Speech by Ms Indranee Thurai Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance and President, SINDA at the SINDA MOE Partnership Ceremony on 25 May 2016 at The Grassroots Club
SINDA Board, EXCO and Education Sub-Committee Members,
Educators and Staff from the Ministry of Education,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- It is my pleasure to join you this afternoon to celebrate the 25-year partnership between SINDA and the Ministry of Education.
- As a community organisation, SINDA works closely with like-minded organisations to better the lives of those in the Indian community. Foremost of these partnerships is the one that SINDA celebrates with MOE, especially with education as the key mandate for both organisations. SINDA’s staunch ties with MOE have been integral to its efforts in elevating Indian students’ academic performance, and MOE’s strategic support and guidance have been invaluable to SINDA in implementing various initiatives for students.
- Our students reap the fruits of this meaningful partnership, as they get to enjoy a holistic education environment that is sure to propel them to success. Access to day schools to run our STEP and Project Teach programmes, to secondment of key staff to help us develop the complementary custom curricula and run these programmes, are just some of the many key benefits this partnership has provided SINDA with.
- I am happy to note that partnership with schools over the years has enabled SINDA to reach out to over 93,000 students through our STEP and Project Teach tutorial programmes.
Achieving Holistic Development
- In recent years, SINDA has placed great emphasis on boosting students’ self-esteem, confidence, motivation and leadership skills, in addition to improving their academic performance. This comes with the understanding that the future will be increasingly dynamic and only those with a holistic set of skills can seize the opportunities that lie ahead. This move also aligns with a nationwide shift—from basing students’ progress and potential on academic scores, to nurturing holistic development, recognising talent and encouraging sustained lifelong learning.
- On one end of the spectrum, SINDA has tutorial programmes that supplement students’ learning at schools. Such programmes, while focusing on academic components, have dedicated motivation components to offer holistic growth, with many lessons delivered via interactive e-learning platforms, to sustain students’ interest.
- At the other end of spectrum, we have interest-based programmes that motivate our students through passion. Youth can choose from a variety of activities and develop their skills in it, while trained mentors work with them to boost their resilience, teamwork and leadership abilities. Through a combination of these academic and non-academic programmes, SINDA is able to offer students all-round development.
- We have seen very encouraging progress through these programmes and we particularly note that students who are motivated in the right direction perform better in school, and that our youth can achieve anything when they set their hearts and minds to it.
Profile: Vaishnavi Thirunavukkarasu
- One such student is Vaishnavi Thirunavukkarasu. Vaishnavi’s journey with SINDA started when she was referred to the Youth Victory programme in 2012. While in the programme, she was also introduced to other SINDA programmes, with GAME Music in particular, catching her attention. Through that programme, she was able to realise her talent in music. She worked hard at it and eventually became a peer leader, mentoring junior participants in the programme. This helped hone her leadership qualities and motivated her to stretch her potential.
- She also became a co-facilitator at our camps and learnt how to manage programmes. Her experience in this area eventually led her to being a main facilitator at the ASEAN Youth Leadership Camp, where she had an opportunity to demonstrate her leadership skills. Turning 17 this year, Vaishnavi attributes her achievements to the confidence she gained at SINDA programmes and her commitment to developing her skills to become an all-round student.
Profile: Mohamed Shamik Mohamed Yunoos
- Another student, Mohamed Shamik Mohamed Yunoos is testament to the efforts of SINDA’s education programmes. When he joined Project Teach, he was scoring C’s and E’s in his subjects. The small class sizes and the personal attention that he got from his tutors developed his understanding of subjects. Once his understanding grew, his confidence and interest in the subjects naturally grew as well.
- He began to spend more time revising, and realised how easy it was to master subjects with proper attention. In PSLE, Shamik scored B’s for all his subjects, much to the delight of his friends and family. Today, the 13-year-old continues his academic journey with earnest at the Express Stream at Montfort Secondary School.
SINDA Liaison Officers—Ambassadors on the Ground
- Much of SINDA’s success with students stems from the dedication of SINDA Liaison Officers, or SLOs, who serve as our dedicated ambassadors in their respective schools. SLOs are regular school teachers appointed by SINDA to spread word on SINDA’s programmes and services to their students and families. In 2015, we had 270 SLOs and educators in MOE schools. We will hear from one such SLO later in the programme, Megalai Thangavelu from Ngee Ann Primary School. She has been an SLO for 10 years and has brought difference to the lives of her students, through her initiative and a genuine passion to see her students achieve success in life.
- From actively encouraging students to attend programmes, to accompanying them to SINDA events, SLOs go the extra mile in ensuring that every student is afforded maximum opportunities. They are able to identify students who need that extra push, due to their close links with students. They also assist in identifying students with financial difficulties and direct these students and their families to the appropriate resources, such as the SINDA Family Service Centre.
- At SINDA FSC, the work is not limited to just financial assistance. Social workers also look into issues affecting school attendance, parenting challenges, a lack of support, low motivation, marital issues and many others. Together, these issues paint a holistic picture of each family, and allow SINDA to be of service to the family, so that the family circumstances can once again become conducive for the student.
School Leaders’ Active Participation
- Our SLOs are only able to make a difference in the lives of students when they have strong and unwavering support from their school leaders. Our links with schools are enhanced when such school leaders take a keen interest in supporting SINDA’s initiatives and facilitate the flow of information on SINDA programmes to their students.
- Vasuthevan Ramamurthy is Principal at Bukit View Secondary School and has been a pillar of support to SINDA, having hosted STEP tutorials at his school for about two and a half years. He takes a personal interest in his students, encouraging them to be part of various character development and motivational programmes run by SINDA. He even works closely with parents and regularly arranges SINDA’s parenting workshops at his school premises, so that they are up to date on current teaching methods and are able to better understand the academic needs of their children.
- It is indeed heartening to see school leaders such as Vasu go the extra mile to ensure their students’ progress. It is reflective of the strong partnership between SINDA and MOE, both working closely towards their common goal of improving our students’ learning and development.
- SINDA is always exploring opportunities to widen its network and reach more students. This year, SINDA has extended its reach into more post-secondary institutions, and the Institute of Technical Education in particular, where it has formally appointed SLOs. I trust that this will allow for greater sharing of resources between SINDA and ITE, and will allow for many of our post-secondary programmes to flow to ITE students.
- SINDA has also formed a Schools Engagement Taskforce, to reach out to many more schools island wide. Eventually, I see this taskforce fostering an ecosystem that will reach out to Indian students and their families in every school—no matter how small the Indian population—and introduce them to the host of educational, character-development and assistance schemes that SINDA will have to offer. Schools that are already partnering with SINDA can tap on this taskforce as well, to explore and improve current offerings and better meet the needs of their students.
- I hope the various points I have touched on have impressed upon all of us the need to work closely. I express my appreciation to the schools, the school management and principals, SLOs and educators that are already on board with SINDA. You are an integral partner of the SINDA network and you play a key role in the success of our programmes, and ultimately the success of our students, the citizens of our future.
- For schools that are yet to join with us, I urge you to strongly consider introducing SINDA programmes at your school. It is an opportunity to to extend the breadth and depth of your current offerings, and provide students with more holistic resources that will help them in their academic pursuits.
- I thank you once again for your time, effort and dedication towards making a difference in the lives of our students, and I look forward to our continued partnership in enriching the lives of our students.