SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Education (MOE) will set up a dedicated team to strengthen the interface and partnership between schools and other community partners, in a bid to better support disadvantaged students.
This was announced by Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah on Tuesday (Mar 5). This dedicated team, which will be called the UPLIFT Programme Office, will be set up within MOE.
Ms Indranee is the chair of UPLIFT, the MOE-led inter-agency task force that aims to strengthen support for underperforming students from disadvantaged families, in particular by tackling long-term absenteeism and drop-out rates in schools.
This is one of two initiatives Ms Indranee announced during a special joint segment in Parliament on building a society of opportunities. She explained that the issues faced by disadvantaged students are multi-faceted, and not all interventions or assistance can or should be school-based.
“One clear theme that has emerged from all the engagement sessions is the need for better coordination to tap community efforts and resources more systematically,” she said.
The UPLIFT Programme Office, she said, will help “close the coordination gap”.
For example, it will work with schools to identify disadvantaged students and map their needs to facilitate community-based outreach to the families, and matching to suitable community programmes or assistance.
It will also match trusted partners and volunteers to schools, by working with the Social Service Offices and SG Cares Community Network and tap on retired educators who wish to volunteer.
In the first instance, she said, the office will focus on supporting school-community coordination in selected pilot sites with a higher number of students and families fitting the target profile.
“UPLIFT has other initiatives in the pipeline, but this will get us off to a good start,” she said.
MOE WILL ALSO EXPAND AND ENHANCE AFTER-SCHOOL CARE AND SUPPORT
Ms Indranee also announced that after-school programmes in secondary schools will be enhanced and expanded from the existing 60 schools, to 120 by 2020.
These consolidated after-school programmes will be known as GEAR-UP. She said that schools will work with community partners to provide customised support and after-school engagement, and strengthen students’ social-emotional competencies and social skills.
After-school programmes have been piloted in secondary schools since 2014 to cater to students who need more support and supervision. Schools provide a room for the students, which they can use for self-study and various activities.
Ms Indranee also said the capacity of school-based student care centres located in primary schools, will also be expanded. Currently, there are 170 of such centres in primary schools. MOE "is on track" to having a centre in all 184 primary schools by next year, said Ms Indranee.
With increased capacity, she said, student care centres can also take in more children, and schools will make a “more concerted effort” to reach out to parents whose children could benefit from attending such centres.
She added that MOE and the Ministry of Social and Family Development will review the affordability of student care centres for low-income families. MOE will also introduce additional programmes aimed at strengthening students’ resilience and improving their socio-emotional well-being.