PARLIAMENT:Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth

More help on the cards for students, workers and families

Malay/Muslim youth can soon tap mentorship schemes and coding courses to better prepare themselves for the opportunities offered in a changing economy.

Self-help group Mendaki's Future Ready Unit, set up last year to help the community tap the national SkillsFuture scheme, is organising these activities to complement national ones, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim told Parliament yesterday.

In the pipeline are "NextStop" sessions for students in secondary schools, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and polytechnics to better learn about growth sectors in the economy, and academic and career pathways out there.

Secondary and ITE students can also be linked up with mentors. "Some of our students may not be well-informed of the available opportunities, or they may lack the confidence to pursue their aspirations. Mentors will help broaden their perspectives, and advise them on their choice of education and career pathways," Dr Yaacob said.

Mendaki's training arm, Mendaki Sense, will organise fairs to help adult learners and workers understand SkillsFuture, and offer a number of free courses that support lifelong learning.

Later this month, Mendaki will launch a coding and robotics programme targeted at younger students to whet their interest in the growing infocomm sector.

Called CM-Tech@Heartlands, it aims to reach out to 450 students by next year.

Meanwhile, Mendaki is training its pool of tutors, and making its tuition scheme MTS more accessible.

The MTS@Mosques programme will be expanded to the mosques in Ang Mo Kio and Sengkang, given the high demand in these areas.

Dr Yaacob also noted there was a dip in the number of marriages involving minors.

In 2014, 1.3 per cent of Muslim grooms and 4 per cent of brides were below 21 years old, down from 3.9 per cent and 13.8 per cent respectively in 2004.

Meanwhile, divorce rates stayed stable, averaging 1,600 divorces a year over the last five years. However, Muslim couples with younger grooms aged 20 to 24 were more likely to split up, and counsellors will help support such couples.

The Syariah Court, which governs divorce and inheritance, will work with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) to develop a certification programme on the practice of Muslim law in Singapore.

Since 2004, its marriage counselling programme has helped more than 30,000 couples, about 45 per cent of whom were reconciled.

Said Dr Yaacob: "Our strength as a community depends on strong families and how we look after those in need."

Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2016, with the headline 'More help on the cards for students, workers and families'. Print Edition | Subscribe