Beyond the Website: On Choosing A Kindergarten for Your Child

Why understanding the educational philosophy of your child’s kindergarten matters

In a recent Instagram status, Kenyan social media influencer and content creator, Ivy (@just_ivy_) posed a question to her followers about how much they paid for their children’s education. The answers were fascinating, with some schools charging up to KES 900,000 (close to USD 9,000) per term for a kindergartener. These numbers are staggering, given the Kenyan context; yet parents are willing to spend millions of shillings on their children’s education, citing the quality of education in these schools to be worth the initial investment in the long-term.

What is concerning, however, is a growing trend that assumes that the more expensive a school is, the better the quality of education for one’s child. While there is a direct correlation in some ways, this may not always be the case. In addition to this trend, majority of private schools use buzzwords and phrases such as “small teacher-student ratio”, “holistic learning”, and “critical thinking”, phrases that have become generic marketing terms without giving insight on what exactly you might be signing up for when sending your child to the kindergarten in question. Beyond fees invoices and glossy websites, it is important as a parent to understand the educational philosophy of a kindergarten before choosing it as the starting point for your child’s academic journey.

Beyond fees invoices and glossy websites, it is important as a parent to understand the educational philosophy of a kindergarten before choosing it as the starting point for your child’s academic journey.

Education philosophy refers to guiding principles that define the meaning and goals of education, and ultimately determine the methods that a school will incorporate in the classroom. A philosophy for education determines the day-to-day decisions a teacher will make when interacting with their students, and every school has a distinct one if you ask the right questions.

It’s vital to ensure that a school’s educational philosophy aligns with your own, as it allows schooling to complement the values you are trying to inculcate at home. It also ensures that schooling caters to the unique needs of your child, should your child need a certain type of environment or mode of instruction to thrive. It also allows you as a parent to be empowered to have more of a say in their children’s academic development and gives you a starting point to foster a productive relationship with teachers.

To understand the educational philosophy of an institution, here are some questions one could ask during a kindergarten visit:

1. What worldview informs the education philosophy?

Is it based on any specific religious tradition or does it take a more secular approach to schooling? Does this influence the way teachers approach conversations about identity, their relationship with the world, engagement with social issues? Does this align with the views that you would like your child to adopt?

2. What is the school’s take on academic rigor?

Do they prioritize academic development over social and emotional skills early on? What do teachers consider to be favorable outcomes at the end of the child’s kindergarten years/what does preparation for primary school look like? Does this approach appeal to you?

3. What is the mode of instruction like?

Do teachers have a preference for structured over unstructured learning or vice versa? Is learning more theoretical, or do teachers incorporate more practical examples? Would this approach be favorable given your child’s temperament and learning style?

4. Are you aligned with teachers when it comes to what you deem as appropriate modes of discipline?

Does the mode of moral training in school appeal to you? Do you agree on fundamental beliefs of what is wrong and what is right when it comes to children’s behavior? To what extent is it teachers’ responsibility to implement these?

It might be helpful to articulate these for yourself before starting the kindergarten search, to direct the conversations with teachers/administrators and ask the right questions. When asking these questions, presenting hypothetical situations to see how a teacher would address them could be helpful — at the end of the day, you are interviewing the school as much (if not more) as they are interviewing you/your child.

How expensive a school is does not always determine how good it’s going to be for your child. What matters is for a school to be able to partner with your child to develop them into the best version of themselves, and looking beyond the tuition slip and school website may be a good place to start.

Educator. Founder at The Learners’ Club. Harvard ‘19