Transition for Preschool Children
When Kindergarten 2 children transit from preschool to Primary 1, they move from the familiar to the unknown. The unknown involves the physical environment, interactions with people and responding to circumstances. Transition is a journey that children as young as 18 months old go through when they enter childcare, experiencing change from the familiar home environment to a new and unknown setting. Each child adjusts to change at a different pace, but once he develops trusting relationships, finds substitute attachment (i.e., the teacher) and develop friendship with peers during his journey through preschool, he will enjoy school.
The landmark transition to primary school is a big leap into an environment that is bigger, more complex and structured. While the child may have a few of his preschool friends moving into the same new environment with him, they may not necessarily be assigned to the same class.
Apart from having different teachers, the child also has to acquire the skills required for him to respond to different circumstances accordingly. This change process imposes social, emotional and cognitive demands on the child (Tay-Lim & Lim, 2015).
Setting the Pathway for Preschool Children Transiting to Primary School
According to Dockett (2014), each child brings with him elements of his personality traits, skills and contextual background into the transition process. Tay-Lim & Lim (2015) view preschool to primary school transition as a social process that involves the child and the adults in the child’s live (i.e., parents and primary school teachers).
The extent to which parents adapt to the change of routines and responsibilities will affect how well the child adjusts to his new environment and routines. Teachers receiving children from preschool also shoulder a heavy responsibility of facilitating their entry – apart from working with children and parents, they also have to manage the curriculum.
Research has shown that successful transition in the initial months for children can set the positive momentum for negotiating daily challenges of being in a new school setting. It also helps develop positive self-esteem and create the cycle to ensure eventual positive school outcomes. In one commentary, author Renjan shared the steps primary schools take to ease transition. This includes running orientation programmes for children and parents before the start and during the first week of school. A buddy system where Primary 1 students are paired with older students is also commonly adopted in schools (Renjan, 2018).
On the preschool front, preparing the child mentally for the unknown is on-going. It begins the moment the child steps into childcare. Towards the end of Kindergarten 2, the preparation becomes more deliberate. This includes doing activities such as simulations of primary school classrooms and routines, visits to primary schools as well as immersion in planned (structured) activities.
“On the preschool front, preparing the child mentally for the unknown is on-going. It begins the moment the child steps into childcare.”
– Lucy Quek stresses that the preparation for transition begins in childcare
Framework and Curriculum that Focuses on Transition
In 2008, the Preschool Qualification Accreditation Committee, now under the ambit of the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), required all preschool teacher training programmes in Singapore to include “planning for transition to primary school” in their syllabus.
The Singapore Preschool Accreditation Framework (SPARK), launched in 2011 and updated in 2017, also has a similar requirement. On the SPARK Quality Rating Scale (QRS), the first level benchmark is for preschools to work with primary schools to familiarize children with the primary school setting. The next level involves familiarizing teachers and parents with primary school education and at the highest level, preschools are to establish partnership with primary schools to facilitate an overall smoother transition for children (ECDA, 2017, p. 33).
On the other hand, Nurturing Early Learners: A Curriculum Framework for Kindergartens in Singapore, commonly referred to as the NEL, does not explicitly mention transition to primary school. Instead, it articulates learning goals, learning dispositions and key stage outcomes of preschool education, all of which guide the preschool teachers in planning a curriculum to support children’s holistic development.
Confidence and resilience, thinking and communication, self-help and social skills are the competencies necessary for a child to learn, thrive and take on challenges of the future (MOE, 2012). These are essential and positive factors for transition to primary school but they are implicit. The NEL Educators’ Guide subsequently unpacks the framework and provide examples of activities and programmes for a smooth transition for preschool children to primary school (MOE, 2013, p.94).
Supporting children in their transition to primary 1: A guide for teachers and parents in Singapore (NIE, 2018) is another local resource to empower all participants in the transition journey. Research has found that more intentional strategies introduced in the current preschool routines and talking about feelings towards change are examples of activities that are more likely to develop greater adaptive competence (Tay-Lim & Lim, 2015).
Nurturing early learners: A curriculum framework for kindergartens in Singapore, is a good benchmark for preschools to gauge how much more they can do for preschool children’s smoother transition to Primary 1. A snap poll with 15 preschools shows unevenness in initiatives and practices, and they are at different levels on the QRS. While the work is still continuing, it is clear from literature that collaborative efforts between different stakeholders in the interest of children will help them adjust well to the new environment and ensure continuity in learning and development.
Dockett, S. (2014). Continuity and change from home to preschool. Paper presented at the Inaugural Henry David Hochstadt Early Childhood Symposium 2014, Singapore.
Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), 2017. Singapore preschool accreditation framework: Quality rating scale.
Ministry of Education (MOE), 2012. Nurturing early learners: A curriculum framework for kindergartens in Singapore.
Ministry of Education (MOE, 2013). Singapore Ministry of Education: Nurturing early learners: A curriculum framework for kindergartens in Singapore: Educators’ guide: Overview.
MOE-MCYS Pre-school Qualification Accreditation Committee. (2008). Accreditation Standards for Early Childhood teacher Training Courses.
National Institute of Education (NIE), 2018. Supporting children in their transition to primary 1: A guide for teachers and parents in Singapore.
Renjan, V. (2018, March 19) Commentary: School transitions can be a stressful and intimidating struggle for many students and parents. CNA, Singapore edition. Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/
Tay-Lim, J. and Lim, L. (2015). Early years transitions: Building bridges for children. Singapore: AECES.