Our second-born, Raha, has been in the Headstart program for almost a year now. Headstart is a government-effort to help children who are classified as at-risk prepare themselves for school. How are we at-risk, you might ask.. Children are considered at-risk if they come from families with below-poverty level income, single-parent families, one or both parents incarcerated, limited English Language proficiency, and a few other factors. So, we fell into the category of being under the poverty level (that tells you exactly how much allowances we are paid... heheh). Anyway, we are truly grateful and syukur Alhamdulillah for all that has been given to us. That's another story.
Raha enjoys school very much, made a lot of friends, and she is doing great in school. The program not only stresses reading, writing, and counting abilities, but also focuses on developing the whole child - their psychomotor skills, social skills, and encourages the children to stay healthy through nutritional programs, exercise programs (they do Yoga sometimes), and also teaches children about their safety (don't let anyone touch them improperly, seat belts, don't put things in your mouth, etc.).
The program's a full day, from 9.00am to 3.15pm. Raha goes to school by bus (a little yellow school bus) that is equipped with seat belts. And, the teachers are the drivers of the bus. She's picked up from in front of our home every school day, which is very convenient.
I would very much like to see the same program being implemented in Malaysia as there would be a lot of children categorized as "at-risk" who are not receiving quality education. We are yet to see the effectiveness of "PERMATA", which is a totally awesome idea if implemented properly. We need to seriously focus on controlling the quality of early childhood education programs to build a strong foundation in our nation's education system.
I thought that this is something that I ought to share to make everyone realize that childhood is valid, and that every child has to go through proper childhood stages. Play is their work. Let them work in an environment that we ourselves would want to work in. Their needs are not to be taken for granted, as what they need and do are valid in itself.