Pros and cons of online kindergarten during the pandemic

It can be difficult for very young children to learn online. (Rawpixel pic)

Kindergartens have always been a trusted option for child care/school because they provide care for babies and the young while parents go to work.

Everything was going pretty well between kindergartens and parents, until the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting closure of schools nationwide.

Suddenly, the relationship between the two is on shaky ground with tensions rising over the payment of fees – or not. To be fair, both parties have valid cases.

Here’s one parent’s perspective:

On the one hand, parents like Fwu-Zian Loh say, “I have a six-year-old and a four-year-old and I hate online classes for them.

“I cried this morning, seeing my four-year-old son’s progress (or more like non-progress) compared with his classmates. I know he does not do well in such a learning environment.

“Even the principal was wondering whether or not we should sign him up for online classes. We went ahead because otherwise I would have had even less of an idea what I should be teaching him or what he should be able to do. If he is not learning, then at least I am.

“I feel full payment is not exactly fair, given that there is some operating cost savings (food, stationery, utilities). But if the school or centre insists, you have to decide if you value this school enough to continue your support.

Teachers have worked intensively to create virtual classes for the little ones during school closures because of the pandemic. (Rawpixel pic)

“If you disagree, then I suppose you just pull your children out and hope the school is still there and they allow your child to rejoin when they reopen.

“If you are genuinely facing financial difficulties, try to negotiate with the principal. Like many mothers say, ‘It’s tough for everyone now. No one is laughing and wishes for this to be prolonged’.”

Let’s hear from the teachers

On the other hand, you can see the point of view of Jigna, who runs Toddler Town International Preschool in Mont’Kiara, Kuala Lumpur, and is also an operating partner at Baby Kingdom Kindergarten in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.

During the MCO what learning strategies did teachers, put in place? What challenges did they face?

The first week was spent planning, coordinating and training. Teachers held long daily Zoom meetings to discuss how best to put forward online learning for young children.

Different plans were mapped out for different age groups. Very young toddlers had live online classes twice weekly as well as videos pre-recorded by the teachers twice weekly.

Teachers say parents were sometimes required to supervise their kids during online classes, which proved quite a challenge for some who were working from home.(Rawpixel pic)

These videos comprised songs, dances, the lessons of the day and a lot more. The older children had almost two hours of online classes a day.

Under the STEP Programme for special needs children, therapists and students had online classes daily.

The only challenge teaches sometimes faced was that these children, being very young, needed some adult supervision, which was difficult at times as parents were also working from home and had their own meetings to attend and deadlines to meet.

All in all, it was a successful few weeks of online learning and sharing.

School fees: What’s the solution?

School term breaks have been cancelled for the rest of the year and will replace about seven weeks of lessons. Small discounts have been offered too.

Parents have been very understanding and supportive and have paid all fees on time. Some parents lost their jobs or incomes during this period and the schools have worked together to assist as best as they can.

While this seemingly endless debate continues, with both parties having genuine concerns and valid points of view, the reality is that these are unprecedented times and the answers are most likely somewhere in between.

It is recommended you have a personal chat with your school management to discuss any issues and see how it goes.

No one seems to be able to give a definite answer to the question of how long this situation will affect everyone, so the best you can do is to work together to develop mutually beneficial outcomes.

Erika Peres is a mother of two energetic boys. She is an entrepreneur who has founded and run companies in South America and Asia and is currently a director at multiple companies. With a passion for sports and lifestyle, she has created a number of activity programmes for children. She is a regular contributor to magazines and blogs. Follow Erika’s update on her Facebook.