02.05.2017

Speech by Ms Indranee Thurai Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance, President, SINDA, at the  SINDA–MOE Partnership Ceremony, on Tuesday, 2 May 2017, 4pm at Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre

 

SINDA Board, EXCO and Education Sub-Committee Members,

Educators, SINDA Liaison Officers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

  1. It is my pleasure to join you this afternoon to strengthen the close partnership between SINDA and the Ministry of Education (MOE). What we commemorate today is not just this linkage; we also commemorate the result of this bond and the benefit that it has brought our Indian students

 

The Indian Community

2. The Indian community has made substantial progress over the years. The percentage of students with only post-secondary qualifications and below, has dropped. Instead, in the last 15 years, we have seen a sharp upward trend in those achieving tertiary qualifications –diplomas, degrees and beyond. More Indians attaining better qualifications has also meant better career prospects – leading to a rise in median household income, from $3,805 in 2000 to $8,443 in 2015. Overall, this bodes well for the community.

3. However, despite this progress, there is a certain group that continues to lag behind. The key group here, as identified by SINDA, is the bottom 20% of the community – about 70,000 Indians. In this group — which is about 20,400 households — there are those earning a monthly income of less than a $1,000 or not earning at all. In these households, there are about 24,000 Indian students, across all levels. We are concerned about these students. Through our door knocking exercises and house visits, we’ve seen that these students lack the support of a conducive family environment. The parents are busy trying to meet basic needs and their children’s education often becomes a lower priority.

 

Educational Performance of Indian students

4. All of us at SINDA sat down and thought long and hard about how we’re going to do this. We set ourselves various goals and if I can just highlight what our community goals are – first, we want to make sure that for Indian students, there’s increased pre-school participation. Why because, MOE has correctly identified the pre-school period is when the children’s foundation is formed and increasingly we have seen the importance of pre-school education. So we want to do as much as we can to get children of that age into pre-school so that they have a strong foundation even before they get into Primary 1.

5. Second, we would like to see better quality PSLE passes. The number of PSLE passes has been increasing but when you look at which streams they go into after that, you can see that it’s not equally spread out and we would like to see a better spread between Express, Normal Academic and Normal Technical, as opposed to an imbalance there. If you want better PSLE passes, it means that they need a strong foundation at Primary 4. Primary 4 is when it starts getting more difficult and in order to do well in Primary 4, you need a strong foundation tracing back to Primary 1. I think at MOE, we know this so the intervention has to take place at primary school in order for them to do better, further downstream.

6. We want to see a better spread across the secondary level streams and we want to see greater enrolment in junior colleges and polytechnics. We also want to see a lower dropout rate from ITE; more university enrolments and a better spread across different disciplines – including the STEM-related ones. Ultimately, we want to see better job prospects and more employment. But how do you get to achieve all of these goals? We have programmes, but what we did find when we started to do a deep-dive on what are some of the reasons why people don’t come for these programmes is because many of the families are not aware of the assistance that is available and they are just very overwhelmed by their own problems.

 

SINDA-MOE Collaboration

7. The key for SINDA is how we identify the ones who need help. So on the SINDA side, we have worked out a new work plan which really involves going to the ground, reaching out and penetrating the households. But the key part of that are the schools. Because the schools are where the students come to. The teachers, the principals the SINDA Liaison Officers (SLOs) – you are the ones who know the students who are not performing well. If the student is not performing well, chances are, there is some issue with the family and they are encountering social problems.

8. So the greatest help the schools are able to give SINDA is to refer to us students or Indian families who may be in need of assistance so that we can do the part that MOE does not do – being able to work on the parenting side, some of the social issues and of course also with the tuition. MOE of course does a very good job with the academic part but some students obviously need remedial sessions or they need extra help.

9. We want to express our appreciation to MOE for this collaboration and to ask you, in the course of what you do, to really look out for the students who are in need of help and connect them with us. Confidentiality is not an issue because if you ask the parents for their consent then there is no problem with confidentiality in terms of referring them to SINDA. We could work along those lines and help us to reach the students and the families who are most in need. That too, would be very helpful for the schools because your students’ good performance is our goal as well.

 

Conclusion

10. If we are able to help the students that means the performance of those students in your schools will also improve. So it’s a win-win partnership and we are very happy that we are able to do this. Today is just to express our appreciation for the support that you have given us in terms of the STEP centres, the SLOs and all the other various work strings that we have been doing together.

Thank you very much.

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