Having a high IQ is essential but developing your child emotionally plays the most essential role in their life. Emotional Development/Quotient (EQ) is the key to how your child responds to what life gives them.
EQ makes a person self and socially aware and allows them to show compassion. It also allows one to express, respond, and interact with others in different situations. It helps one to empathize and connect with people.
EQ can be developed in the early stage of life. And that is why many schools have started emphasizing on development of EQ.
Swallows and Amazons Kindergarten™ is one such early learning centre that aims at developing EQ in its children and makes the learning stage easy by inculcating learning with play.
Swallows and Amazons™ was founded by Jackie Barkham. It is her first business venture and is the culmination of months of working late nights with her husband, poring over SWOT analysis, planning, and cash flow forecasts. During the day, she still continued with her teaching job as well as being a full-time mum and chauffeur to three energetic and lovely children.
Negotiating the plethora of government rules and regulations was a steep learning curve for her. It had to be climbed to fully understand what was involved in setting up an early learning centre.
Swallows and Amazons Kindergarten™ was created in Jackie’s image, as it is based on her beliefs of early childhood teaching.
Voyage since Establishment
Swallows and Amazons™ was started in October 2007 at the Grandstand (formally known as Turf City). During the planning stage of nine months, the kindergarten developed a business plan founded on a strong developmental and educational philosophy, a philosophy that everyone must follow after joining the team.
Jackie recounts that the property was a plant nursery, where she used to park on Sundays when she came to Turf City for Rugby. Jackie also recollected how she signed the lease for kindergarten and said, “I thought the large open spaces and surrounding greenery made Turf City ideal, and when I approached the building management, they said this spot was available, but I had to decide very quickly as it would not be available for long. Making that commitment—signing the lease and handing over a large cheque—was a hugely exciting moment.”
Swallows and Amazon was opened on May 29th, 2008, first with holiday art and music camps for older children, which created a busy atmosphere and spread awareness of what the kindergarten was doing.
When we asked Jackie about how she managed to find a teacher at a preliminary stage, she said, “Most importantly, I took on a fantastic teacher, who had taught my own children. We got to six or seven children fairly quickly, and in the past three years have been slowly growing. I would never open a class until I had exactly the right teachers.”
Jackie believes that educating children is not just about getting ready for Primary 1 (IQ). It is about curiosity, exploration, self-esteem, and care for others – the EQ. It is about creating a classroom environment for pre-school children, that gives the children regular success experiences. In turn, this keeps up their morale, enthusiasm, and attention span for learning. Luckily for children ‘play’ is not just the best way, it is also essential for children to develop high-level social strategies as well as physical and mental skills.
At Swallows and Amazons™, education is fun, which promotes the love of learning, so work becomes child’s play!
An Exceptional Pedagogy Approach
Swallows and Amazons Kindergarten ™ has a high teacher-to-student ratio as a part of their competitive advantage. The industry norm is fifteen students to one teacher and in the Ministry of Education (MOE) guidelines, it is one teacher to twenty-five children. The kindergarten has a ratio of 1:5 for the pre-nursery aged children (18 months to 2 years old) and 1: 6 for nursery children (aged 3 to 4 years old) and 1:8 for the kindergarten children (5 to 6 years old).
We asked Jackie, how this teacher-student ratio helps them in creating learning plans, she replied, “What this teacher-child ratio allows us to do is to treat each child as an individual and create Individual Learning Plans to suit their skills and needs. We do not cater to the average; we cater to the individual.”
In developing the pedagogy, Swallows and Amazons™ looked at it from the parents’ perspective as well as from an educator’s viewpoint. It is an inclusive school that nurtures the ‘Habits of the Mind’ approach to creating its early learning environments.
Through the structure of the classroom and the day, the kindergarten’s early childhood educators promote strategic reasoning, insightfulness, perseverance, creativity, and craftsmanship through the 16 habits of the mind. These life skills are that of persistence, listening with understanding and empathy, managing impulsivity, thinking flexibly, thinking about thinking, striving for accuracy, questioning and posing problems, applying past knowledge to new situations, thinking and communicating with clarity and precision, gathering data through all senses, creating, imagining, and innovating, responding with wonderment and awe, taking responsible risks, finding humour, thinking independently, and remaining open to continuous learning.
Old fashioned values of respecting elders and other individuals, as well as good manners, are reinforced at Swallows and Amazons™. Children have fun exploring and practising new things, but they also have fun tidying up afterwards and clearing their lunch plates away too.
Learning habits acquired in a child’s early years persist into later life. Successful adults tend to be lifelong learners, but this habit of enquiry and love of learning depends on an education that rewards exploration and questioning. In creating a developmental childhood educational programme, Swallows and Amazons™ are laying the foundation for all learning that is to come thereafter.
Offering an early childhood education that focuses on the children’s EQ and their multiple intelligences (in other words, different children learn in different ways). EQ describes an ability, capacity, or skill to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. In other words, it is the ability to be able to understand the intentions, motivations, and desires of other people as well as of oneself.
Swallows and Amazons™ encourages children to learn to question, investigate, persevere, analyse, and be independent learners. It is the process rather than the end result that is focused upon, allowing children to fail, and encouraging them not to be frightened of trying.
The kindergarten offers an early childhood education that is fun and promotes the love of learning, so work becomes child’s play! Its students learn through purposeful play and gain skills to help them successfully tackle all their future learning. Its pedagogy and curriculum celebrate differences and focuses on the comprehension and application of knowledge rather than the regurgitation of facts.
Swallows and Amazons Kindergarten ™ is set in 12,000 sq. ft of land, which is a rarity in Singapore, where so many early childhood centres are in shopping malls. Its classroom takes up just over 3,000 sq. ft and the rest is outdoor play area.
The kindergarten focuses on building confidence and high self-esteem in children. Allowing children to learn from their mistakes, thus helps build resilience and is essential to raising a confident, capable, happy, and successful adult. The kindergarten also helps children to be risk-takers and encourages them to think creatively and build perseverance. The teachers focus on the method and not the end result. Children learn so much when they solve the problem. It builds their confidence and self-esteem.
“When children are given the opportunity to struggle and sometimes fail, you allow them to develop important social and emotional skills,” remarked the inspiring Jackie Barkham.
Achieved the Singapore Preschool Accreditation Framework (SPARK) from November 2013 to October 2022. ‘Southeast Asia Business Awards 2021’ by APAC Insider for being the ‘Best Early Childhood Education Centre – Singapore.
The Cultivated Visionary
When we asked Jackie, how she envisions the future of her illustrious institute, she answered, “I believe as working from home becomes the norm and more and more adopted by companies even in the post-Covid times, parents will be looking for preschools to provide after school activities. So instead of ending the day at 3 or 4 pm, I believe there will be a trend to extend the normal school day to 5 or 6 pm and fill the additional hours with extra curricula activities.”