SINGAPORE: Children will get to participate in more physical activities in and outside school, as part of recommendations by the NurtureSG taskforce, which was set up in April last year to look into how young Singaporeans can be encouraged to adopt healthy habits.
Its proposals, which were released on Thursday (Feb 23), also include better nutrition as well as a stronger emphasis on mental health and good sleeping habits, from the pre-school to tertiary level.
At pre-schools, the minimum amount of time that children should spend on physical activities will be increased, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) in a joint news release on Thursday.
For children on full-day programmes, they will get at least one hour of physical activities daily, up from 30 minutes currently. Half of the one hour will be spent outdoors, under a new framework by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA). Pre-school teachers will be given educational resources on conducting outdoor lessons.
Students in mainstream schools already had their time for Physical Education (PE) classes increased as announced in 2010. They will now get more opportunities to be involved in "unstructured play beyond the formal curriculum time". During recess time or after-school hours, schools will make available facilities and sports equipment, said the joint release.
In addition, the Health Promotion Board's (HPB) healthier meals programme will be stepped up not only in pre-schools but also schools at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
By this year, the Healthier Meals in Schools Programme will be rolled out to all mainstream schools, where canteens will provide healthier food and drink options. A total of 319 of the 359 primary schools, secondary schools and junior colleges are already on the programme. And the plan is for canteens in all institutes of higher learning to serve healthier meals by 2019, said MOE and MOH.
SUPPORTING MENTAL WELL-BEING
There is also an emphasis on students' mental well-being, to help them manage stress and seek help from their peers if needed.
"The taskforce recognises that students experiencing mental stress may not always approach their parents or teachers for help," said the joint release, so peer support structures will be set up in mainstream schools and institutes of higher learning, "to equip students to look out for signs of mental stress among their peers".
An inter-agency research workgroup to study suicides, suicidal and self-harm behaviours in children and youths will also be set-up. The workgroup, led by Associate Professor Daniel Fung from the Institute of Mental Health, will provide an interim report at the end of a year.
The Tote Board has also set aside up to S$10 million to look at ideas from the community on how to achieve better mental well-being and resilience in the young. It will also fund the Institute of Mental Health to support the training of service providers such as voluntary welfare organisations to collect and evaluate data for research purposes.
The NurtureSG taskforce submitted the recommendations earlier this month and they have been accepted by MOH and MOE.