Thursday, July 11, 2013

Khalid's (parents) experience with UK and Malaysia's nursery.

Before I start blogging any further, let me just clarify that this is just my PERSONAL experience. Not in anyway am I belittling Malaysia education. However, I really hope that these issues are being looked and implemented at all nurseries in the near future insha'Allah. 

Let me start with Khalid's experience in his UK nursery. For those of you who didn't know, Khalid was sent to a Government funded Islamic Nursery in Leicester. This means it is a free education paid for by the government. When we first sent him to the nursery, we had to attend an open day which talks about their goals on the school, teachers, parents and students. Its main focus was on students achievement. When I say student achievement, I am not talking about how many A's they should get or even how much they need to know beforehand. No, that wasn't their main focus. Khalid started school when he just turned 3 years old. In the UK, the intake starts in September, so the child has to turn 3 by August just before the intake. So that makes Khalid 3 years 3 months-ish when he started school. During the open day, the teacher told us that they do not expect the kids to know anything at all. Parents were NOT allowed to compare their child's progression to another child's. To them, every child is unique. They also said that the age difference mattered on how much a child needs to know. For example, there could be children who are 3 years 5 months, and every single DAY of their life they are experiencing new things therefore they could be more advanced than Khalid who just turned 3. Basically, when they give homework, they do not expect perfect work, they expect SCRIBBLES. 

Homeworks were given so that the parents can connect with the child rather than to compete with other children. Like Khalid, he gets excited when he gets his homework bag every Friday, because he knows the weekend will be full concentration on him trying to figure out how to do his homework. However, being an Asian Mother, I didn't know what the teachers were expecting (even after being briefed at the open day ;). Forcing him to do the correct way was the only way I wanted to go. I wouldn't accept scribbles because to me, that isn't the right way to do it. Alhamdulillah I managed to attend one of the parents teacher's day which his teacher showed us his school work and it was  mostly scribbles. To them, he was learning something even if it means to just "hold a pencil". Every little detail that Khalid did was looked at as "brilliant work". He gets "MashaAllah" stickers for a straight line which was supposed to be a colouring task. His school  exercises were never looked at as "rubbish", it was something more and only people with patience could view the true meaning of it. Fast forward the time, Khalid has learnt so much even ADDITIONS at such a young age. However in order for him to ADD he would normally subtract first. I have no idea why, but that is how he learns. We didn't stop him from his way of learning because to us that is a unique or rather more confusing way, but if he can do it, Alhamdulillah. School was a breeze for him. He loved it and particularly looked forward to "homework bag".

Dont worry, not his everyday look ;)
Now, let me share about his Nursery in Malaysia. His current nursery is Islamic and Malay Language based, you know, one of those "cheap nursery". The reason we wanted a Malay nursery was because we are not that fluent with Malay Language. Yes we can do rojak, but when it comes to proper Malay, sorry to say we are not that good. So we thought it is better for him to learn Malay from school and English insha'Allah he can learn from us. I see no necessity to send him to English based school (which I have heard from a few friends, their kids still come home speaking in Malay). Alhamdulillah, just yesterday I heard him talking to his friend... in English. Nonetheless, this friend of his understood what he was saying but replied to him in Malay. This is good because as much as he needs to learn Malay, his friends can also learn English from him insha'Allah. Kids catch up easily and I think it is good that we expose him to such a school because he can learn a lot, not only the basic school education but also about people around him. Alhamdulillah he is not judgmental against those who doesn't speak English. To him English is just a language and he learnt it in the UK.

So that was his friends. Let's find out about the teachers, shall we? When I registered Khalid in school I told the administrator that he only speaks English and can understand Malay. Alhamdulillah they were accommodating and put him in a class with a teacher who's been there for 16 years apparently. Therefore she knows how to educate and speak English. Of course I don't expect fluent British English. But yes, the teacher does speak English. If not a whole sentence at least a bit. One thing about Malaysian education is that, one teacher teaches ALL subject. Unlike in the UK, they make the kids go to different classes with different teachers for each and every subject. I asked his current teacher why is it that the kids have to be in the same class with the same teacher ALL THE TIME? In their defense, when the kids are "comfortable" with one teacher, they don't wanna shift about. It will be a hassle because they're not used to other teachers and will start crying. Now I understand why some of us do not dare to do public speaking. We were not exposed to different faces when we were young and was being mould by familiar faces. 
In UK however, they have different teachers for each subjects AND the children are taught to do a presentation once a week, this is called show & tell day. What they do is, they have the kids to bring things that are being discussed for the week. For example if they are learning about colours, the kids have to probably bring their favourite toys and show to their friends and tell as much as they could about the toy. No doubt the teacher will prompt them, but they will slowly get the flow and just want to talk. Hence Khalid's very outgoing and talkative behaviour. So when it comes to school nasheed or performances, the kids won't have any sort of stage fright because they are used to perform/present.

As for homework, yes Asians are Asians. We are such perfectionists when it comes to doing homework. We want nothing but A stars! Typically, Khalid got some feedback from his homework (as seen in picture). In a way, I was glad that the teacher 'wrote' something back at least I know my child's progression. BUT, I didn't take account the effect on him. I read out the teacher's comments and he was taken aback by the comments. To him, he's done his best! So, I had to explain to him that it is okay and he can work harder. Alhamdulillah, with the feedback he did work harder. He tried and tried so many times to get the 'correct' way of writing. When he finished his work, he said "I hope my teacher love my work because I did it the right way." I was anxious to get back his homework and read the feedback. As soon as he got the homework back, he said "how did I do Mommy? Did my teacher say I did it good?" Alhamdulillah there were stars, but the stars were the same as his first homework anyway. Thankfully, he didn't remember. He was glad that he got stars and all answers were ticked rather than crossed or wrote over it. Even though I am glad he is writing nicely and could do his homework better, I am scared for him. He was once a playful lad who would just play non stop and learn from playing. Like talking to himself, imagining things etc but now, he asks me for pencils and workbooks. As much as it is good, I DO NOT want him to become book clever. There is so much he can learn from exploring. So now I have to limit his workbook and only let him do work when he has homework. Alhamdulillah now he is good enough for his age and I don't want to take his childhood away from him.
So, there you go. This is my experience with these particular schools. I am not generalising with the whole of Malaysia nurseries! There may be better ones which are more expensive and this is my point, education should be standardised in some ways. Alhamdulillah I managed to gain some experience working in childcare settings and most of it are similar to Khalid's nursery in the UK. These comparisons that I am making doesn't need extra money from either the parents or nurseries. These type of learning skills or activities can easily be incorporated with those already being implemented in school. It is just a matter of improvising the needs. So, let's make a change! Let's suggest this type of activity to your child's nursery. Get the children to learn to speak for once and not spoken to all the time. It is amazing what our children can come out with. We need to teach them to talk when they want to and not only when they are upset. Insha'Allah, this will only make them a better child rather than not. ;)