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History of Sarada Kindergarten

“Expansion is life, contraction is death”

- Swami Vivekananda

 

In the early 1990 when the Mission was exploring possibilities of expanding its community services, the main focus fell on pre-school education. But very preliminary enquiries at the time pointed to an inadequate catchment’s area for a kindergarten. Shortly after, SINDA (Singapore Indian Development Association), deeply concerned about the falling standards of Indian school children, strongly felt the need for a kindergarten to improve pre-school standards.

 

In late 1991 SINDA approached the Mission with a request that it start a kindergarten for which, according to its studies, there was a demand. The then President of the Mission was delighted. He set up a pro-tem committee in March 1992 to conduct a feasibility study. In the next few weeks the committee came up with its report which said there was, indeed, a pressing need for a kindergarten. Meanwhile, the Mission headquarters in Belur Math, Kolkata, India, approved the project.

 

An idea had conceptualized. Now the task was to translate the idea into reality. A kindergarten committee was formed in June 1992 to implement the project. It decided to run a total of four classes – two each for K1 and K2 – in the academic year 1993. The multi-purpose Sarada Hall was extensively renovated, class rooms and assembly areas were partitioned off, and other facilities assembled.

 

At this stage, a start-up grant of $58,000 provided by SINDA came in extremely handy. SINDA also gave an annual grant of $25,000 for the first two years to meet the annual operating costs. Bursaries for the training of four teachers were also made available.

 

It was decided to name the kindergarten “Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten.” Sarada is the consort of Sri Ramakrishna and also the name of Goddess of learning.

 

Sarada Kindergarten was officially opened on 27 December 1992 by Mr J.Y. Pillay, the then President of SINDA. The kindergarten commenced its first session on 4 January 1993 with a total enrolment of one hundred and twenty-six children in four classes – sixty-four in K1 and sixty-two in K2. At the time Sarada was one of the few kindergartens offering Tamil as a second language, a facility appreciated by the Indian community. It may be recalled that till 1990, only two of the more than 350 neighbourhood kindergartens offered Tamil as one of the mother tongues available. Subsequently, Mandarin was also offered as a second language and taken advantage of by some children.

 

A new star was born on the firmament of pre-school education. And the star has shone with increasing luminosity as time passed. Innovations have been the secret of this. A year after the opening of the kindergarten, computer-aided learning was introduced to ensure that the children were well-equipped to meet the demands of the new primary school curriculum.

 

Come January 1995 – Nursery classes were introduced to meet the growing demand for pre-kg education. The first year’s enrolment was twenty-one children, spread over morning and afternoon classes.

 

It was now time to take a closer look at Sarada Hall. While it came in extremely handy for a start-up, the committee felt that more spacious premises were needed to meet the growing demands for more places both in the Nursery and the Kindergarten and to ensure the full development of the children’s academic, social and cultural needs.

 

It was then decided to construct a new building within the campus of the Mission. A special ground-breaking ceremony was held on 27 September 1995 and amidst Vedic chanting and rituals, Swami Gahananandaji, one of Vice-Presidents of the world-wide Ramakrishna Order, laid the foundation stone for the new building.

 

Construction commenced almost immediately and the work was completed ahead of schedule in November 1996. The building was consecrated on 17 November with the worship of Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother Sarada Devi.

 

The spanking new building was ready to welcome the 1997 intake. This comprised eight classes, three each for Nursery and K1 and two for K2 with a total enrolment of two hundred and fifty-six children – double the 1993 intake of one hundred and twenty-six and the Staff strength was fifteen.

 

The building was formally declared open on 5 July 1997 by the Hon’ble Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, at a well-attended function which also marked the Centenary of the Ramakrishna Mission. Dr Tan praised the Mission’s “commitment and resourcefulness in helping to build a caring and compassionate society in Singapore.”

 

The building, costing $1.4 million, was equipped with a state-of-the-art computer laboratory with 20 pcs, a library and a music and movement room.

 

January 1998 saw the student intake increasing to three hundred and seventy-six backed by staff strength of twenty-three. There were six Nursery and K1 classes and four K2.

 

But even before the building was to undergo a new coat of paint, it was becoming clear that the kindergarten needed more space because of the increasing demand for places from parents anxious to give their children a head-start in life.

 

So plans were afoot to build an extension which would not only add more classrooms but also a gymnasium and language laboratory to supplement existing facilities. Additionally, the extension was also to house the Mission’s “Wings Counselling Centre” operating from Sarada Hall.

 

Construction of the $1.6 million extension started on 27 May 2001 by laying foundation stone by the President of the Ramakrishna Mission Singapore and was completed in April 2002. The consecration ceremony of the building was held on 26 May 2002 and

 

With the new building pressed into service, the July intake saw the student population scaling another high with a total of four hundred and forty-two in twenty classes – eight each for Nursery and K1 and four for K2. The Staff strength increased to twenty-eight.

 

The official opening of this building was done by RADM. Teo Chee Hean, Minister of Education and Second Minister for Defence on 19 October 2001.

 

From January 2002 we have about five hundred children in 22 classes – eight each for Nursery and K1 and six for K2 with the staff strength of thirty-three.

 

Though only a decade old, some educationists describe Sarada as a “model.” Whatever that be, it has managed to keep itself in the forefront by a conscious policy of continuous review, evaluation and modification of its curriculum and teaching techniques. It has also been sharing experience through mutual visits with other kindergartens.