Many of the pieces are already in place within communities to tackle long-term absenteeism among students, but better coordination and volunteers to reach families are needed, Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah said yesterday.
Specialised agencies like the Social Service Office or family service centres can provide financial assistance or counselling, and teachers can follow up in school, but there also needs to be people who can meet the families.
"Some of the more intensive specialised parts would fall within the remit of the agencies or the ministry or the school, but there is very clearly a role for volunteers," Ms Indranee said. "And then, once volunteers come into the picture, there will be the question of the coordination of the volunteers and the selection of the volunteers."
She made the points after joining discussions at a public engagement session organised by Uplift (Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce).
Ms Indranee, who chairs the task force, told reporters after the event that some of the solutions suggested were the befriending and mentoring of families.
This could involve volunteers accompanying younger children to school if their parents were unable to, or helping to motivate older children to go to school.
She said the task force will look at how to implement a good framework for referral of cases, as well as for the coordination of assistance and volunteers.
About 80 people including school principals, youth leaders and voluntary welfare organisation representatives participated in the session at the Ministry of Education in Buona Vista to discuss community strategies that could be implemented alongside school efforts.
It was the fifth public engagement session by the task force, which was set up last year to boost support for disadvantaged students from lower-income households.
Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sam Tan, who is also a task force member and was at the session, encouraged participants to tap the resources available in their locales, such as grassroots networks.
"It takes a constituency to raise a child," he quipped.
Participant Martin Chok, senior manager for youth services at voluntary welfare organisation Care Corner, said a mentoring programme could provide longer-term support for families.
Details of Uplift's recommendations will be announced and implemented this year. They will be tracked and evaluated over a one-to two-year period to ensure they are effective, said the Education Ministry.