SINGAPORE: About 100 primary and secondary schools will get additional teachers to support students who “will benefit from this extra attention”, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Wednesday (Nov 10).
This enhanced resourcing will be expanded to an additional 24 primary and secondary schools from 2022, with plans to extend this to about 100 schools in the next few years, said the Education Ministry in the news release.
The UPLIFT Enhanced School Resourcing programme could see four to five additional teachers deployed to each of the 24 schools in the first phase.
When fully rolled out, the programme is expected to support about 13,000 students from about 100 schools, said MOE in the release.
UPLIFT, or the Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce, aims to strengthen support for underperforming students from disadvantaged families, in particular by tackling long-term absenteeism and drop-out rates in schools.
Speaking at a virtual appreciation event by the Ministry of Education (MOE), Mr Lee noted that the school environment plays “an even more crucial role” for children from troubled homes.
“These children benefit from additional attention from teachers, who act as significant adults. Someone whom the children can relate to, can give them good advice and can sustain their interest in attending school. Someone to encourage them to discover their strengths and strive for their dreams,” he added.
“It is thus particularly worrying when some of these children stop attending school regularly. We must do all we can to help them enrol in school, stay enrolled and do well in their studies.”
MOE has piloted the programme in 23 schools since 2019, allocating additional resources to support “whole-school approaches” and targeted intervention for students with “greater needs”, the ministry said in a separate press release.
“(MOE) gave the schools additional teachers and resources to better identify and support these kids, to reach out and mentor them, to develop customised programmes to keep them engaged after school and during the holidays, and to help them with their academic work and other socio-emotional challenges, so that these students feel supported and motivated to do well,” said Mr Lee.
The results from the pilot have been “encouraging”, he added.
More primary school students enrolled in their school’s student care centre, secondary school students got along better with their classmates and school attendance improved, said Mr Lee.
The additional teachers will provide each school with the capacity to establish structures, processes and customised programmes to support disadvantaged and at-risk students, said the Education Ministry in the news release.
“For example, some teachers could be deployed to provide re-integration and academic support for students with absenteeism issues, while other teachers could be deployed to conduct after-school programmes,” the release read.
EXPANSION OF COMMUNITY PILOT
Mr Lee also announced the expansion of the UPLIFT Community pilot, which is currently active in four towns - Boon Lay, Bukit Merah, Kreta Ayer and Woodlands.
The pilot, which began in January 2020, supports disadvantaged students to help them attend school more regularly, and has reached more than 300 primary and secondary students since then.
Under the programme, support for these students and their families is coordinated at the town level. They are then referred to the appropriate agencies and community-based resources based on their needs.
Noting that eight in 10 students in the pilot programme last year saw improvements in school attendance, Mr Lee said MOE intends to progressively expand the programme into a nationwide network.
The expansion of the UPLIFT Community Network will start with eight more towns next year, and more over the coming years, he announced.
The eight towns are: Bedok, Chua Chu Kang, Geylang Serai, Jalan Besar, Punggol, Sengkang, Toa Payoh and Yishun, said MOE in the news release.
“In every generation, there will always be some who do better, and others who do less well. Crises like COVID-19 show up such social disparities more sharply,” said Mr Lee in his speech.
For example, switching to home-based learning during the pandemic was not smooth for every child, he noted.
“Some children had limited access to laptops or fast internet connections at home. Others had to jostle for space with their siblings, parents or grandparents. This made it tough or even impossible for them to pay attention to an online class or get their parents to help with their schoolwork,” said Mr Lee.
“Post-COVID-19, we can expect some of these differences to persist because this disparity is not due to COVID-19, even if the pandemic made it more visible.”
Depending on whether students have family support at home, and parental guidance and mentorship, this can make a “lasting difference” in their lives, said Mr Lee.
“That’s why we must keep on striving to uplift children growing up in disadvantaged circumstances. To help them close the gaps they started with as much as possible, to ensure they have more opportunities and choices than their parents and many more pathways to success.”