In collaboration with Tutor Time
Nursery school is the first step for many Hong Kong families in their early education before formal schooling begins. Nurseries, along with casual playgroups, are one of the earliest places that moms and dads send their kids to help with developing cognitive, social, and fine and gross motor skills. How do you know if a nursery is right for your child’s developmental level? How do you choose a suitable nursery programme? Sometimes, education centres or schools bank on parents’ lack of knowledge to get them to enroll, but as this is your little one’s earliest step into preschool, it’s important to be as informed as possible.
What is nursery school?
Public and private schools, as well as education centres, offer nursery schools in Hong Kong. Nurseries accept ages 2 to 4 depending on the institution, although some accept infants as young as six weeks old. (This younger age group is more appropriately called pre-nursery.) Nurseries are usually open for the entire day, as opposed to morning and afternoon sessions that preschools offer. Subsequently, nurseries often offer three meals a day. Essentially, nurseries are meant to care for the kids all day if a parent has a full-time job.
Another key nuance of nurseries is that instead of strict curriculums, they offer relaxed environments with a broad range of fun activities. While playgroups also provide casual, non-structured play opportunities, nurseries differ in that they are led by early years teachers who provide a nurturing hand so that kids can safely and happily develop their early learning skills.
International or local
Nurseries at international and local schools mainly differ in the learning style and community culture, with curriculum and expectations varying depending on if you choose a Canadian, American, British, etc. international school.
International schools generally emphasize English speaking on top of Chinese learning.
Parents should also consider the future school they want their little one attending. Your tot will be at an advantage if they get enrolled at the same place for nursery as you would like them to attend for kindergarten and beyond, as existing students. Other schools, like bilingual immersion preschool Tutor Time, offer a clear stream for attending prestigious primary schools following their programmes.
Have you and your partner already been speaking with your child in various languages at home? It’s important to continue this education into nursery school. Tutor Time, for example, offers English-Mandarin bilingual immersion with one native teacher of each language in their nursery programmes. Check with the educational centre you are considering to see whether they offer English, Cantonese, or Mandarin teaching, or a combination.
While nursery teachers are not required to have specific qualifications, it’s best if they do have a degree related to early child education. When you visit a nursery (which you absolutely should – more on that below), don’t hesitate to ask the branch manager and staff questions about their qualifications, experience, and programmes.
Check for signs like if the activities are varied, tailored to the children’s developmental needs, and if children at the nursery seem engaged and happy.
Nursery school amenities
When you’ve narrowed down a list of prospective nurseries, you can schedule a visit. You can even bring your toddler along to see how they respond to the environment. Since your child will be at nursery most, if not all day, it’s essential to check that the school amenities and resources are well-maintained and engaging:
- Are there outdoor play areas and dedicated rooms for art or music?
- Are the playgrounds safe?
- Can you see the potential for your child to be both stimulated and content?
Ratio of children to teachers
The minimum ratio of teacher to child in nurseries is anywhere from 1:12 to 1:15. Some schools offer lower ratios to ensure that each child gets the attention they need. For instance, Tutor Time nurseries maintain a 1:8 teacher to child ratio.
FAQ about nursery school
What is the difference between nursery and preschool?
Nurseries and preschool differ mainly in that preschools offer segmented morning and afternoon sessions, while nurseries offer whole-day programmes. Nursery is also generally less structured, while preschool emphasizes preparation for formal education.
What is the difference between pre-nursery and nursery?
In Hong Kong, pre-nursery is for ages 2 to 3, and nursery is for ages 3 to 4.
What is the relationship between nursery and kindergarten?
Nursery is one of the first steps in preparation for children to attend kindergarten. At nursery schools, children make early developments in intellectual, fine motor, social, and emotional skills.
Get in touch with Tutor Time
To learn more about Tutor Time’s nursery schools, positioned in well-placed locations in Hong Kong (Yuen Long, Mid-levels, Kowloon Tong, and North Point), get in touch to book a campus tour.
Image credits: Tutor Time