Encourage innovation in after-school care centres

An increase in the number of student care centres in primary schools and their rising enrolment figures not only reflect demand from working parents, but also signal the importance of making sure these centres offer effective services to students.

While it is reassuring that the Government is "not seeking to increase their numbers speedily at the risk of compromising on quality" ("Widen reach of student care centres"; last Wednesday), it may be meaningful to highlight centres which have been doing good work in recent years.

When I was in primary school, I benefited from a before-and-after school care service. While it was not within my school, the short walking distance from school meant that my working parents could drop me off in the morning or pick me up in the evening.

Besides arranging for meals and showers as well as allocating time for homework and revision, the centre organised excursions and other study sessions during the school holidays. This was a boon for my family, as we did not employ a domestic worker and the centre's fees were not steep.

Moreover, I got to meet students from other schools.

Such centres provide different experiences, and well-run ones can provide convenience and enrichment.

To encourage innovation in student care centres, it would be useful to showcase those which have proven outcomes or impact, particularly centres managed by non-profit organisations which, unlike commercial operators, may have more experience working with disenfranchised youngsters or lower-income households. They may yield insights on essential programmes and services required.

Also, survey students and their parents on the effectiveness and affordability of student care centres.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2016, with the headline 'Encourage innovation in after-school care centres'. Print Edition | Subscribe