Kindergartens lay the foundation for a better tomorrow. UNICEF describes kindergartens as the seeds of blooming daisies where children’s talents, abilities, and skills are nurtured to realise their full potential.
Even though preschool education is not compulsory among Malaysian children, the enrollment rate of children into preschools in Malaysia is continuously increasing. This indicates that more and more parents are becoming aware of the importance of preschool education for their children. Generations have passed but the public versus private kindergarten debate is still ongoing and seems to be an issue that disunites parents of various socioeconomic backgrounds. This adds more confusion to parents who are still looking for the right kindergarten for their children.
Choosing a preschool is a parent-only decision to make. For parents who prioritize intimacy (student-teacher contact), they would go for private kindergartens. While parents who seek independence would go to public kindergartens. Overall, what matters most is how a kindergarten is able to holistically develop the predominant areas of early learning and bring out the best within every child.
So, what is a private kindergarten, and what is a public kindergarten?
A private kindergarten is funded by tuition fees to operate and does not receive any form of funding from the government. In general, private kindergartens are run by individuals such as entrepreneurs, edupreneurs, or non-government organisations (NGO’s).
A public kindergarten, on the other hand, is run by the government which is why enrolling your child into a public kindergarten is more cost-effective as it is more affordable than private kindergartens.
Debunking Common Myths about Private and Public Kindergartens
- Private kindergartens are only for children of affluent families
This myth might be true many years ago but today, many parents are able to send their children to private kindergartens as many scholarships, aids, bursaries, and rebates are offered for children of low-income families. Now, children from all socioeconomic backgrounds are able to experience private preschool education
- Children in public kindergartens are prone to social issues
The common misconception among parents is that public kindergartens are more likely to introduce children to many social problems such as bullying. The truth of the matter is that no school is immune to this. Although rare among preschool children, statistics show that the rate of bullying is the same for both private and public kindergartens.
- Private kindergartens are too stressful for young children
The belief that private kindergartens set academic standards which are too high on children is not true. Most preschools offer a learning environment that is relaxed and fun for children.
What factors influence parents’ decisions?
Facilities and Resources
Private kindergartens are more popular compared to public kindergartens because they are more well-equipped with facilities such as digital learning tools and may offer more subjects such as foreign language classes, swimming, art, music, and even self-defence classes. This offers your child more comprehensive learning experiences that develop not only cognitive skills but also, life and motor skills. A lot of private kindergartens also offer a more child-centered approach to early learning so the learning is more personalized to suit the learning needs and potential of every child.
Public kindergartens focus more on syllabus-based learning and emphasise children’s mastery of their native languages, English and Bahasa Malaysia. The facilities might be more limited than the facilities offered at private kindergartens due to the allocation of budget to each public preschool.
Both private and public kindergartens offer a good range of diversity. Government preschools, however, expose your child to other children of various backgrounds, race, ethnicity, and more. Public preschools are conducive for children to develop bilingual or multilingual skills. It is where children learn to respect each other’s differences and broaden their perspective of the world. When children socialize with children of different backgrounds, they will learn to love themselves too.
On the contrary, Mark Dynarski of the Center on Children and Families at the Brooking Institute points out that “numerous studies have shown that private schools, on the whole, offer a more positive peer environment.” Children planning to enter private kindergartens must sit through entrance exams before their applications are approved. Therefore, your child will be learning in a safer and more controlled environment.
Except for cluster kindergartens of excellence, public kindergartens usually accept the application of every child.
Cost and Expenses
Cost and expenses are usually major determining factors in parents’ decision on a kindergarten. Public kindergartens will need parents to spend on registration fees, books and other school-related necessities such as school uniforms, bags and shoes. Although the expenses are almost similar, the cost of enrolling your child into a private kindergarten is slightly higher.
The estimated cost and expenses of private kindergartens can range from as low as RM 3000 to a whopping RM 10000 a year and this depends on whether your child is applying for a full-day or a half-day programme. Regardless, the saying ‘you get what you pay for’ is very much true because parents who chose private preschool for their children reap more benefits. For instance, private education is more comprehensive in a way that it integrates the nurturing of lifelong values (friendship, honesty, discipline) with the development of cognitive thinking skills (problem-solving, critical thinking) within their children.
Quality of Teachers
Of course, every parent wants the finest teachers to educate their child.
Public preschools hire qualified teachers who are trained and certified with at least a Diploma in Teaching. These teachers are also required to attend mandatory training organised by the Ministry of Education over the course of three weeks to six months. Public kindergarten teachers are also involved in yearly professional development programmes and training.
Private institutions (kindergartens) hire teachers who have appropriate qualifications with expertise in a relevant subject and academic excellence. Private preschool teachers can attend pre-school skills training courses provided by the Malaysia Association of Kindergarten (PTM).
Clearly, both public and private kindergartens ensure your child is educated by a team of trained, dedicated and passionate teachers.
Approximately, the average class size of private kindergartens can range from 10 to 20 students. While the average class size of public kindergartens is 25 students. Bear in mind that with the cost you pay, your child is given utmost attention at the kindergarten during the lecture. If your child is struggling in Mathematics, they are given regular assistance to improve. In some cases, a private tutor is appointed to coach your child without any additional payment. When there are fewer students in a class, a tutor could monitor and oversee each child’s work, behaviour, and adaptability; hence building good rapport with the children.
Using this approach, the teacher can identify your child’s strengths and weaknesses at a very early age. This makes it easier for the teacher to assign extra practice for your child as they spend less time grading children’s work.
In relation to the public vs private kindergarten debate, a recent study shows that the level of student readiness for children starting primary school is still moderate. This implies that many children are not equipped with the fundamental skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic or the 3R’s before transitioning into primary school education. Learning should be a continuous process. So, kindergarten should not only be the only place for children to learn. At home, parents play an important role in continuing their children’s learning journey. This can be done by instilling the habit of reading since having an active reading culture is known to be a common trait among successful leaders.
So, should you be sending your child to a private or a public kindergarten?
Since both have their own pros and cons, use this article as a guide for you to make the best decision for your child. If you are still unsure, ask questions such as “What kind of environment do I want for my child?”, “What facilities would be beneficial for my child?”, “Can I afford this kindergarten?” to guide you in your research.
Regardless of which kindergarten you decide for your child, all children deserve quality preschool education because children are the next generation of scientists, engineers, doctors, teachers, and leaders that will mobilize our nation.
It is crucial that you examine closely the pros and cons of each kindergarten as every child’s learning needs are unique and different. We hope that this article has helped you choose the right kindergarten for your child.
Shaari, Mariam & Ahmad, Sabarinah. (2018). Preschool Design and School Readiness. Asian Journal of Quality of Life. 3. 109. 10.21834/ajqol.v3i10.106.
Mustafa, Lily Muliana & Yunus, Nek & M.N.A, Azman. (2014). An Overview of Private Preschool in Malaysia: Marketing Strategies and Challenges. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. 130. 10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.04.013.