Student care centres, which provide before- and after-school services such as homework supervision for pupils, are set to become a standard feature in primary schools.
Forty more centres will be set up over the next two years, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat in Parliament on Friday. This will raise the number of such centres to 120, covering two-thirds of all primary schools.
Some 7,500 pupils, many from low-income families, attend these centres sited within their schools where they are given meals, supervised on their schoolwork and encouraged to take part in games and activities such as speech and drama. "I have visited many of our student care centres, and it is a joy to see happy, engaged children," saidMr Heng.
With 40 more centres, 2,500 more pupils will be able to attend these centres, most of which are run by voluntary welfare organisations. The average non-subsidised fee is $250 a month but parents from low income households pay as little as $5 a month at centres such as the ones in Ahmad Ibrahim Primary School in Yishun and Keming Primary in Bukit Batok.
The initiative was among several announced by Mr Heng, during the debate on his ministry's budget, to help students with different needs - from financial to learning needs- so that they can take advantage of the opportunities their schools offer them.
He added that the expansion of the student care centres will help provide a conducive environment for learning, especially for those from less advantaged backgrounds.
Principals, like Ahmad Ibrahim Primary's Melinder Goh, welcome having such centres within the school premises. Mrs Goh said siting the centre within school grounds allows staff to align their programmes with the school curriculum.
Administrative assistant Madam Latipah Hashim, a 38-year-old mother of two boys, said student care centres are a safer and more reliable alternative to leaving their children at home alone or with their elderly grandparents. Her two sons, Mohammad Esryan, 10 and Mohammad Nick Irfan, 9, attend the student care centre at Eunos Primary School.
Parents like her, also said that the "structured"programmes at the centres complement the school curriculum and the fact that the centre staff work closely with the school teachers to help their children.