With a renowned reputation for promoting the English language the world over, British Council has built a similarly sterling reputation with its bilingual preschool curriculum here in Singapore. We spoke with Principal Vivien Kwok to find out more about her own impressive background (including training as a Montessori teacher), and how influential pedagogies such as Montessori, High Scope and Inquiry-based learning are all incorporated into British Council Pre-school’s daily 3-hour programme. Read on and prepare to be enlightened, mama!
What is your background and training?
I obtained my bachelor’s degree in accountancy and worked in the financial industry for many years. Although I loved what I did, I felt that I would love to work with children too. In 2001, I decided to make a switch. Inspired by a course preview session, I quit my job, signed myself up for a diploma in Montessori pedagogy, and started teaching a few months into the course. I haven’t looked back since. Along the way, I obtained my diplomas in pre-school education for teachers and leaders, and a Master of Science in early childhood education.
What made you want to become a principal?
In late 2003, I was approached to help set up a Montessori school. I was grateful for the opportunity for it allowed me to set up a dream school, pouring into it what I believed to be best practices from the very start. As a teacher, I influence the classes that I teach. Being involved in set-ups allowed me to influence the direction of a school at the beginning. However, as a principal, I get to influence teachers who then go on to influence the classes they teach. I love to be able to positively influence more children and hopefully inspire more teachers to do the same.
What do you love about working at your school in particular?
British Council prides itself as a leading centre for teaching and learning. For educators, learning should never stop, and I am happy to be in an organisation where I can continue to learn and grow and become a better teacher and leader.
What is your take on ‘play-based learning’?
Every child is unique but shares one common trait in that they are born ready to learn. They are curious and learn best when they have opportunities to explore and discover for themselves things that come their way. Play-based learning offers the opportunities to do so. Most importantly, learning takes place when we are happy, regardless of whether we are children or adults.
What is unique about British Council Pre-school’s curriculum?
We provide a broad curriculum, incorporating the best practices of Singapore and the United Kingdom, aimed at developing the whole child, academically and socially in a bilingual environment. Role play and speech and drama lessons are part of our curriculum, and children emerge as confident speakers. They are also not afraid to ask questions.
At British Council, we maintain high green standards and continuously work towards a greener environment. I am happy to share that as a school, we have embarked on several green projects and more are lined up. I am very excited that our Sports Day 2017 will be using recycled materials instead of the usual sports equipment. This will tie in with the Start Small Dream Big (SSDB) project, part of the President’s challenge to inspire people to give back to the community. We believe that young children can do their part in creating a more sustainable future. Our theme for SSDB is ‘Be the Captains of Your Planet’!
What is your favourite game or activity to do with your students?
I design and oversee a curriculum that shouts “FUN!”, including games, activities that trigger curiosity, and lots of movement. Whenever there’s fun backed by strong pedagogical philosophy, learning takes place.
What is one fun fact about you?
I set my alarm at 5.02 a.m. just to steal an extra 2 minutes of sleep.
The British Council Pre-school is baby bonus scheme-applicable; terms and conditions apply.