OWIS Early Childhood Education Programme

Niki Wallis
Published on
June 19, 2021

One World International School's Early Childhood Programme  

Visit One World International School’s Early Childhood education campus on a typical day, and you'll see our youngest learners eagerly exploring the world around them. Whether they're playing number and letter games or connecting with nature in our green spaces, our early childhood students are building the foundation for a lifelong love of learning.

Our Early Years programme based on the IB PYP (International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme) framework, gives children aged 3-6 their first opportunity to be introduced to school. Through play-based learning, we provide a safe, supportive environment that nurtures all aspects of development — cognitive, physical, social and emotional. Meaningful learning during children's early years is critical. Providing them with an engaging, age-appropriate environment allows them to develop core skills that will serve them in good stead for years to come. A quality early childhood education paves the way not only for future academic success but also places children on track to acquire life skills that will enable them to thrive in a diverse, ever-changing world.

We provide early childhood and preschool programmes at our Nanyang campus in Jurong and One World Preschool, Mountbatten.

Our Values

We strive to provide every child in Singapore with a world-class preschool education rooted in international-mindedness and universal values, such as integrity and respect, with an emphasis on kindness and caring.

A crucial component of our approach to international education is an emphasis on diversity. Our students and teachers represent more than 70 nationalities. To ensure a balance of nationalities and cultures, we have a cap of 30% on each nationality. Our teachers come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, too. Many have ventured beyond their home countries to teach in other parts of the world before coming to OWIS. They enrich the classroom by bringing a wide range of experiences to our school community.

Throughout the year, our preschool students enhance their cultural understanding by participating in festivals and other multicultural events. Being actively involved in our diverse community sets the stage for our youngest students to become global citizens who respect and appreciate cultural differences while having a deep understanding of their own cultural identities.

To prepare children to become dynamic, compassionate leaders, we also incorporate character development into nearly every aspect of the curriculum at our preschools in Singapore, starting from the nursery or Early Childhood 1 level. Kindness and empathy for others are among our core values, and we provide opportunities for our students to support charitable causes. We include our youngest learners in our "kindness campaign", getting them involved in service projects such as visiting residents of an elder care facility.

At OWIS, we believe it's never too early to begin instilling other essential values such as responsibility, teamwork, respect and humility. Our teachers model these qualities each day, creating a nurturing environment in which children feel accepted and valued, giving them a sense of respect for themselves and others.

What Is the Focus of the Early Years Programme?

As children's first encounter with international education, our Early Years programme at our international preschools in Singapore lays critical foundations for learning during their most formative years. Our inquiry led approach allows children to build new skills and concepts, primarily through play. Teachers provide enough guidance to ensure children are on the right track while allowing them the freedom and flexibility to explore on their own and begin taking ownership of their learning.

Structured play encourages children to test new ideas and discover the consequences of their actions. Our innovative, balanced approach incorporates age-appropriate activities that foster independence, self-confidence and a sense of responsibility. Cultivating these traits at an early age prepares children to navigate the transition to primary school successfully. Sensory activities and other engaging lessons develop children's natural curiosity and lay the groundwork for strong academic skills. Equally important, our well-rounded approach sets the stage for early critical thinking and real-world concept application.

What stands out about our early childhood education programme is our commitment to developing the whole learner. By modelling respect and kindness, we promote the emotional maturity necessary for making friends, resolving conflict and collaborating with peers. Supporting emotional and social growth enables children to meet their developmental milestones more readily.

Alan W., parent of an early childhood student, says, "Hearing happiness and excitement in my children's voices after each school day has provided great comfort and reassurance that the move to OWIS was the right one."

Indicators That Your Child Is Ready for an Early Childhood Programme in a K-12 International School

Your child is ready for the preschool classroom when he or she is on track developmentally in several areas. Here are some indicators to look for:

Physical

Children should have age-appropriate mastery of fine and gross motor skills. Gross motor skills include jumping, hopping, skipping and catching. Students have a good grasp of fine motor skills if they can easily pick up small objects, write basic letters and shapes, copy and cut simple shapes and manipulate building blocks. Children should also be in good health overall (vision, hearing and the like) and be able to manage self-care tasks — eating, dressing, grooming.

