The last few weeks have been rather stressful for the family on account of the girls' Kindergarten. The changes in the kindergarten have led me to question a lot of the choices that we have made as parents and how we would continue them as the children grow.
Let me start at the beginning. When we put both of girls into Canossian Convent Kindergarten, the kindergarten came with very high recommendations. It gained check marks against pretty much every single requirement we had from a school - discipline, spiritual education, primary one readiness and a beautiful environment for the children to play with.
Last year, the children had the additional benefit of having an excellent principal who built together a great team of teachers. I was involved as a parent volunteer in a number activities and got to know the teaching team really well. Infact, I was so happy with the school that I recommended it very highly to several friends who also put their kids in the school.
This excellent principal left this January mostly due to internal school political matters.
One by one, the great team of teachers disbanded and almost every one of them left the school.
Sophia's class was not too affected by the situation, but the situation in Anjali's K2 class got so dire that they changed four teachers in three terms.
Things came to a head two weeks ago when parents received a notice from the school describing the implementation of a new curriculum, which gave Canossian an opportunity to increase their fees by three fold corresponding to a 2 hour increase in contact hours.
We went for a briefing on it yesterday. I wont repeat most of the conversation here, nor the justification of the school's adopting the same curriculum. However, some of the things that were brought up in the forum made me raise my eyebrows until they were all the way up into my hair.
First: Parents made a choice for a school. They should subsequently leave all decisions to the educators.
I dont believe that this is true. When parents choose a school, they do so because something about the school appeals to them. When the thing that appeals is being questioned, parents have the right to question and even oppose the decision.
Second: There is very little time in the three hour kindergarten programme to support the full development of a child. It is therefore justified to increase curriculum hours to 5.5 hours
I dont think that this can really be a public statement unless corroborated by proper research and statistics. Are there benchmark studies done on children who attend kindergartens with long hours when compared with those who donot? Most of the parents that I have spoken to, who have sent their children to childcare, often complain about how tiring the long hours are for the kids.I spend less than three hours a day with my kids and do quite a lot of things with them.
I also got irked because when I opened my mouth to protest this, I was told that they are in a better position to advice because they are with the kids while we are not. Excuse me? I never thought till now that I was a martian alien looking down at the preschool from a spaceship.
Third: Teachers are leaving the school because they are not being paid enough.
According to ST jobs, preschool teachers are paid a starting salary of around $2600. If we make a computation, based on the figures shared, the total amount to be paid for teacher salary is around $52000 per month. Lets round it up to 60K or even 70K, since there are administrators and principals to be taken care of. Based on the current fee structure, school fees paid by the students gives the school around 96K per month. I guess it would be possible to barely break even in this scenario.
Based on the new fee structure, and given that they only run single session, the monthly revenue would be around 125K. Given that the kindergarten is on church premises and they donot pay for taxes, utilities, rental etc, and since they claim to be non profit, is this structure really valid?
Furthermore, based on the reasons given at the forum, only one teacher left due to a salary deficit. The rest of them left due to political or personal reasons.
Fourth: We were also irked at being told that the kindergarten was in the red and therefore it was either that the parents should adopt the new programme or the kindergarten would simply close down.
Well, from what I could see, the programme was good, it could be the next Montessori or the next Glenn Doman (what do I know?). But I dont appreciate being forced to take it under threat of closure. Besides, we got the feeling of being kept a bit like a mushrooom - in the dark until it was too late and, yes, at the risk of repeating myself, it did irk us.
One off the things that came up as we were discussing options was the possibbility of homeschooling Sophia for two years is no other alternative could be found. After all, it is August and most of the good preschools are filled up.
It was rather quickly dismissed.
But it did sort of let me to think that we tend to put our faith in a school system where "professionals" handle the education of our children and make decisions on how they want the children to progress. It is fine, in principal. But how comfortable are we, as parents in outsourcing our children's future? Isnt that what we are doing when we send them to school - leaving the most important part of ourselves in the hands of a stranger?