More support for students who skip school

A room used for tutoring students at the new Marsiling Community Link at Block 182A, Woodlands Street 13. The space is meant as a one-stop location so families in rental housing can access a suite of social services.
A room used for tutoring students at the new Marsiling Community Link at Block 182A, Woodlands Street 13. The space is meant as a one-stop location so families in rental housing can access a suite of social services.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

MOE pilot project to link disadvantaged students and families to range of services

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 regularly.

The programme, in collaboration with the Ministry of Social and Family Development, will run from this year 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 them 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, MOE said.

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

The Uplift Community Pilot is a component in the Government's ongoing push to tackle inequality, said Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah, who was speaking on the sidelines of the opening of the Marsiling Community Link (ComLink) yesterday.

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, with the job of coordinating with the various agencies, and the families and 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 in which we ensure that we tackle inequality holistically, proactively working together with partners," said Mr Lee, who also attended the ComLink opening.

He noted some disadvantaged families find that having to contact 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 in Marsiling is a one-stop location so families in rental housing can access a suite of social services like family services and pre-school support.

Upcoming programmes at the site include reading and numeracy courses for young children, sports activities for students, a Community Scouting grassroots programme to recruit more boys and girls to become Scouts, as well as skills upgrading and job matching services.

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

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

The difference between ComLink and the social safety nets of before is that it is proactive, Mr Lee said.

"We reach out to the families, rather than wait for the families to approach different government agencies."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 19, 2020, with the headline 'More support for students who skip school'. Print Edition | Subscribe