The children have a special song book, and they sing for 20 minutes everyday. They do gymnastics and rhythmic training. And often they have special themes like “Living healthy” or “Animals at the zoo,” but most of the time it is free play, says Jette Lund.
“We celebrate Danish traditions, we make Christmas decorations and host a Christmas party, and we also have an Easter run,” says Jette. But actually also local traditions like Chinese New Year are celebrated.
Though there are many activities at the kindergarten, the most important is that the children are allowed just to play according to Jette Lund.
“The children should first of all learn to be nice to each other and learn to play together.”
Too early start
Most of the children at Mariehønen are between 18 months and four years old. Then they will typically start at an international school, which will give them access to more or less any university all over the world once they graduate.Jette Lund thinks starting school at four years old is too early. She would very much like to keep the children at her kindergarten until they are six years old like in Denmark.
When the Danish Prime Minster Lars Løkke Rasmussen earlier this year visited Singapore he said that Denmark should learn from Singapore in matters of economic growth as well as education. If he by that meant Danish children should start earlier in school, Jette Lund disagrees. She refers to the Singaporean Prime Minster who has mentioned earlier that social elements have to be more present in the Singaporean educational system.
Learning to play
Jette Lund underlines that a kindergarten should be place to play and socialize and not a place to sit on chair to learn: And to play is also to learn according to Jette.
“When the children play they learn to interact socially,” she says. They play role games like mum, dad and kids. They do things together and they have to interact together. And that is very important to learn.”Jette admits that it can be a hard transition from the Danish kindergarten to the international schools, but that children succeed because they don’t give up easily.
Both sons study in Denmark
When Jette Lund and her husband arrived in Singapore their two sons were only two and six years old. Now they are both studying in Aarhus in Denmark. They both went to an international school in Singapore, what Jette Lund sees as a great success.
“The international schools are good for the older students. They are a bit more disciplined and have some fantastic teachers, who always are there when their students need them,” she says. She believes that is a point where Denmark could learn something from Singapore, but for the youngest pupils she has no doubt that the Danish way is the best.
Whether the Danish kindergarten is integrating the children into the Singaporean society, Jette is in doubt. But she is sure that it is maintaining their linguistic and cultural roots.
“They meet English speaking people and locals everywhere. At home most have domestic helpers and here they also meet children of many other nationalities. But here they learn to be and speak Danish,” says Jette.And according to her when you live abroad it is important to know your own heritage and culture.
Everyone knows everyone
There are 22 children in the Danish kindergarten Mariehønen and five adults. And that is the way it has to be according to Jette. She would maximum allow 30 children, while the government has given her license for 60. But that doesn’t change Jette’s mind. She wants Mariehønen to be a place where everyone knows everyone.And Jette herself wants to know all the children as well as parents. Even though she is the leader and single owner of Mariehønen, she stays with the children the whole time they are there. The office work she does after work hours because, to her, the contact with children is most important and the best.
Jette Lund has no educational background as kindergarten leader, but she has now been successful with it for more than seven years:
”I think that I have a sensible view at children and I’m good at playing and talking to them. And that’s the key to my success.”
How it all started
It all started nine years ago when Jette Lund and another Danish woman had a weekly playgroup at the Danish Seamen’s Church in Singapore. Then they got encouraged by some of the parents to make it a full time offer for Danish children in Singapore.Jette Lund and her business partner at that time looked into the matter and send out surveys and find out if that there actually was a demand for a Danish kindergarten in Singapore.
Two years later, after getting a licence to run a Danish kindergarten and find the right place for it, it was established in old colonial style house with a big garden at Akyab Road in the middle of hyper-modern Singapore.It is a privately run kindergarten which has only been possible because of support and donations from parents and Danish companies situated in Singapore. And the parent’s support to the kindergarten is essential, once a year all the parents participate in a working weekend at the kindergarten.