11 Oct 2021

Taking the best from both worlds – Tandem IMS Kindergarten

Are you aware of the difference in the curriculum between a Swiss and English Kindergarten?

When one thinks of the word «Kindergarten», different images come to mind for people in different parts of the world. For those coming from a Swiss background, Kindergarten is a very social time. Teachers create experiences over the course of two years to develop and strengthen each child’s personal, social, and emotional development. They work hard to ensure that each child in their care is confident and secure in themselves and their abilities both socially and physically. By the end of Kindergarten, the children are aware of the social dynamics within their peer group and their place within it.

In contrast, «Kindergarten» or «Reception» as it is called in England is very different both in focus and in expectations. Reception is only a one-year programme. The teachers in the Reception classes begin the task of ensuring that each child in their care masters the beginning stages of literacy and other academics. They work hard to ensure that each child can read stories and write proper sentences. At the beginning of the child’s formal schooling, the teachers’ focus is on developing the academic skills that these children will need to be successful in primary school. At the end of Reception, the children are all reading and writing as they move into first class.

With such different starts to schooling, many ask – which one is right?

The answer, of course, is that they are both right but for different children. Some children are desperate to learn how to read and write, even at the ripe old age of 4. For these children, it is demotivating to have to wait two more years before they can start. They get bored with school before it even truly begins. On the other hand, many children at this age need time to focus upon and truly develop both their social skills and sense of self. For these children whose motivation comes from social or physical interactions with their friends, having to learn to read or write before they are interested or ready is a disservice to them.

«Our aim here in the Tandem IMS Kindergarten is to bring in both educational philosophies of Kindergarten and to do so according to the needs and interests of the children.»

Lee-Anne Weber, Curriculum Coordinator

At Tandem IMS, our teachers work together to give the children in their care, the best of both worlds. We have two teachers working simultaneously with the children. The German speaking teacher takes on the focus of the Swiss Kindergarten and creates opportunities for the children to work together and to develop their social and emotional skills. The children are encouraged to discuss and work through conflicts and issues. They build strong relationships with each other and become both self-confident and self-aware. During language lessons, the German teacher focuses on the oral German language, encouraging the children to listen to the different sounds, hearing the rhythm and rhymes within the language.

In contrast, the English teacher takes on the literacy and more academic focus. Over the course of the two years of Kindergarten (as opposed to the one year of Reception), the English teacher introduces pre-reading and early reading skills. The children are encouraged but not forced to learn their letters and sounds and to then blend sounds together as they start to read at their own pace. Writing is also encouraged in a fun and playful way as they use a variety of materials to reinforce how to make letters and then words. The English teacher is then able to capture the excitement and motivation for learning how to read when it happens and without putting pressure on the child to perform.

Preparing for a great start at Primary School

Throughout each day, both teachers also come together to explore the enquiry topics using all of the different skills being learned (academic, physical, social, and emotional) where the children can all be successful and fulfilled Kindergarteners. After two years they are then ready for the challenges of first grade at Primary School. They are self-aware and self-confident and at the same time have a good academic base to learn how to read and write (and do so many other things) in both English and German.

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