Pre-school students returning for classes face same challenges as school-age kids


AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the fall 2020 school semester begins, pre-schoolers are up against the same challenges as school-aged students.

And educators aren’t abandoning our youngest students.

KXAN’s Robert Hadlock talked Deep Pandita, CEO of Austin’s Kido River Place Preschool, who says toddlers can also use technology to learn.

Hadlock: ‘Virtual preschool’ is probably a term most parents have never even heard of — let alone considered — prior to 2020. Is that a real thing? And if so, how does it work?

Pandita: We’re making it a thing. So the way this idea came about — we started schools in Hong Kong about 6 years ago, and as we expanded around the world we were on this amazing journey where we were bringing in top quality curriculum and very well-thought-out learning objectives and a very cross-cultural immersive curriculum. A lot of emphasis on additional languages, a lot of elements of the curriculum that weren’t really standard in preschool before. And then COVID hit China and Hong Kong first late last year and so were were one of the first ones to grapple with ‘How do you take care of the parents?’ The parents who had sort of come to rely on us for their day-to-day preschool needs, their education needs.

Hadlock: What about the amount of screen time that’s required for virtual learning? Isn’t it best for children to not have prolonged screen habits at that age?

Pandita: So this is a topic that we researched quite carefully because it is obviously a big priority. The American Association of Pediatrics has actually weighed in on this, and so have leading academics around the world. It depends on the quality of the engagement. Nobody minds kids having long conversations with relatives or grandparents — it builds empathy, it builds emotional intelligence. And as long as you’re using that time wisely, simply using a screen to do it is not a problem. It’s when children start spending too much time watching movies and cartoons is when it becomes a limiting factor in their development.

Hadlock: It seems like it could be a lot of work for parents, too. Having a high schooler attend school virtually is a lot different than having a toddler do it. What should parents brace for if they’re considering virtual preschool?

Pandita: That’s why it becomes crucially important that any such platform be truly interactive. If you observe a preschooler, children sit with a teacher that does activities with them for a long time. It depends how engaging you can make the activity. What we’ve pulled off is this truly interactive experience where kids are actually showcasing, participating, other classmates are seeing their work in real time — and so is the teacher. And the teacher is going to give them participation points or awards in prizes in real time, also. And that makes a huge difference.

Hadlock: How can parents get in touch with Kido, and is there still time to sign up?

Pandita: “Yes, for the global online preschool — that would be a great option for parents who do not want to send their kids to preschool right now. And they can contact Kido Riverplace directly by going to and all of our contact information is right there once you select Austin as your location.”

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