School Absenteeism

Published Date: 03 February 2020 12:00 AM

News Parliamentary Replies

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Ms Cheng Li Hui, Tampines GRC

Question

To ask the Minister for Education with regard to school absenteeism (a) what are the standard operating procedures when students fail to report at their secondary schools; (b) what is the minimum period of absenteeism before these procedures are activated; (c) what is the number of absenteeism dealt with by secondary schools over the last 10 years; and (d) how successful are the schools in reducing absenteeism and whether further intervention is necessary.

Response

1. When secondary one students fail to report at their new schools, their respective primary schools will be informed and asked to contact the students and their parents. If they had been absent without good reason, the primary school will counsel and urge the students to report for school, or the parents to send them to schools. Should the students have any difficulties or are caught in special circumstances, the schools will work with relevant government agencies and community groups to resolve the issues they are facing.

2. For secondary students who are absent on any given day, all schools have in place a system to contact their parents to find out the reasons for their absence. Students who suffer from irregular school attendance will be counselled, and receive home visits and after-school engagement. School counsellors and Student Welfare Officers may also work with the family and other community partners to encourage them to return to school.

3. In addition, we have organized after-school programmes and activities that engage these students by building friendships and relationships with mentors and trusted adults, and generate healthy peer support. Last year, more than 70 secondary schools have set up after-school centres offering such programmes, and these have benefited more than 3000 students. This has been scaled up to 120 secondary schools this year. As a result of coordinated whole-school efforts, the number of secondary school students who were absent without valid reason for 60 days or more has stabilised at around 7 per 1000 students for the past three years.

4. Nonetheless, there are still some students who are absent from school. The underlying reasons for their long-term absenteeism are often complex. To support these students and their families, MOE taps on the expertise and networks of partner agencies such as the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), community or self-help groups, family service centres and social service agencies.

5. Furthermore, UPLIFT (Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce) will collaborate with MSF to tackle long-term absenteeism upstream through a pilot community-based support network for disadvantaged students in the estates of Woodlands, Kreta Ayer and Boon Lay. Schools will identify students who show early signs of absenteeism and refer them to a designated UPLIFT Town-Level Coordinator (TLC) in the Social Service Office. The TLC will then connect the students and their families to suitable local programmes and resources, to build protective safeguards around the student and family earlier, so as to encourage the student to attend school regularly.

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