1. As part of UPLIFT’s (Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce) ongoing efforts to support students from disadvantaged families, the Taskforce has developed some strategies and initiatives to address the challenges and issues that hinder these students from achieving their true potential.
2. The Taskforce has held multiple engagements with stakeholders such as students, school staff, frontline social workers and community partners since October 2018. To address complex issues facing disadvantaged families, the Taskforce has also been partnering community stakeholders to discuss ground-up collaborations at the local and community level. Based on the initial feedback and ideas garnered, it has identified six strategies to focus on:
- Strengthen after-school care and support for students;
- Build students’ mental and emotional resilience;
- Strengthen parental engagement and support;
- Implement practical solutions to absenteeism;
- Enhance collaboration between schools and the community;
- Strengthen coordination across these initiatives.
3. In line with these strategies, the Taskforce will work on two initiatives first - enhancing after-school care support for students, and setting up an internal UPLIFT Programme Office to strengthen the support for schools’ outreach and coordination with other agencies, so as to better serve these students and their families. We will work with schools and community partners to implement these progressively in 2019. Other UPLIFT initiatives are still being developed and will be announced at a later date.
Strengthening After-School Care and Support for Disadvantaged Students
4. Naturally, students need a safe and nurturing environment to play, learn and revise their schoolwork after school. MOE will be strengthening after-school care and support programmes, especially for disadvantaged students, to enhance their motivation, build resilience and help them achieve better education outcomes.
5. MOE is on track to having a Student Care Centre (SCC) in every primary school by 2020. Over the years, MOE has increased the enrolment in school-based SCCs multifold, from 3,000 in 2012 to about 25,000 this year. The Taskforce will step up efforts to facilitate the enrolment of low-income students, especially those with no alternative home-care arrangements, into school-based SCCs. This includes looking into any practical barriers, such as financial difficulties, that these families may face when considering whether to enrol their children in SCCs.
6. Since 2014, secondary schools have piloted after-school programmes that cater to students who need closer after-school supervision and support. This support includes a dedicated space for students’ self-study, mentoring by teachers or youth workers, and opportunities to participate in non-curricular interest-based activities. Some of these programmes are also run by and done in collaboration with community partners and volunteers.
7. As such efforts have improved students’ connectedness to learning, peers and their schools, MOE will enhance and scale up after-school programmes from the existing 60 secondary schools to 120 schools by 2020. The consolidated after-school engagement will be known as GEAR-UP (Guiding & Empowering students for Affiliation and Resilience to Unlock their Potential). Through GEAR-UP, schools will not only provide customised support and after-school engagement, but also work closely with community partners to strengthen students’ social-emotional competencies and social skills.
Strengthening Collaboration between Stakeholders and Tightening Coordination Efforts
8. UPLIFT will work closely with schools, other Government agencies and community partners to build an ecosystem of support around disadvantaged students and their families, so that they can receive help not just in school but also from the community. To better tap the efforts of grassroots organisations, Self-Help Groups, Voluntary Welfare Organisations and even passionate individual volunteers, MOE will set up an internal Programme Office (PO) to:
Map out the needs of disadvantaged students in schools to facilitate outreach and matching to suitable programmes and assistance;
Support schools in leveraging community assets and volunteer networks by facilitating sustainable school-community partnerships; and
Monitor feedback and track outcomes of families and students over time to evaluate the effectiveness of our interventions.
9. MOE is also supporting MSF’s efforts to tighten the local coordination among Social Service Offices (SSOs) and Family Service Centres (FSCs), schools, other community organisations and VWOs, to strengthen outreach and case management for families who need it, for example, by improving data sharing and coordination of complex cases.
10. With these initiatives and others to be announced over the course of this year, the Taskforce remains committed to inspiring families and uplifting pupils, as we work towards a society of opportunities for all.