My 3 Year Old Gets Homework (And Other Details About Preschools in Malaysia)

If you are living in Malaysia, and have young kids, you are probably wondering about early education options in this country.

I thought that I would share some details about my daughter’s preschool, which is located in Penang, where we live at the moment.

First, some general information. 

Cost

We currently pay RM570 per month for half day care. There are also additional charges for materials. Holiday programs cost around RM200 and they run for a week, typically. Our package covers lunch as well, but you can always opt for without. There are also a full day program available but I do not know how much this costs.

Please note that most preschools’ fees cover the following:

  • a monthly amount which is to be paid every month regardless of whether there are holidays or not
  • a payment for learning materials to be paid twice a year
  • additional fees if you opt for school holiday programs

Teachers/Caregivers

As far as I know, the caregivers at my daughter’s daycare are locally sourced. They speak English (Manglish), Malay, and Chinese. I don’t believe you need to be certified to work as a caregiver at most daycares in Malaysia, but I might be wrong. Those that care for my daughter seem to be really genuine and caring, and my daughter talks endlessly about them.

Hours

You can either send your kids off for half a day, or the whole day. At half day sessions (typically in the morning), kids play, learn, and have a morning tea break as well as lunch if you opt for it. At full day sessions, kids also take a shower, and have a nap.

We send our daughter off at 8.30 in the morning and pick her up at 12.30 in the afternoon for the half day session. For full day sessions, you can pretty much pick your kid up once you’ve prepared yourself mentally to face them again. Ha!   

And now for some additional nuggets that I’ve picked up along the way…

1. There are children from different cultures

My kid’s friends are Chinese, Malay, Indian, British, Korean, Japanese, and American. It’s probably the thing I love most about her school. I wish I had been exposed to so many different cultures from such a young age.

Just last week we had a play date with a Japanese family (from school), and we had the opportunity to eat homemade Japanese curry and sushi.

2. Kids are taught that it’s pretty normal to be bilingual, and even trilingual

From 2 years of age, kids are taught nursery rhymes and songs in different languages (mainly English, Chinese and Malay). This year my daughter learns how to read, write and count in 3 different languages (and she learns a 4th one at home). The poor kid.

My husband and I are now forced to look for a new secret language to communicate in since she now understands more words in Malay (which is our current secret language). 

Unfortunately, it is a shame that what passes for English is a brutalised form commonly known as Manglish (Malaysian @ Mangled English). A kid can grow up in a home environment with perfect British English, but still end up saying something like, “Aiyo, Aunty, got blood!” Nothing quite prepares you for that. 

3. Kids get homework at 4 years old

My daughter turns 4 this year, and thus started receiving weekly homework. This took me aback a little bit initially, but now I secretly love it. And I’m all for it. This is probably due to my Chinese genetics.

Seriously, though: I think it’s a great way for parents to be more involved and more aware of what their kids learnt that week. It isn’t much, and it’s just over the weekend. It’s a chance for parents to sit down with their kids (and learn together sometimes). My husband now takes the opportunity to learn Chinese together with my daughter. It’s awesome. And if your kid is already spending part of his/her time drawing/writing/colouring, what’s the difference with them bringing the same pastime home from school?

Some parents don’t feel the same way I do, which is understandable. These parents have the option to hold their kids back a year, so that their kids’ schedules are more filled with fun and play, and with less structured lessons.

4. Each kid gets a chance to be a class monitor

Every month, one kid gets a chance to be a ‘class monitor’. They get to wear a special ribbon, are assigned special tasks, and get to order the other kids around. Ha.

I think this is such a great practice. Not that my daughter needs any practice ordering people around – she’s pretty good at that already.

5. Every holiday is celebrated

Living in multi-cultured Malaysia means celebrating almost everything under the sun. Bosses of companies complain because of the obvious.

Ananer holiday ah? How to make more money liddat?

– Every Malaysian boss ever
Of course, with an outdated PM in the photo, but you get the idea. [Source: Cilisos]

But kids love it. They get to dress up in traditional costumes, eat food from different cultures, and learn all about these special days. Do you want your child to grow up in a racist, bigoted future, or would you rather they embrace and reciprocate? This is one great early step towards that future we’re all dreaming of. 

6. Cooking class once a week

One activity my daughter (and I) really loved in her previous year was the cooking activity. Every Wednesday, our daughter would make something with her teachers and friends, and she’d bring a little package home to share. 

Sadly, the 4 year old sessions don’t include this anymore. (This might have been one of the main reasons I would have held her back a year) 

7. School helps with potty training

When we started our daughter at daycare, she was 18 months old and not potty trained yet at that time. What really impressed me was that the school was so ready to help with this, and help they did. Within a week, our daughter didn’t need diapers anymore. 

Before this, I always thought that daycares only accepted children that were potty trained, and I always put it off because I… was… afraid.

8. There are annual concerts which cost a lot

Every year, most schools hold an annual concert. Kids start practicing for it a few months before, and for 6 straight months, I was forced to listen to the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman daily.

I was really proud, seeing my daughter on stage for her first time ever. She really enjoyed being part of a show, performing in front of an audience. My wallet however, did not enjoy it as much. We basically paid about RM200 (or more?) to watch our child dance on stage for 5 minutes. Will she participate again, this year? To be honest, I’m not so sure.   

9. Birthdays are special

There are birthday parties every month for kids to celebrate their birthdays. If your kid happens to be celebrating his/her birthday that month, you’ll probably be preparing party bags full of junk food and cheap toys for each kid. 

Number 1 celebrating her 3rd birthday

Before kids, I seriously had no idea that this was a ‘thing’. We went around malls to search for party bags and fillers. Now I order everything online. One online store I’ve found that specialises in party packs in Malaysia is www.party.my. Plus point of that site: packs are prepacked according to price ranges so you don’t have to rack your brain for ideas.

10. School excursions

Twice a year or so, the school organizes excursions outside of the school. Last year, they visited a Batik Factory and an orphanage. Each kid must be accompanied by at least one parent, so this makes for a very fun outing for everyone involved.

We haven’t had a chance to participate on any of these excursions yet because I’d have to bring a baby along and figure that is too much hassle.

11. Holiday programs

During school holidays, you have an option to enroll your child in a holiday program which runs throughout the course of the holiday. This means you do not have to worry about looking for other childcare options. 

What I love about these programs at my daughter’s preschool is that it’s different every time. Sometimes they craft Christmas decorations. At other times, they learn how to make local desserts. The school my daughter attends is really creative when it comes to this.

12. Schools have to shut down during breakouts

When a certain number of children attending a daycare centre are diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease, it is obliged to close for a week (at least) for a thorough disinfecting.

This happens pretty often, and isn’t pretty. How do you find enough activities to entertain your kid for an entire week? Here are some ideas.

Summary

Personally, I think my kid’s daycare does a pretty good job of providing early education and care. I’d recommend it in a heartbeat.

Want to find out more about Malaysia’s Education System? Check this link out. 

Full disclosure: My kid is turning 4 this July.

Note: I haven’t shared the name of my daughter’s daycare here, but if you’d really like to find out more, drop me a comment, and I’ll let you know privately.

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