Literacy and Numeracy

Before taking their first steps into school, young children should be able to identify at least ten letters of the alphabet and read four simple words. Other signs that children are ready for preschool include the ability to answer simple questions (name, age), identify named body parts and recognise colours and at least a few rhyming words. At this age, children should also be able to count blocks and identify all numbers from 1 to 10.

Socio-Emotional

Even young children can undertake simple activities alone and in collaboration with their peers. They can be expected to follow rules, share and demonstrate self-control and empathy.

Prior Experience with Organised Learning

Children are especially likely to be prepared for an early years programme if they have already participated in a somewhat structured learning environment, such as childcare, kindergarten or some other type of preschool programme. Children who have acclimated well to these settings are usually good candidates for a more formal learning environment.

The Early Years Curriculum

Our thoughtfully chosen early childhood curriculum is based on the IB PYP (International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme) and also aligns with age-appropriate learning outcomes established by the English National Curriculum. 

There are quite a number of early childhood programmes offered worldwide, such as Montessori, Reggio Emilia and Waldorf. OWIS has selected the Early Years component of the IB PYP because we believe that it provides our students with the ideal foundation for their future education and offers a balanced approach in which students thrive. We also incorporate elements of other well-regarded curricula, such as the Montessori method, into our programme. We recognise that play-based learning is the best way for our youngest students in nursery and kindergarten levels to develop essential skills and become intuitive and curious learners.

We surveyed parents to find out what they value most about our preschool programme. They cited our highly personalised learning approach, teaching methods to develop students’ skills and ample opportunities to interact with teachers among the best characteristics of our programme. Consider some other highlights of our Early Childhood Programme:

  • Pre-literacy: Early Childhood teachers focus on phonics awareness and instruction, oral language skills, building vocabulary, reading and listening skills. We instil a love of reading with regular Library time.
  • Pre-numeracy: Through fun, engaging activities, students learn to recognise numbers and sequences, count and use numbers.
  • Play-based learning: Engaging in both structured and unstructured play stimulates critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • High teacher-student ratio: We cap class sizes at eighteen, and each classroom is staffed with one teacher and one teaching assistant.
  • Gentle introduction of STEAM subjects: Through games and interactive projects, we get students excited about Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths. These activities give children a hands-on introduction to how these subjects apply to the real world.
  • Students' interests: To make the learning especially meaningful and impactful, we incorporate students' interests into the lessons.
  • Whole-school involvement: Early Childhood students participate in school-wide events, such as assemblies and exhibitions, involving primary school students or the whole school.
  • Technology: Audio-enabled classrooms equipped with iPads and interactive displays acquaint our preschool students with the wonders and benefits of the digital world.
  • Specialised lessons: Our curriculum includes Physical Education, Art, Music and Mandarin to give our students a well-rounded education.
  • Outdoor learning: We enable additional opportunities for play and discovery in our outdoor green spaces.
  • Short at-home learning activities: There is no homework for children in Early Childhood 1 (EC1). From Early Childhood 2 onwards, there are no written assignments, but EC2 and EC3 children have reading books that they take home. They also have Maths activities, such as measuring and counting, for each unit of inquiry. These at-home learning activities take no more than 15 minutes per day.
  • Integrated learning: Preschool children participate in both individual and group learning activities that improve their ability to integrate knowledge in different contexts.

Our Early Childhood Teachers

Our teachers are handpicked from a sizable pool of preschool educators, based on their experience, values and passion for lifelong learning. They regularly participate in professional development to stay up-to-date on the latest best practices in early childhood education. They also enjoy collaborating to exchange ideas and provide one another with valuable feedback.

All their work behind the scenes enables them to make learning come alive in the classroom. Well-versed in the benefits of holistic education, our teachers provide students with a wide range of fun, challenging activities that facilitate critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration and other key skill sets. Interactive, play-based activities make learning especially meaningful by empowering children to make connections between different topics and concepts. Our preschool programme introduces young students to the transdisciplinary framework they will follow throughout the rest of their years at OWIS.

Our team strives to personalise the lessons, including students' interests to create an authentic learning experience. Highly knowledgeable about early childhood development, our teachers provide adequate support to help students adjust to the school environment, but they also know when and how to let students explore on their own, motivating them to take control of their learning.

