At-risk Primary 5 pupil improves school attendance and gets award for good progress

Nur Syazliana Muhammad Zamri is one of the beneficiaries of a pilot scheme to help at-risk students stay in school and be meaningfully engaged. PHOTO: MARSILING PRIMARY SCHOOL

SINGAPORE - When Nur Syazliana Muhammad Zamri was in lower primary, she had trouble going to school regularly, as her mother was busy taking care of her younger siblings at home.

But with the help of her school, Marsiling Primary, and a student welfare officer, the Primary 5 pupil began to turn up more often in school.

Her attendance rate improved to more than 90 per cent this year, compared with 70 per cent in lower primary.

Syazliana, who lives in a two-room rental flat with her parents and three siblings, received the Edusave Good Progress Award last year and was made assistant class monitor this year.

"The student welfare officer really motivated me to think positive and has encouraged me and my family over more than two years. She has been by my side whenever I felt upset and I could tell her things I couldn't share with others," she said.

Syazliana, whose father works as an operator assistant and mother is a part-time private-hire car driver, is one of the beneficiaries of the Ministry of Education's (MOE) pilot to help at-risk students stay in school and be meaningfully engaged.

The scheme, known as the Uplift Enhanced School Resourcing programme, has been piloted in 23 schools since 2019, and has supported more than 2,000 students each year with their academic work and school attendance.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday (Nov 10) that the programme will be expanded to about 100 primary and secondary schools in the next few years, benefiting around 13,000 students.

With the additional support, pupils in Marsiling Primary's after-school engagement programme were able to access more community resources and enjoy more activities.

Students in this programme take part in a range of activities, from learning life skills or interest-based sessions such as photography or culinary workshops and football camps. This is on top of equipping them with studying skills and receiving one-to-one support from mentors.

With increased manpower, Marsiling Primary, which engaged two former teachers, could extend the programme to the holidays, said the school's principal, Ms Cheryl Chee.

"The teachers could also dedicate more attention to monitoring and mentoring the higher-need students. More than that, the pupils need that significant adult role model in their lives, and these teachers could touch base with them during the holidays, make sure they were well," she said.

Ms Chee said the school also taps additional community resources under the MOE pilot.

For instance, The Rice Company Limited, a not-for-profit arts organisation, conducted dance enrichment classes for pupils during the circuit breaker period last year.

Older students from schools near Marsiling Primary have also been holding academic coaching sessions for its pupils.

Ms Chee added: "A big part of it is building aspirations and beliefs that they can achieve, not just keeping them in school. We see improved academic performance and school attendance, and anecdotally we see some pupils apply for the Direct School Admission."

Syazliana said she enjoys the sports activities, especially football, and also picked up studying skills during the after-school sessions.

"I like the programme because there is room for us to do our work, revise, and there are teachers to help us," she said.


Greater support for disadvantaged students

Uplift Enhanced School Resourcing

• Piloted by the Education Ministry in 23 schools since 2019. It has supported more than 2,000 students each year with their academic work and school attendance, through after-school support, for instance.

• An additional four to five teachers will be deployed to each school in this programme, starting with another 24 schools from next year.

• The scheme will be expanded to about 100 primary and secondary schools in the next few years, and benefit about 13,000 students.

Uplift Community Pilot

• The pilot, which involves volunteers checking in regularly with families through home visits and phone calls, has supported more than 300 primary and secondary students in four towns - Boon Lay, Bukit Merah, Kreta Ayer and Woodlands - since January last year.

• To date, about 120 volunteers or family befrienders have been recruited and trained, as part of the scheme.

• From next year, it will be rolled out nationwide in stages, starting with eight more towns - Bedok, Choa Chu Kang, Geylang Serai, Jalan Besar, Punggol, Sengkang, Toa Payoh and Yishun.

• About 1,800 students will benefit each year when it is fully implemented.

Kidstart

• The early childhood pilot programme, launched in 2016, is on track to support 5,000 children by 2023, and will be expanded nationwide thereafter.

• The scheme provides support to children up to age six from low-income homes in areas such as child development, nutrition and parent-child interaction.

• To date, more than 2,000 children have benefited from KidStart.

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