Education Ministry pilot project will help disadvantaged students stay in school

A study room of the Marsiling Community Link, which was opened on Jan 18, 2020. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Disadvantaged students, especially those who often skip school, will get more support from a pilot project by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to help them stay in class.

The Uplift Community Pilot, a component of the Uplift programme, aims to enhance support for disadvantaged students who need more help to attend school more regularly.

The programme will run from 2020 to 2022 and looks to reach more than 300 primary and secondary school students living in the Woodlands, Kreta Ayer and Boon Lay areas.

Schools will identify students from disadvantaged backgrounds who exhibit early signs of absenteeism and refer the students to a designated Uplift coordinator in the town's Social Service Office (SSO).

The coordinator will then link the students and their families to local programmes and resources aimed at building "protective factors" around the student and family earlier, and help the student get back to regular school attendance.

Part of the outreach could involve homework supervision, academic coaching, enrichment opportunities in the arts and sports as well as mentoring for social-emotional development, the MOE said.

At the same time, students' families could also get help in the form of befriending, parenting skills support and child-care services.

The Uplift Community Pilot is part of the Uplift programme - announced in October 2018 - and a component of the government's broader commitment to tackling inequality, said Second Minister for Education Ms Indranee Rajah, who was speaking on the sidelines of the opening of the Marsiling Community Link (Comlink) on Saturday (Jan 18).

A "significant number" of the students who need help live in rental flats, she noted.

"The desire to tackle inequality is one thing but actually putting it into operation, implementing it is another, and we thought through very carefully what was needed, added Ms Indranee.

"One piece of feedback that came back very strongly was the need for coordination and more integration between the different services and offerings."

That is where the town-level coordinator comes in, whose job is to coordinate with the various agencies, and the families and the students who may be in need of assistance.

Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee also reiterated the role of government in extending a hand to underprivileged families.

"Today is the beginning of a new way which we ensure that we tackle inequality holistically, proactively working together with partners," Mr Lee said, who also attended the Comlink opening.

He noted that some disadvantaged families find that having to reach out to multiple organisations for help adds to their challenges.

Nipping the problem in the bud requires working upstream, starting earlier and intervening earlier, and that could prevent problems from escalating later, he said.

The new ComLink programme space at Marsiling is a one-stop location so families in rental housing can access a suite of social services like family services and preschool support.

Upcoming programmes at the site include reading and numeracy courses for young children, sport for students, Community Scouting for youths and skills upgrading and job matching services.

Residents can also run their own programmes, with some already expressing interest in teaching sepak takraw or sharing their culinary skills.

Families living in rental flats will be prioritised for the ComLink programmes but it is open for other residents with similar needs.

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