By next year, 120 secondary schools will offer after-school engagement programmes, up from the current 60, Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah said.
The consolidated programmes, called Gear-Up, will see schools "work with community partners to provide customised support and after-school engagement, and strengthen our students' social-emotional competencies and social skills", she said yesterday.
"These programmes will be especially helpful to students from disadvantaged families, who will benefit from customised support and care," she told Parliament during a debate on tackling inequality.
Ms Indranee heads the eight-member task force Uplift (Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce), which aims to tackle "issues faced by underperforming students from disadvantaged families, understand what exactly is preventing them from doing better, identify gaps to be filled and devise practical solutions".
After-school programmes in secondary schools, which cater to students who need close supervision and support, have been piloted since 2014. The schools provide a space for students to study by themselves. Activities can also be run by teachers, community partners or volunteers; they also act as mentors.
Ms Indranee said: "These programmes have strengthened social-emotional support to students and improved their connectedness to their learning, peers and school."
Zack Poh, 18, a former Yuan Ching Secondary School student, said the after-school engagement programme there changed his life. He had self-esteem issues when he was posted to the Normal (Technical) stream. He was also overweight, which made him feel insecure about his co-curricular activity, which was dragon boat. "No matter how hard I studied, I couldn't get the grades I wanted... I was asking myself, 'Why can others do it, but I can't?' "
STUDENTS HAVE BENEFITED
These programmes have strengthened social-emotional support to students and improved their connectedness to their learning, peers and school.
SECOND MINISTER FOR EDUCATION INDRANEE RAJAH, on after-school programmes in secondary schools which cater to students who need close supervision and support. They have been piloted since 2014.
At his form teacher's recommendation, Zack joined the after-school programme in 2016 in Secondary 3. Every Monday, he would help to move the tables and chairs in a vacant classroom so it could be used by others in the programme.
There, students could play board games or read books in a reading corner with shelves Zack built from cardboard boxes. "It may not sound like much, but it was meaningful to me," he said, describing the after-school centre as a second home. "Seeing the students happy made me happy - it felt like I achieved something."
Zack topped his school's cohort at the N-level exams the next year.
Other schools offer different after-school programmes. Kent Ridge Secondary's Saffareeszan Ghaniman Abdullah decided to join Youth COP, an engagement programme that works with neighbourhood police centres and lets pupils follow police officers on patrol or join crime prevention roadshows.
The Secondary 4 student had the chance to talk to the public about crimes like online scams, and said: "I used to have anger management issues, but I learnt that every action comes with consequences, which has reminded me to think before I act."
Ms Indranee also announced that an Uplift Programme Office will be set up within the Ministry of Education as a dedicated team to strengthen partnerships between schools and community partners.
The office will work with schools to identify disadvantaged students, map out their needs and match them to suitable community programmes or assistance. It will first focus on supporting school-community coordination in areas that have higher numbers of students and families it seeks to reach out to.