Youth mental health

Teach students life skills and build up their resilience

I am very reassured by Education Minister Chan Chun Sing's statement in Parliament on the recent incident at River Valley High School, in which a student was allegedly killed by another.

Parents will now be more reassured about the safety of their children when they go to school and how their children's welfare will be enhanced and given priority by their teachers.

Mr Chan has identified critical measures that his ministry will evaluate and implement in schools, such as having more counsellors and reducing the scope of year-end exams, to alleviate stress in students.

He has also correctly explained that it is not realistic to shield students from the common problems and stresses adolescents face.

In this respect, he was spot on that success in life takes on various forms and we should leave students to work towards their own ambitions in life, with appropriate guidance from parents and teachers.

I feel, however, that too much attention has been given to counselling as the main strategy to respond to the incident.

Counselling is generally viewed as reactive in solving problems.

We should be giving attention also to some proactive measures to equip students with life skills such as problem solving, communication and interpersonal skills, as well as building their resilience.

At the same time, schools should work with parent groups to inculcate effective parenting skills and find out how parents can be supported in strengthening communication with their children, to better understand students' emotional needs, as suggested by Mr Chan.

Lim Chong Leong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2021, with the headline 'Teach students life skills and build up their resilience'. Subscribe