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.
When your kid attends an enrichment program, 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.
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.”
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. Some children fare better in music, and others in dance or skateboarding. 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.
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.
For sports enrichment, the ideal size would be 4-8 students to one Coach. This establishes a group dynamic, roles, responsibilities and accountability within the group. Besides, a small group will consist of a good mix of kids. In Singapore, there will be kids from various ethnic backgrounds who bring their specific character and skills into the group. This provides a wonderful opportunity for kids to develop understanding and appreciation of different cultures and values all whilst having fun in the class, says Hanson ( SkateSports )
WATCH OUT FOR HOW THE CLASS IS CONDUCTED
Be particularly aware of which approaches are appropriate for your child, especially if he is under five years old,” he points out. “Methods based on memorisation and drill are totally lost on this age level – and indeed, for most age levels – and may prevent your child from engaging emotionally with the lesson.”
You should also consider the scientific research behind the enrichment programme, he says. “Make sure that the learning methodologies and content have been scientifically validated to ensure a positive learning outcome.”
Seng Choon of Case advises: “Before enrolling your child at an enrichment centre, you should research the school. Consideits reputation, the size of the class, the credentials of the teaching staff and the course materials provided.”
WHAT FEE-RELATED QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK?
You should find out what the fees include – if they cover materials and any equipment your kid may need, like musical instruments or dance costumes, for example. One thing to keep in mind is that fees are no indication of quality. “Just because a class is expensive, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is better,” says Fiona.
“What you should look for are the quality of the teachers and the programme itself. Do the teachers engage and inspire your child? Will they know how to support him in the areas your kid may find more challenging? Is the curriculum or material they are working with solid and progressive?”
HOW CAN I TELL IF MY CHILD IS BENEFITTING FROM IT?
If he enjoys the activity; is happy at the end of each session and looks forward to the next one; demonstrates competency in the taught skills; and shows no signs of negative stress before, during or after the class, then he is benefitting socially and emotionally from it, Jane says.
Sirene adds: “Another way to tell if he’s getting something out of the class is to observe whether or not he incorporates what he has learnt into his daily playtime or home routine – for example, he may hum tunes or repeat the movements or skills he has learnt.
HOW MUCH ENRICHMENT IS TOO MUCH?
You’ll know your child has too much on his plate when he no longer has time to bond with you and the rest of the family, or attend play-dates and social functions, such as his friends’ birthday parties. Time with the family and social interaction are important for children, says Jane. So if Junior’s classes are eating into this time, you might want to cut down on his enrichment activities.
Another clue: Your child is stressed from having too many classes, and feels like he has to be up to the mark with each of them. If this happens, says Brian, he may lose his enthusiasm for learning and develop an aversion to the class or activity in question. On the other hand, if your child is really into the activity, and other areas of his life – like his health and family relations – are unaffected, then he can probably manage his busy enrichment schedule.
Credits: Young Parents Team
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