MOE FY2019 Committee of Supply Debate Response by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim

Published Date: 05 March 2019 12:00 AM

News Speeches

INTRODUCTION

1. Mr Chairman, our schools remain committed to preparing our children to learn for life, but we cannot do it alone. We call on parents, industry and community partners to complement our efforts.

SCHOOL-HOME-COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP IN RESILIENCE BUILDING AND MENTAL HEALTH EDUCATION

2. To address Mr Gan Thiam Poh’s question, I will begin by speaking about MOE’s partnership efforts.

3. Launched in February, the Guidelines for School-Home Partnership clarifies how schools and parents can work together to develop the child in various domains, such as values, physical, mental, social and academic. MOE launched these guidelines as the partnership between schools and parents has evolved into a broad range of practices and expectations over time. Some of these, such as helicopter parenting and over-servicing by schools, can be detrimental to building critical 21st century skills and competencies, in particular the resilience and confidence of our children. The guidelines serve to provide greater consistency of practice within and across schools and many parents are supportive of them.

4. Besides schools and parents, our community and industry partners also play a part in preparing our children for life. Project Mi was a Values In Action (VIA) project organised by student leaders in Bukit Batok Secondary School that involved the collection and distribution of rice to low-income households. While student leaders from NTU mentored them in the project, the Bukit Batok Citizens Consultative Committee assisted in identifying the low-income households and parents also provided the manpower and transport required for the delivery of rice. Through this partnership, students had the opportunity to meet community needs and become more confident, self-directed and responsible citizens.

5. Beyond being sound in values, our students will also need to be mentally strong and resilient to be well prepared for the future. In response to Ms Anthea Ong, mental health and wellness education is important work that we have been doing in schools.

6. From primary school, we teach social and emotional skills to equip our students to overcome challenges and handle the demands of life, educate them on common mental health conditions and clarify inaccurate perceptions of mental issues. In addition, we have introduced a training programme in schools which equips students to be peer supporters to help identify distress among their friends and be supportive. Through co-curricular activities, outdoor camps and community service, opportunities are also provided to develop resilience and confidence.

7. Nonetheless, mental health is a complex and multi-faceted issue that is of global concern. There is no single solution and hence a many-hands approach to addressing this is needed. Such an approach benefitted Haisan, a Secondary 3 student from Northbrooks Secondary School.

8. Haisan was facing family challenges which affected him mentally and emotionally and this led him to skip school frequently. Haisan’s teachers and the school counsellor conducted home visits and referred him to the Enhanced Step-Up Programme (ESU), a programme by MSF that provides support for at-risk students. Together, the school and the youth worker from the programme helped Haisan to process and manage his social and emotional stress, helping him become more confident, emotionally stronger and resilient. Haisan has since developed positive relationships with his family, teachers and peers and is now contributing actively in his school’s Dance CCA and Special Interest Group, Music Circle.

CONCLUSION

9. Mr Chairman, we need to recognise that the complexities of the world today mean that we cannot educate our children in silos. It is when we work together with mutual trust and respect that our children benefit most.

10. Let me share a personal anecdote. When my son was in primary school, my wife and I encouraged him in his initial interest in debate. Along the way, we had the pleasure of meeting his teachers who guided the teams, staying late in school to train them. As parents, my wife and I would bring him out to dinner after training and competitions or the occasional pep talk for motivation, we even celebrated losses. It was never about the winning or losing of his debates, but about the process of learning and the camaraderie built with his teammates. Neither us nor him expected this journey to span eight years of debating, but the close support from his family, teachers, coaches and the debating community helped him to tide through the tough times. Today, he continues to share this joy by coming back to spar with his juniors.

11. Mr Chairman, developing our children’s passions requires support and commitment from parents, schools and the community. It may not be for us to say where they will find their passion but that is something solely for them to discover. Thank you.

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