Parliamentary Replies

November 20, 2018

UPLIFT - Intervention to consider review of the Children and Young Persons Act

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mr Murali Pillai, Bukit Batok

Question

To ask the Minister for Education with regard to the set-up of the Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce to study ways and means to help children from disadvantaged homes to level up, whether the task force can consider reviewing the adequacy of the statutory levers provided in the Children and Young Persons Act and, if deemed appropriate, recommend steps to enhance the Act for the purpose of achieving the stated objective.

Response

1. The Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce (UPLIFT) has been set up to enhance support for disadvantaged students. UPLIFT’s focus is to identify the main factors and issues that prevent disadvantaged students from accessing or receiving the full benefit of our educational system and to devise practical solutions to overcome these obstacles.

2. The primary objective of the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA) is the protection of children who have been seriously harmed (for example, victims of physical abuse) or who are at risk of serious harm. Its statutory levers are essentially designed for the Government to take action to protect the children from further harm.

3. There may be instances where children are prevented from doing well educationally due to harm inflicted by family members or other adults. In those instances, the CYPA would be invoked. As the provisions of the CYPA are adequate for its purpose, reviewing it will not be UPLIFT’s focus.

4. However, the more commonly occurring situation is one where there is no physical harm or abuse of the children per se but where children from disadvantaged backgrounds nevertheless underperform. The reasons for their underperformance are complex and multifactorial, and often have their roots in the child’s home environment and family situation.

5. We have preliminarily identified 3 areas of focus: first, how to improve and strengthen these students’ motivation and resilience; second, getting to the root of the underlying reasons of long-term absenteeism in our primary and secondary schools, as failure to attend school is a common factor among underperforming students; third, strengthening engagement and outreach to parents of disadvantaged families, with a view to improving their awareness of and connection to social and other relevant assistance, empowering them to overcome challenges and obstacles and providing support that would enable them to prioritise their children’s education.

6. Nevertheless, if there are other pertinent issues that need to be addressed in order to help these students, the Honourable Member and others are welcome to provide their feedback and input to the Taskforce for consideration.