School absenteeism

Published Date: 01 February 2021 09:00 PM

News Parliamentary Replies


Mr Muhamad Faisal Bin Abdul Manap, Aljunied GRC


To ask the Minister for Education (a) in the past three years, what is the number of cases of secondary school students who are absent from school for more than six months; (b) what are the reasons for their absenteeism; (c) what are the steps taken by schools in managing such situations; and (d) of these students, how many of them decided to (i) continue or (ii) discontinue their schooling.


1. The number of secondary school students who are absent from school for more than half the school year has remained low at around 3 per 1000 students for the past 3 years. About one-third of them discontinue their schooling despite all efforts by schools to encourage them to return.

2. Students become long-term absentees due to a combination of reasons, such as personal and family circumstances, desire to earn an income rather than study, negative peer influence outside of school, difficulties coping with studies, resulting in loss of motivation to continue schooling.

3. Schools put in place early identification and intervention processes to support long-term absentees. Form teachers and School Counsellors reach out to students with irregular school attendance to understand and address their challenges, and Student Welfare Officers conduct home visits and work with Family Service Centres (FSCs) to engage parents in order to encourage the student to return to school.

4. Early upstream intervention is critical, to strengthen students’ engagement and sense of belonging to school, to prevent occasional non-attendance from becoming long-term absenteeism. Secondary schools have set up after-school programmes, which focus on befriending and mentoring, strengthening peer relationships and self-management skills, and utilising interest-based activities to engage students.

5. Under UPLIFT (Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce), MOE collaborates with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to address absenteeism issues early, through a mixture of school and community-based support. Schools in three pilot areas – Woodlands, Kreta Ayer and Boon Lay – refer students with emerging signs of absenteeism to an UPLIFT Town-Level Coordinator (TLC) based at the Social Service Office (SSO), who will assess the problems faced by these students and their families and refer them to appropriate agencies, local programmes and resources, such as drop-in centres and family befriending.

6. For students with chronic absenteeism or drop out eventually, MOE taps on partners such as the SSOs, FSCs, Self-Help Groups and SSAs to continue supporting them. For example, they may be referred to the Enhanced STEP-UP Programme where appointed Social Service Agencies (SSAs) engage the student to support their continued education.

Share this article: