Young Parents Team
1. WHAT IS ENRICHMENT?
In the context of a child’s education, it refers to activities or classes that enhance learning. These typically extend learning beyond the subjects traditionally taught at schools, and may include art, speech and drama, music, ballet, sports or even a foreign language.
However, in Singapore, parents also think of enrichment as additional learning, or lessons that help reinforce what is taught at their kid’s school – for example, math or reading enrichment, says Jane Ching-Kwan, a child development and education expert, and director at Skool4Kidz, an anchor operator appointed by the Early Childhood Development Agency.
When your kid attends an enrichment programme, he will learn how to think creatively and tap into his imagination. “Enrichment is ideally suited to the way young children learn,” says Brian Caswell, dean of research and program development at Mindchamps. “The key aspects of true enrichment are what we call the ‘Five E’s’ – enthusiasm, engagement, enquiry, empowerment and experience.”
While some parents use enrichment and tuition interchangeably, there is a distinct difference: The former is designed to develop lifelong learners who become active, enthusiastic and passionate towards learning, while the latter is subject-oriented and has a more focused objective of improving academic performance.
Fiona Walker, CEO and principal of schools at Julia Gabriel Education, explains: “You could send your child to English tuition, which works with the syllabus covered at school and prepares him to do well in his assessments and exams.
“On the other hand, you could send him to English enrichment, which may have a much broader focus, covering creative writing, reading different genres of writing and texts, and exploring the language in a fun and interactive way.”
However, centres that offer enrichment and tuition classes aren’t regulated – their courses are not considered academic programmes but supplementary education syllabus, explains Seah Seng Choon, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case).
It is therefore left to the management of these schools to deliver what was promised in their agreement or contract with the consumer.
3. WHEN IS THE RIGHT AGE TO START?
Four to six is a good time to begin, as long as the enrichment class or activity is appropriate for that stage of your child’s development, says Sirene Lim, an early childhood education expert, and senior lecturer at SIM University.
“The goal is for him to enjoy learning for learning’s sake, by introducing him to new activities – for instance, a sport or an artor music class – to enrich his primary experiences and to see if he shows an interest in these activities.”
If you wish to enrol your child in a reading and writing enrichment programme, Brian suggests starting as early as possible – perhaps when your kid is around age three. “With reading, for example, it’s important to begin early. But this does not mean pressuring or drilling your child,” he points out.
“Children love the sound of words long before they even understand them, so it’s fine to begin early. This is the age of information, and children are inundated from birth by interactive multimedia. “If they are unable to develop a love of reading and writing in their early years, it will be extremely difficult to build that love at a later age, when reading and writing become more demanding and the competing demands of electronic media increase.”
4. HOW DO I KNOW WHICH TYPE OF ENRICHMENT ACTIVITY TO CHOOSE?
This depends on your child and his needs, but it should be something he enjoys, that builds confidence in his abilities, and that enables him to tap into his talents and strengths.
Every kid is different. Knowing what your little one’s needs are is an important first step to choosing a meaningful and appropriate enrichment activity, Jane says.
Some children fare better in music, and others in dance or gymnastics. Yet others might excel in academic-oriented enrichment activities such as reading and writing. What matters most is that your kid shows an interest in the class and gets something out of it.
5. ARE SMALLER CLASSES BETTER?
In general, they are better than big classes, says Fiona. With small classes, the children get more individualised attention, and the teachers have a better opportunity to understand each child, his needs and his strengths.