Our early childhood educators are firm believers in our mission and core values, especially kindness and international mindedness. They model respect for different cultures and encourage children to show care and concern for others — at school, at home and in the community.

What Does a Typical Day Look Like In Our Preschool Programme

To get a better idea of just what early childhood education looks like at our preschool campuses in Singapore, here's what a typical day may entail:

The school day runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. This full-day programme includes two breaks.

Per our inquiry led framework, students cover one theme throughout the week, which is linked to all their academic subjects. 

Morning

Students start the day with outdoor play. This gives them the chance to let off steam and begin their day on a positive note.

Upon entering the classroom, children gather for "carpet time." The teacher explains what concepts will be covered that day and gives students the opportunity to ask questions related to the upcoming lessons.

Next, students participate in interactive phonics activities designed to deepen their understanding of language and sounds. Students take part in similar phonics activities throughout the week to reinforce what they've already learnt and integrate the new concepts with their existing knowledge.

After the phonics activity, Early Childhood classes move into a time of structured, student-guided play that develops personal and practical skills related to critical thinking, problem-solving and communication. Students put their newly-acquired concepts into practice through activities such as painting, role-playing, building towers with blocks and whipping up "recipes" in our mud kitchen.

Students also have unstructured playtime during the day. This gives them another outlet for their energy and an opportunity to play freely with their friends.

When students have finished letting off steam, they come together for numeracy activities. The teacher introduces a Maths concept on Monday, and students explore it throughout the week. They practice counting and learn more about what numbers mean. Working independently and as a group, students discover how they can put what they've learnt into practice.

Maths lessons are followed by a session dedicated to teaching children about sharing, taking turns and teamwork. Sometimes, this part of the day includes some time for show and tell, which fosters communication and confidence.

In line with our inquiry led approach, students participate in daily discussions related to the questions posed at the beginning of the week. Each day, students delve deeper into the topic, sharing ideas and discovering real-world applications.

The next part of the school day includes extension activities that hone children's fine motor skills. These activities usually build on what's been covered earlier in the day and help to consolidate concepts. Child-led extension activities often involve tasks such as measuring, pouring and cutting.

During the extension activity time, teachers and teaching assistants take individuals or small groups aside for additional practice in phonics and other pre-literacy concepts introduced earlier in the day or week. Teachers and teaching assistants also use this part of the day to assess each child's strengths and weaknesses, so they can develop a plan to help children improve in areas where they're struggling. These assessments also allow teachers to provide feedback for parents so they can support their children's education at home.

Afternoon

After a busy morning of putting their new knowledge into action, it's time for lunch. Teachers use this time to promote healthy eating, and students can enjoy more fun with their friends.

After lunch, children participate in specialised classes — Art, Music, PE and Mandarin. Lessons are age-appropriate, giving children an introduction to these subject areas and preparing them for more in-depth study when they reach primary school. Specialised classes are varied throughout the week, so students have ample opportunities to practice each subject.

Afterwards, children gather on the carpet again to pick up their discussion on the week's theme. They look at it from different angles to sharpen their curiosity and explore the topic in new ways.

Up to this point, students have covered considerable territory, so teachers provide another period of unstructured play. Children take advantage of this time to stretch their legs and play with their friends.

As the day winds down, children straighten up the classroom and gather the projects they've completed to showcase them for their parents. Students and teachers wrap up their time together with story-time, ending the day on a calm, positive note.

After-School Learning: The CCA Programme

Learning doesn't stop when students file out of their classrooms at 3:30 p.m. For the next hour, EC2 and EC3 students can participate in our optional co-curricular activities (CCA) programme. Our students are involved in a wide variety of activities, such as Karate, Soccer, Robotics, Dance, Music and Gymnastics, to continue building their skills in a relaxed environment beyond the conventional classroom. These are optional activities that parents can choose for their children based on their interest. 

Heading Home

As students leave school at the end of the day, they either board the school bus or meet their parents or caregivers who have arrived to pick them up. Staff members take up their posts outside to see children safely to the bus or waiting car. Families who need transportation may be able to access door-to-door bus service. If this isn't possible or parents are seeking other means of transport, there are several public and private options available.

