SPEECH BY MS INDRANEE RAJAH, MINISTER, PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE, SECOND MINISTER FOR FINANCE AND EDUCATION AND PRESIDENT, SINDA, AT THE BACK TO SCHOOL FESTIVAL 2018 ON SATURDAY, 17 NOVEMBER 2018, 10 AM AT CLEMENTI PRIMARY SCHOOL
Members of SINDA’s Board of Trustees and Executive Committee;
Anbarasu Rajendran, Acting CEO, SINDA;
Partner Organisations, Guests, Parents and Students.
- A very good morning to everybody, and I’m really very happy to join you all today at SINDA’s Back To School Festival 2018, or the BTSF.
- For the first time, this festival is seeing 2,500 recipients receiving SINDA’s school kits, the largest cohort since BTSF began in 2008. Some of you would have been receiving this kit for a number of years, while others will be first-time recipients. We hope that this kit will be meaningful to you, in equipping your child with the right resources, as he or she begins the new school year.
- SINDA firmly believes in every Indian child receiving maximum educational opportunities for his or her academic and holistic development. This strong emphasis on education, is because, education is the key to better social mobility and eventually, a better life. Education gives knowledge and skills; it unlocks the doors to better jobs, better pay and job advancement. It is education that will help our children succeed. It gives them the best chance to navigate the future and helps them be the best that they can be.
- And this is very much part of Singapore’s aspiration for continued progress for our people. We strive to build a better future, where every one of us, regardless of our circumstances and background, have access to equal opportunities and can lead meaningful lives.
- Therefore, it is very important that we start our children on their educational journey as early as possible, and also start them right, and in a manner that helps them to enjoy learning, discover their own, inherent potential, and give them a lifelong attitude towards learning.
Early Intervention – UPLIFT Taskforce
- Last month, I announced UPLIFT, an MOE taskforce to better support our students in their aspirations, especially those who are underperforming and come from disadvantaged backgrounds. UPLIFT stands for ‘Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce’ – this underscores a two-pronged approach, one that is centred on impactful student support and the other, which is focused on how parents and families can be better engaged in their children’s academic journey.
- A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, or the OECD, found that Singapore was among the highest in the world in upward educational mobility, with almost 60% of adults better educated than their parents. This was significantly higher than the global average in the 72 countries that were studied. A separate report by MSF noted that 9 in 10 students from the bottom 20% of households progressed to post-secondary education, in comparison to a decade ago.
- Now, this data bodes well for us, in terms of students’ educational performance and the increased opportunities that will become available to them, as they progress into adulthood. However, we are also aware that not all are progressing at the same rate as others, and some students need a greater level of support and intervention, and they need more help than their peers, in order to progress better and faster.
- There are students who lack financial and social resources, and over time, these students struggle to keep up with the academic system, and they end up falling behind. The issues faced by such students are not only unique to the individual, but they are multi-layered and complex. So at the moment, there are currently various government and community efforts to support this group of students to fill up their gaps, and UPLIFT is looking to see how we can enhance the current efforts and how we can close those gaps.
- The Taskforce is in the process of consulting with a variety of stakeholders, such as educators, students, parents, social workers and community partners to better understand the challenges on the ground, to deal with practical issues, and to brainstorm and create solutions together. The recommendations will be presented next year.
- There are three aspects of what the UPLIFT taskforce is looking at as a preliminary priority list. One is absenteeism, because the schools tell me that the schools have a programme, schools have the right resources, but if the children are not coming to school, then they won’t be able to take advantage of school programmes, of the learning support, of the remedial programmes. The ones who don’t attend school or don’t attend school regularly otherwise will end up falling behind. The second area is really how to build the mindset of resilience with children from disadvantaged backgrounds, because it is the mindset, the values and character that will help them to progress well, even as much, if not more so than the academically-inclined. The third aspect is parental support. I cannot underscore enough the importance of family support and involvement in the children’s lives. With students who struggle in school, a key reason is because they lack a positive, loving and encouraging environment at home, and this prompts them to look elsewhere, often ending up under negative influences and peer circles.
- Providing a structured environment for children’s study is also important. For example, setting aside time with the television off to allow children to do their homework, signals to them and the whole family that education is a priority. It also allows the children to concentrate and to focus.
- Children who come from supportive and caring environments are more likely to become confident, well-adjusted students who do well in school and later in life. So, this is an important aspect of UPLIFT’s work and we will find effective strategies to help parents and family members play a stronger role in their children’s academic journeys and to be much more involved in their lives.
Increased Accessibility to SINDA Programmes
- In addition to government and family efforts, community organisations like SINDA provide the complementary support necessary for our students. One such initiative was the revision of SINDA’s per capita income criteria, or PCI, so that more students and families can benefit from SINDA’s programmes and services. Every individual with a PCI of up to $1,000 can now enrol in a SINDA programme at no charge; which means tuition, enrichment programmes, motivational resources, outdoor activities are more than readily available for your children, completely free of charge.
- Many of SINDA’s programmes and services are now organised at heartland areas and venues – community and grassroots organisations, temples, mosques and churches. These efforts are to bring the programmes nearer to you, and not only are the programmes nearer to you but this also allows for the customisation of programmes, to suit the needs of the residents within each area. By bringing programmes and services closer to the heartlands, SINDA wants to reach more people and offer them the right assistance, at the right time in the right place.
- Raising a child and equipping him or her with the right set of skills to take full advantage of the future, is the shared responsibility of many hands – the government, community groups and families. I am heartened to see these numerous stakeholders working together. How our children fare as adults and how meaningful their lives will be, depends on how we are able to cultivate in them the importance of education, build their character and support them in their early years.
- As a nation, we care about our children and their future. This is the reason why we are putting so much emphasis on education and social mobility. We want every child to fulfil his or her fullest potential, to give them every opportunity to succeed, and to nurture them into becoming successful and confident adults.
- On this note, I wish you all an enjoyable day ahead, as you take part in the many activities lined up for you at BTSF 2018.
Thank you all very much.