Preschool Or Early Childhood Education?

A big decision that parents have to make is what childcare setting they should send their little one to. It can be very confusing when you hear all these different names of different childcare settings branded around and it is not unusual to be feeling slightly confused about the whole process. In this article we will take a look at two different childcare settings: Preschools and Early Childhood Centres. We will outline the differences between these two settings and hopefully by the end of reading all of this information, you will feel that you are now armoured with a bit more knowledge before you decide upon where to send your child.


A preschool is not just a place where you child is offered childcare of babysitting facilities. Preschools have a specific learning program for children. The aim of a preschool is to get your child ready for school by providing them with the necessary academic and social skills.

The Advantages of Preschool

The key benefits of preschool are:

  • The teachers and leaders are usually trained in early childhood education.
  • Preschools are regulated and therefore have to be licensed.
  • Children have the opportunity to experience many different activities including sports, music, art and dance.
  • Children are able to mix with children of different ages.
  • Preschools are highly supervised and therefore provide a safe environment for a child.
  • Children have the opportunity to access a range of social, cognitive and language skills.

The Disadvantages of Preschool

  • It may be argued that young children need to stay at home. Preschools do have low staff ratios but this still does not allow for complete one-to-one time which is important at this age. However, by the age of 4 or 5, children do need to socialise with children of their own age as this helps them to develop on their cognitive, emotional and social skills.
  • Many people think that preschool makes children learn far too early. The issue with this is that subjects such as English, reading and Maths can become frustrating for a child who may not yet be ready.
  • Separation anxiety can be another issue. Some children struggle to leave their parents at this young age.
  • Some preschools are rigid with how they operate. They may be closed over any holidays and may not provide before and after school care.

Early Childhood Centres

In an early childhood centre or a kōhanga reo children build on the kinds of skills that they have learned at home. They will become a confident and skilful learner, skills which will all help their future learning.

The Advantages of Early Childhood Centres

Your child will have the chance to:

  • Explore and play and learn about numbers, words, dance, sing and play games.
  • Create new friendships
  • Negotiate, take turns, share, ask question, solve problems and express opinions.
  • Understand what their feelings are and how to manage them. Understand the feelings of others and manage them also.
  • Learn how to interact with adults as well as the children around them.
  • Make sense of the world on which they live.
  • Try new things and try to be courageous and brave.
  • The aim is that children develop into confident learners who are competent in communication, know that they are a valuable member of society and are healthy in their body mind and spirit.

The Curriculum

The curriculum is otherwise known as Te Whāriki. This curriculum does link with the New Zealand Curriculum. The Te Whāriki curriculum looks at the curriculum in a wider sense. It tries to look at all events, experiences and activities experienced. The curriculum provides a framework which considers goals, principles and outcomes which create a child that is polite, and open to relationships.

The curriculum has 5 strands to it which are woven through these principles:

  • Manatangata – contribution
  • Manaaotūroa – exploration
  • Manaatua – wellbeing
  • Mana whenua – belonging
  • Mana reo – communication

The curriculum has 4 main principles:

  • Family and the Community: the family of the child and the community around them is considered as part of their learning experiences.
  • Empowerment: children will be enabled to grow and learn.
  • Relationships: a child will learn and develop through the good relationships that they are surrounded in. this includes places, people and the things around them too.
  • Holistic Development: children are able to grow and learn in a holistic manner. Everything that they experience will consider emotional, physical, social, intellectual, spiritual and cultural aspects.

The Disadvantages of Early Childhood Centres

There have been some questions that have come up related to the Te Whāriki curriculum:

  1. Is the curriculum too broad?

The fact that the curriculum is so open means that it can be seen as both a positive and a negative factor.

  1. Is the curriculum too comfortable?

Some findings suggest that teachers and leaders have become too familiar with the curriculum and this can be as issue when it comes to complacency as it may mean there are no challenges. The issue then means that being too comfortable with the curriculum can cause it to becomes limited and constricted.

  1. Does the curriculum offer a challenge?

As the curriculum can be viewed as being over familiar, it can mean that there is a lack of opportunities for challenge. This could be down to the fact the framework is too broad or to the fact that teachers and leaders do not have any academic knowledge to deliver the framework.

Overall, both approaches offer something positive to all children. Now that you are fully aware of what each setting can offer you, you should feel more informed and equipped to choose the setting that you think will best suit you and your child’s needs.  

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