An Optimal Environment for Early Childhood Education

Both our Mountbatten and Nanyang campuses provide dedicated environments for our preschool students. We call the early childhood section of our Nanyang campus "a school within a school". Here's what makes our early childhood education programme so unique.

Modern Facilities

At OWIS, our cutting-edge facilities, both indoors and out, provide the ideal setting for students to begin their early learning journey.

Indoor Learning Areas

Stimulating areas and multi-sensory activities throughout the school kindle students' passion for learning and invite them to explore their surroundings. Dedicated learning centres —for science, art, imaginative play, and more — give children virtually limitless potential to cultivate their creativity, stretch their thinking and discover budding interests and talents.

Additionally, our Early Childhood (EC) classrooms and equipment are built to scale. These "small-world learning spaces" give children a sense of security and belonging, creating the perfect setting for them to take risks and test their understanding. Our early childhood education programme promotes adaptability, giving children essential skills to succeed in any environment. We ensure that all our preschool facilities are up-to-date and meet children at their current developmental level.

Outdoor Spaces

At OWIS, learning isn't limited to our indoor environs. Students regularly take part in a host of activities in our outdoor spaces, too.

To get a glimpse of the flora and fauna of the rainforest, our youngest learners need to look no farther than our "living library", a miniature forest just steps outside the school. Here, students collect leaves, observe changes in the environment and learn about other elements of nature.

Other favourite spots frequented by our preschool students are the berms and sandpit, popular places for jumping, running and sliding. Children also partake of water play and take turns making various creations in the aforementioned mud kitchen.

At OWIS, we recognise that outdoor learning offers numerous advantages to students of all ages. Fresh air and sunshine are beneficial for mental and physical health, allowing students to connect with the world around them. Outdoor play helps children feel more involved in the community and instils in them a sense of responsibility to protect the environment. Besides, being outside is all-round fun.

Buddy Classes

Preschoolers enjoy spending time with older children, and older children like serving as role models to younger students. Our "buddy classes" allow groups of older students to work with our EC children on projects and activities. For example, our Grade 3 class has been paired with our EC2 class for shared reading time. This allows the older children to model good behaviour, and the younger ones look up to their primary school buddies.

Support for Students Learning English as an Additional Language

Recognising that our students come from a variety of cultures and speak many different languages, we offer the English as an Additional Language (EAL) programme for students whose first language is not English. Early childhood is an ideal time to begin learning a new language. Our EC programme welcomes children who are new to English. We assess each child's language skills to develop a plan of personalised goals and provide support to achieve them.

Supplemental language lessons follow our inquiry led approach with the use of English-based texts, and we make the learning fun and engaging. Immersive teaching emphasises age-appropriate oral and written skills. While we focus on English language skills, we encourage students to continue learning about their culture and heritage.

To provide ongoing support to our English language learners, we have a language specialist who works with children in Grades 1 to 6.

Maintaining Rapport with Parents

At One World International School, we appreciate the vital role parents play in supporting their children's learning. We maintain open, transparent communication to keep families informed and empowered to partner with us in our shared mission to provide students with a world-class education. We take a proactive approach to ensure that problems and concerns are addressed right away before they become huge obstacles. Parents get updates at the end of each week about their child's strengths. Our teachers also report on how they're handling areas where children are having difficulty. Consistent communication motivates parents to take purposeful steps to enhance their child's learning, both at school and at home. It also gives parents the opportunity to approach us with their questions and concerns. Building a healthy rapport with parents helps us optimise the learning experience.

Transitioning to Primary School

Starting primary school is a huge step for children. Participating in the Early Years Programme can go a long way toward facilitating a seamless transition, as our EC curriculum aligns with our primary years programme (IB PYP) and the British National Curriculum. Our early childhood educators are highly knowledgeable about the PYP, so they're well-positioned to prepare students for primary school. EC teachers regularly collaborate with our primary teachers to provide the best support possible as students move on to their next level of schooling. Engagement with older students, as happens in buddy classes, also makes the move to primary school much less stressful.

