The crux of the problem lies with the P1 ‘standard’ in my opinion.
The "broad curriculum framework"/guidelines given by the ministries are very sound ones based purely on child development theories and I support them 100% (though with cynicism coz these guidelines are mostly on character building / developing life long love for learning / etc with little weightage on academics and this is definitely not many of those kiasu parents want for their kids).
Spelling and tingxie are never part of the guidelines (meaning if a centre does not practice such, it is actually 100% within the guidelines. If a centre gives such, then it maybe not be within the guidelines). “Learning through play” is the key point in the guideline.
One of the directives given by MOE is that preschoolers should not be taught Han Yu Pin Yin (the reason being if taught, then the P1 teachers will have some problems in teaching the same in P1 year to the kids). Many P1 teachers keep complaining to MOE that preschools ‘over teach’ kindergarteners and making their life very difficult. The bickering between preschool teachers and P1 teachers are always ongoing to the extent that MOE has to say “Hey, preschools, you cannot teach this!” kakaka…
Then the ‘culprits’ came…(those ‘elite’ primary schools). They have ridiculous high standard for P1 children, they go through Han Yu Pin Yin as if the kids have learnt them before, etc. This starts a vicious cycle of some parents start to prepare their kids younger and younger at the risk of killing interests instead of developing a true love for learning.
If the directive pertaining to no teaching of Han Yu Pin Yin in kindergartens given a few years back by MOE still stand (should still stand as I have not heard of any changes yet), then all PCF centres should not be teaching it at all as they are under MOE’s umbrella. BUT, some centres still teach coz if you don’t, your ‘standard’ is not high and so you are ‘no good’.
Given that even the standard of PCF centres also vary a lot, nothing much can be expected from the private centres. Even when directly under the care and control of MOE, they can’t even regulate themselves and what more to say about regulating private centres? PCF has quite an impressive (and I believe expensive) curriculum team that I believe is churning out good curriculum BUT many centres are not following it closely coz:
they don’t know how to do it (learning through play not easy to do in the first place)
they snare at “learning through play” coz wake up lah, if I don’t teach the kids more than necessary, most will die in P1.
Generally, most PCF centres still prefer the hard core drilling method to prepare kids for P1 and that is totally against their Master’s (MOE’s) guideline of learning through play.
PS1: When I received MOE’s directive of no teaching of Han Yu Pin Yin in preschool some years back, I suspended the teaching of it in my centre. Then, I started to hear ‘complains’ about the academic standard of my centre is no good and also many parents began to send their kids to outside Han Yu Pin Yin enrichment class (see how it defeats the purpose / ‘good’ intention of MOE). Knowing that some primary schools have very high expectation of new P1 kids in their Han Yu Pin Yin, I resumed the teaching and care less about MOE’s directive.
PS2: It is not possible/feasible for MOE to regulate the standard of preschools. You see even among primary schools, secondary schools, JC, etc, their ‘standards’ are different. They can only give ‘guidelines’ and all should work around these guidelines. And if the intention of parents is really to see whether preschools meet ‘academic standard’, then MOE will have to do the saddest thing – to have Kindergarten Leaving Examinations for all K2 kids… (then Chief will be busier…to collect passing rates / scores of different preschools for ‘ranking’ purposes; come up with the "Best PCF Centre", "Best Private Centre", "Best Centre in the East", etc. Kakaka…)
PS3: There will never be a solution to reconcile the differences in the standard of preschools and parental expectations and P1 requirements (unless such as the govt says to preschools “If you teach Han Yu Pin Yin to kindergarteners in preschool, you will be fined $10,000” and says to the primary school, “If you don’t teach the P1 Han Yu Pin Yin in detail from scratch, you will be fined $10,000” then all will really follow. Else, who cares?). These three parties will never stop pointing fingers at each other. And so to each its own – you like Monte, you go Monte; you like Right Brain, you go right brain; you like project work, you go project work; you like PCF, you go PCF; etc.