, responsive, nurturing relationships and rich learning experiences in the earliest years provide lifelong benefits for learning, behaviour and both physical and mental health.
Debunking Common Myths About Preschool Education
Early childhood education isn’t only good for children, but also mothers, families and society as a whole.
To add on, because of the importance of early childhood, no other area of education gets as much scrutiny as early childhood education.
Yet a significant number of Malaysian parents have not fully embraced the idea of preschool education. Many of them think preschool education is not worth the investment due to 4 common myths.
Don’t let these myths discourage you – because we’re going to round them up and debunk them to help you make informed decisions.
MYTH #1: They don’t learn anything except play games and sing songs.
That’s how children naturally learn.
Play is your child’s form of learning during their first six years as it is their way of building necessary soft skills and an introduction to academic learning.
Through singing, music, movement and play activities, your child will develop pre-literacy skills, problem-solving skills and concentration. Some preschools may choose to use set educational themes for their play activities.
MYTH #2: Parents can teach their kids at home.
Just like doctors or lawyers, preschool teachers are trained, educational experts.
They went to university as well as attended training sessions and workshops to learn what it takes to handle the social, language, emotional and physical development of a child. It takes years to obtain a bachelors in early childhood education.
While we aren’t saying parents can’t teach their child, they don’t have the level of training needed to train or teach their kids to a confident, competent standard compared to preschool teachers.
Not all parents have enough time to teach their children either as many hold full-time jobs.
MYTH #3: The benefits fade quickly.
They don’t. A substantial body of research on preschool education revealed that benefits for children lasted into adulthood.
For example, this study found that preschool education can contribute large impacts on a child’s intelligence during the early childhood years and sizeable persistent effects on achievement, grade retention, special education, high school graduation, and socialisation.
These effects, the author argues, are large and persistent enough to make a meaningful difference in children’s lives.
MYTH #4: Preschool teachers are just like babysitters.
Preschool teachers aren’t babysitters. They do more than just taking care of your child.
Early Childhood Education is a branch of education that focuses on the development of children from birth up to 8 years old.
Their days at preschools aren’t spent simply making sure that the kids are fed and entertained. They often spend long hours planning and delivering lessons throughout the year. Oftentimes, they have to plan activities unique to each student.
It’s not just a job; it’s a profession.
Find a Q-dees near you from our list of kindergarten in Malaysia
What Do Kids Learn in Preschool?
Babies are born ready to learn, and they learn through play and exploration in a safe environment.
Preschool education seeks to provide exactly that – a stimulating environment for children to explore and learn and make decisions without the help of their parents. Children learn best by actively engaging with their environment.
Educational programmes at preschool are designed to help children develop a set of abilities and skills that make them ready to learn when they start primary education, such as:
Social skills are the skills we use every day to communicate with others.
The same goes for children.
Each day, inside or outside of the classroom, children are required to handle a wide range of social situations, including both verbal and non-verbal communication.
Through social skills, children learn to empathise, compromise, be respectful and interact successfully with children of their age group.
One of the best places for your child to meet a large group of children their age is a preschool. With frequent interactions among peers, they will slowly but surely develop and adapt to various social situations.
Children learn speech and language through listening, watching, exploring, initiating, responding, playing and interacting with others.
But their language skills can only be effectively nurtured in an environment that promotes literacy and reading – and one example of a language-rich environment is a classroom setting.
Preschool education was designed to provide such learning opportunities for children to use language in everyday situations.
Emotional self-regulation skills
Self-regulation is the ability to adapt behaviours depending on the situation. It also means finding ways to cope with strong feelings so they don’t become overwhelming later on.
It is the ability to regulate thoughts, feelings, and actions when they’re faced with a situation that’s particularly tough to handle. To develop these soft skills, they need to be exposed to plenty of opportunities with people around their age.
A preschool is a perfect place for children to find these opportunities and build their self-regulation skills.
Executive function skills
Executive function is the self-management skill that helps children to plan and regulate behaviour, hold and manipulate information, and be creative.
Some examples of executive functioning include:
- Creating and organising plans
- Paying attention
- Regulating emotions
- Understanding different perspectives
This is a higher-order cognitive skill that we use every day to manage daily life. It is foundational to outcomes in virtually all aspects of life.
Preschool teachers are trained and equipped to plan and conduct activities that can help preschoolers to develop these skills.
The early years of life are very important for children’s development.
Infants and toddlers are experiencing life more holistically than any other age group. This is when they first learn how to interact with others and develop interests that will stay with them throughout their lives.
And a large body of research in the field of early childhood education has shown that adults in a child’s life; parents, families and educators, are an integral part of their educational process.
Which means as parents, you have to ensure that your child gets the best education they need in their early years to develop into the best person they can be.
If you are looking for a preschool centre, you can check out any of our Q-dees centres and learn more about our award-winning Link & Think Methodology here: https://www.q-dees.com/
Yoshikawa, H., Weiland, C., Brooks-Gunn, J., Burchinal, M. R., Espinosa, L. M., Gormley, W. T., … & Zaslow, M. J. (2013). Investing in our future: The evidence base on preschool education.
Alejandro, J. P., Leslie, A. M., Manley, B. C., Rivas, A. F., Wiltermood, D. M., & Bainum, C. K. (2016). Preschool attendance as a predictor of self-regulation in kindergarteners. Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research, 21(4), 222-229.
Nance, R. (2009). The importance of early childhood education. Roles of Play, Language, Socialization, Formation of Values. Quest Paper.
Shonkoff, J. P., & Richmond, J. B. (2009). Investment in early childhood development lays the foundation for a prosperous and sustainable society. Encyclopedia on early childhood development, 1-5.
Barnett, W. S. (1995). Long-term effects of early childhood programs on cognitive and school outcomes. The future of children, 25-50.
Rosanbalm, K. D., & Murray, D. W. (2017). Promoting Self-Regulation in the First Five Years: A Practice Brief. OPRE Brief 2017-79. Administration for Children & Families.