The Educational Journey at OWIS

Learning at OWIS begins with early childhood education and culminates with the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme for our secondary school students. This continuity helps children feel secure, as they can complete their entire K-12 education on the same campus. Here's an overview of our curricula at various grade levels:

Early Childhood Programme

For students aged 3-6, we use the Early Years component of the IB PYP at OWIS Nanyang and at One World Preschool, Mountbatten, the preschool curriculum is underpinned by the English National Curriculum. Immersive and inquiry led learning is the hallmark of our well-rounded learning approach. This programme serves as an ideal bridge to primary school. 

Primary Years Programme

Children aged 6-11 follow the PYP, the primary school component of the International Baccalaureate Programme. At this level, open-concept classrooms promote discussion, teamwork and critical thinking. Our inquiry-based PYP approach fosters a lifelong love of learning and supports all aspects of children’s development. By asking questions, students develop an in-depth understanding of topics and how they relate to the real world. They’re empowered to take responsibility for their learning whilst becoming more involved in our school community.

Secondary School Programme

Our secondary school programme is for students aged 11-18. Students spend these critical years furthering their academic knowledge and personal growth. They also prepare for internationally-recognised examinations as part of the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP). Our secondary school programmes prepare students to flourish at university and beyond.

At each level, teachers work with their colleagues in other class years to help children prepare for the next stage of education. Our safe, consistent learning environment ensures a smooth transition to each new phase of learning.

COVID-19 and Our Early Childhood Students

The current pandemic has, understandably, heightened concerns among members of our school community. Our teachers play a crucial role in modelling appropriate behaviour and routines while helping to reduce anxiety about the situation.

We ask parents to check their children's temperatures before school and to keep them at home if they are ill. We also use thermal scanners to monitor the temperatures of students and staff twice each day. Staggered pick-up and drop-off times (with early childhood students being dropped off last) eliminate crowding at the school entrance and in the hallways. Parents and visitors use a government-mandated Safe Entry app should they need to go beyond the designated drop-off point. Staff and students also use this app which is in place for Covid-related contact-tracing purposes. When students arrive on campus, teachers escort them to their classrooms.

Students under 6 are permitted to wear masks or face shields, only taking them off while eating. Early Childhood teachers wear clear face shields so that students can observe their facial expressions, which makes communication easier. Classroom furniture is strategically arranged to allow for safe-distancing, and students sit in groups of 4, at tables placed several meters apart.

Classes have rotations that allow for at least 30 minutes of outdoor activities each day. Students enjoy outdoor time in groups of 5; staff members supervise them at all times to ensure their safety and to make sure students follow public health guidelines. Each group has its own designated staff member.

At the end of the day, early childhood students who ride the school bus are accompanied by a staff member to make sure they board safely. Similarly, teachers are stationed at public stops to ensure that students are practising safe-distancing.

On the school bus, there is a seating plan that aligns with guidelines set by the Singapore authorities. Siblings can sit together, but children who aren't from the same household must maintain safe-distancing.

Our campuses undergo extra deep-cleaning, especially in high-traffic areas, and sanitisers are located throughout the school. To protect our youngest students and their teachers, we cannot give parents or visitors access to the early childhood department.

Our Head of School communicates regularly with parents to keep them updated on any changes to Covid-related measures or new regulations in this dynamic situation. Parents are encouraged to reach out to us with any questions or concerns they have. The safety of our students is always paramount, and we will notify parents immediately if guidelines or school routines change.

Fees

At OWIS, we're committed to providing a premier education at a modest cost. As a member of the Global Schools Foundation, we can outsource some of our non-core activities and responsibilities, which reduces expenses. This allows us to devote more of our resources to our teaching staff, training, learning tools and technology. We also try to provide parents with some flexibility in how they spend their money, such as by making extracurricular activities optional.

At OWIS, a child's journey to becoming "One with the world" can begin in Early Childhood. Our preschool programme places young children well on their way to becoming confident leaders and lifelong learners. That is why many parents consider us among the best preschools n Singapore for their little ones.

About Author

Niki Wallis

Senior Coordinator - Early Childhood

With a BEd. (Hons) degree, Niki has lived and worked in the UK, Cyprus, Beijing and Singapore. She also earned a Cambridge English Level 5 Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA). At OWIS, Niki is passionate about shaping the minds of the next generation and unlocking every child’s potential. Besides travelling, she enjoys physical fitness, reading, the outdoors and nature.

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