SINGAPORE - Students in Mendaki's tuition scheme will be able to get help in more subjects and benefit from mentoring from this year.
Those in Primary 4 to 6 get help with science, in addition to English and maths.
And though the number of students enrolled in the programme dipped from 8,080 last year to 6,300 this year, the Malay/Muslim self-help group said it remains committed to supporting the pupils' growth.
"Some of our centres had to be closed as they could not accommodate the necessary safe distancing measures due to space constraints," Mendaki's deputy chairman Zaqy Mohamad said on Wednesday (Jan 20) .
But the community wants more of its students to aim for quality passes, and this is why science has been added as a subject, said Mr Zaqy.
"It's no longer about looking for passes, as our Malay/Muslim students have been progressing well over the years. Now it's about moving towards quality passes," he added.
Mr Zaqy, who is Senior Minister of State for Defence and Manpower, was speaking to reporters on a visit to a Mendaki Tuition Scheme (MTS) centre at Unity Secondary School in Choa Chu Kang, where he observed an online MTS lesson and a mentoring session and spoke to students.
The scheme will continue to hold some sessions online, he said, noting that a survey last year found students and parents saying they were satisfied with its e-learning platforms during the two-month circuit breaker.
Subject-based banding, which groups students according to their strengths, has also been introduced at MTS centres so students are able to catch up with the school curriculum in a more relevant manner.
Established in 1982, MTS aims to help students from the Malay/Muslim community improve in their studies through affordable and quality tuition. It was later extended to students of all races through the Collaborative Tuition Programme, a joint effort by Mendaki and self-help groups Chinese Development Assistance Council and Singapore Indian Development Association.
Students interviewed say the tuition has improved their grades. Ciara Eliza Muhamad Faizal, 15, whose English grade has gone from C5 to a B3 after a year, said: "The tutors teach me new strategies and help me revise what I missed out on during school lessons."
Student Nisha Maria Isabella, 15, said her maths results have improved due to guidance from her tutors and mentors, adding that it would be good to include tuition for humanities subjects.
And from this year, Mentoring@MTS, which used to be offered only at selected centres, will be open to all Secondary 3 and 4 Normal stream students in the tuition scheme to encourage and motivate students.
Said MTS mentor Mohamad Hakim Mohamad Zainal Abiddin, a 25-year-old teacher: "Our main role is to guide the students to achieve their aspirations. We act as their role models and give advice in the non-academic aspects of their lives."
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a blessing in disguise, he added, as each mentor is now matched with two students - compared with five in the past - in keeping with safe management measures during physical meetings.
"We are able to interact with the students more deeply," he said.