Kool Kidz Bangsar and its sunny, spacious play areas remind me of the difference between wearing a pair of PVC shoes and a pair of leather shoes. The PVC pair constricts our feet to its shape while the leather pair expands to allow our feet to breathe comfortably and to grow (where the feet of children are concerned). Kool Kidz Bangsar is the leather pair.
Its world-class Australian Early Learning Education programmes, which cater to children 12 months to 6 years, focus on each child’s interests and development rather than on a rigid educational syllabus that aims to test the child’s performance. Its flexible class schedule also allows younger children to start with a 2-day week and gradually increase to a 5-day week depending on the child. (However, the minimum of 4 days per week is required for children attending their kindergarten programme.) Even its daily routine is flexible and responsive to the child’s individual needs.
Said Kool Kidz Director Aqilah Che Azizuddin, “We have provided a 2-day, 3-day, 4-day and 5-day week fee structure for parents to choose from because we want children to start with us as young as possible. The first five years of a child’s life are really important and early exposure to play-based learning will help a lot in the child’s development.
“Our focus on play-based learning and the child’s interests are what sets us apart from other childcare centres and kindergartens. Here, we allow the child to naturally progress through their own developmental milestones. We do not start with workbooks, so some people see what we do as merely play. However, there is a purpose to our play-based learning; there is always intentional teaching behind the play… and the teacher’s job is to make sure that it is fun!” Looking at the happy, cheerful faces of the children and their absorbed pre-occupation with the activities that were being carried out, Kool Kidz’s teaching methods seem to be working very well.
According to Ms Aqilah, when she opened her centre two years ago, parents were initially not comfortable with Kool Kidz’s Australian programme. She smiled, “In our exam-oriented country, parents feel better when they see ‘real work’ being done. It took about a year for our Malaysian parents to acknowledge that early childhood care and education should always be about the child, not about preparing them to score marks in school later on. We assure them that our well-trained teachers will help their child to achieve globally recognised academic standards with our programmes.
“And besides the academics, their child will learn self-reliance and problem-solving skills, know how to look after his or her own belongings, use the bathroom independently, be able to express emotions appropriately, and deal with competition and conflict. He or she will also form friendships, and experience a year full of discovery, fun and real personal growth,” added Ms Aqilah.
Ms Aqilah herself received training for two years at Kool Kidz’s headquarters in Melbourne: “I became interested in child development when I was studying in the UK and worked with a project that provided social and emotional support for parents and children in trauma. Later when I was working in Australia, I decided to look around for a ECCEprogramme that I could use to start a centre back in Malaysia. I finally found what I wanted -- Kool Kidz, a family-run group that believes childcare and education shouldn’t be about business but about children. I share the same philosophy and decided to set up the first Kool Kidz centre outside Australia.” Such dedication to children’s development and well-being is certainly hard to find!
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