Underprivileged kids need early educational support

I agree with Mr Lim Teck Koon that people who face multiple challenges in life, with impaired capacity to make sound decisions, should be more proactively helped in accessing social assistance schemes ("Ways to ensure needy do not fall through the cracks"; Thursday).

However, we should also focus on helping their children escape the challenges which beset such families.

Among the top concerns would be ways to support such children in school.

Though schools have schemes in place to help underperforming students, I wonder if these efforts are sufficient in addressing the multifaceted problems these children face.

I recently watched a local programme about children from NorthLight and Assumption Pathway schools, which cater to pupils who fail the PSLE.

One teacher's comments struck me.

She was amazed by how quickly the pupils improved once they were given specialist and one-on-one help by the coaches and teachers there.

Their tenacity in mastering basic literacy and numeracy skills, in the face of academic challenges, is to be applauded.

The teacher surmised that if they had been given such targeted help in primary school, more of them might have passed the PSLE.

I cannot help but think that our system may have somehow failed some of these pupils.

Given that many such pupils come from dysfunctional family backgrounds, sustained and targeted help should be given to them in their early years, throughout primary school and even beyond.

As we heap resources on the academically bright, we should also not forget the needs of those at the bottom, who surely deserve more help to rise above the unfortunate family circumstances they were born into.

Maria Loh Mun Foong (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2015, with the headline 'Underprivileged kids need early educational support'. Print Edition | Subscribe