Contributed by Zarifah Naqibah Haji Abdul Karim
As the year draws closer to its first half, new and young parents are now settling well with what could have possibly been an overwhelming experience as their children make the transition from life in the familiar home setting to formal schooling environment.
For young parents new to their child’s school life, the first several months may have drawn their awareness to key components – parental support and involvement, and school communication and education resources.
Pre-schoolers themselves may find the start of school life something different – from the comfort of their home surrounding to a more organised play intended for learning. With this in mind, government pre-school classes normally conduct orientation sessions to help pre-schoolers adjust to their new surrounding before the start of the school year.
While the caring team of early childhood education in schools carry out their preparation to make pre-school as fun and as educational as possible, it is also pertinent that parents play their part to support their children’s early education.
Supportive parents like Fatin Farina binti Mohammad Shahrul, mother to a pupil in Amo Primary School in Temburong, recalled, “I felt excited for my child’s first day of school. I was anxious but I believe, as parents, we have to show a positive attitude so our children will not be scared going to school.”
Aimah binti Abdul Hadi, whose young son attends Perpindahan Bukit Beruang II Primary School, shared that her schedule has now shifted to ensuring child’s educational needs are taken care of. During the first term, she dedicated time to monitor her son’s progress and encouraged him to share things he went through at school.
Such change or shift in lifestyles for parents of pre-schoolers does not only involve ensuring preparation for the next school day but also keeping up with communication updates from the school.
Muhd Nurarif bin Mohidin, a father of a pre-schooler in Tutong, has high hopes of being able to leverage effective communication between parents and teachers. This is a key component to ensuring the vital stage of education is optimised for the balanced development of pre-schoolers. It will promote greater understanding of how children learn through play and evade possible misconceptions of play activities.
In the interest of giving better learning support at home, some parents like Abdul Hadi Muiz bin Haji Zulkipli, father of another pre-school pupil in Tutong, has been keen on finding good resource books for his child and is thankful for online resources. Such parental efforts in finding pre-school materials online inculcate a better learning experience for a child and provide greater synergy between home support and school dynamics.
Abdul Hadi Muiz also shared his appreciation and awareness for the challenges of early childhood education and has trust in the pre-school teachers at his son’s school. “I know dealing with pre-schoolers can be overwhelming. Teachers have to be patient and provide activities that can stimulate their skills,” he said.
Whilst there are parents who may be more experienced in helping pre-school children, there are still those who are very new yet willing to delve and learn for the sake of their child.
Fatin Nursyahirah binti Amir whose son goes to a government primary school in Seria, shared her excitement to be involved in her child’s early education. “This is something new for me and I will try my best to be as involved as I can.”
Parental readiness to be involved in their children’s school life is one major step to their education success. This will raise the communication effectiveness between schools and parents, which is important to ensure information with regards to school activities, initiatives and important calendars are supported.
Communication in schools takes different forms. The existence of parent-teacher associations (PTAs) for example strengthens the effectiveness of parent-teacher communication. It allows more organised and targetted collaborations aimed at not only reinforcing children’s education in schools but also address any arising concerns from time to time. Additionally, regular parent-teacher meetings also allow more personalised discussion on children’s progress and development.
Scheduled PTAs and parent-teacher meetings are further supported by other means of non-formal communication. With current communication technologies, it is not uncommon for teachers to set up group chats through communication apps with parents. Such initiatives are purely intended to enhance a better flow of information on school and class updates. This is also supported by education research that finds parents need informal hands-on opportunities to interact, share ideas, gain support and accurate information.
Iffah Zafirah binti Haji Dzulkefdi, a pre-school teacher from Kampong Perpindahan Bukit Beruang II Primary School, finds that the WhatsApp group chat she has with parents makes her more accessible to parents. The efficient flow of information allows parents to raise questions or concerns about their children better.
“It is also easy for me to update them about their child’s progress, schoolwork and activities,” she added.
The various efforts to ensure effective communication between school and parents are appreciated by parents and helps to ease any concerns. After being well-informed about the lessons and activities being done for his child, Mohammad Normahezwan bin Noordin, a parent at a government primary school in Bukit Beruang believes that the school will always provide the best education for his child.
“I trust that the school is more knowledgeable in providing what is best for pre-school children,” he said.
Importance of Parental Involvement
Through the efficiency and informal setup that communication apps provide, many teachers also share teaching materials that can be used at home.
Ermawaty binti Yacub, a pre-school teacher from Pengiran Setia Negara Pengiran Mohd Yusof Primary School in Seria, hopes that young parents can use a visual teaching strategy such as photos and videos shared by teachers through WhatsApp group chat to help their children at home.
“Parents can be more proactive in helping to educate their children at home especially on numeracy and literacy lessons,” she suggested.
Early childhood education emphasises learning through play and project approach. Elements that encourage creativity, literacy, numeracy and various confidence-building skills also invite parental involvement. For instance, organised programmes like ‘Pandai Komited Baca Buku’ (PKBB), ‘Saya Pandai Eja’ (SPE) and ‘Bacalah Alaiku’ require parental participation through reading sessions at home.
To enhance parental understanding of such programmes, Iffah shared how her school makes effort to ensure that parents are briefed about these programmes first before they are started.
Dayangku Norul Azimah binti Pengiran Haji Nordin, a pre-school teacher from Katok B Primary School said, “‘Bacalah Alaiku’ is one of the activities aimed at instilling the love of reading among pre-schoolers. Parents can keep abreast with their children’s learning. Every week, a pupil will select a book to bring home and read with his parents. Parents will need to record the reading activity in a logbook provided by the school which we will review.”
Pre-school classes throughout the country are also provided with age-appropriate books. Last year alone, 47 new story books were given to 200 government pre-school classes to add up to the existing resource books for pre-schoolers.
Eleyna Sabtu, a pre-school teacher from Amo Primary School in Temburong District shared, “There are a few programmes and workshops organised by my school to support young parents in helping their children’s education. These include Introduction to Phonetics workshop, a showcase featuring children’s progress, School and Family Engagement (SAFE) and Project with Parents programmes.”
Eleyna also shared that her school provides games such as Lego, Playdoh, puzzles, beads and strings for the pre-schoolers to improve their motor skills, as well as puppets, kitchen sets, musical toys and 3D animal models for the pre-schoolers to engage in role-playing.
“Learning through play is incorporated in the classroom to nourish their imaginations and nurture their creativity,” she added.
Key elements practised in government primary schools like engaging parents for greater parental involvement, parental readiness, provision of suitable resources and regular communication between stakeholders make up to ensure the success of early childhood education for children.
As schools endeavour to play their part in providing the best learning experience for pre-school children, parents play an equally important role in their children’s learning. This is supported by a research (Green, 2002) which found that the more involved parents are in their children’s development, the greater the chance children have to succeed, particularly in their academic performance.
In summary, effective parent-teacher collaboration and rapport are essential to ensure the establishment of strong foundation in pre-school children. This is important for their overall development and readiness to progress to more structured primary years of their education experience.