MOE FY2021 Committee of Supply Debate Response by Minister of State for Education Sun Xueling

Published Date: 03 March 2021 09:10 PM

News Speeches

Learn for Life – Equipping Ourselves for a Changing World

Strengthening Support for Mental Well-Being

1. Mr Chairman Sir, I thank Members like Mr Patrick Tay, Dr Wan Rizal, Mr Shawn Huang, Ms Carrie Tan and Ms Janet Ang for their thoughtful and timely questions on MOE's support for students' well-being.

Mental Health Education (CCE 2021) and Training for Teachers

CCE 2021 Implementation

2. As Minister Wong has shared, we have been implementing the refreshed Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) curriculum, starting with secondary schools this year.

3. The CCE curriculum has an updated, stronger emphasis on Mental Health and Cyber Wellness Education.

4. Students will learn about topics like differentiating signs of stress and distress, and healthy habits for positive well-being.

5. We recognise the nexus between increasing digital usage and mental health concerns, even more so amongst our young who may not know how to regulate their use of social media.

6. Teachers will work alongside student peer supporters to look out for other students. We will also work with parents to help guide their young in the use of online media.

7. During CCE lessons, students will learn to identify risks in the digital space, such as doxing or scams, discern unverified or inappropriate content, and take steps to protect themselves and others.

8. Schools will also guide students to report cyber-bullying and harmful content to the online service provider.

9. In secondary schools and pre-universities, students will discuss contemporary issues of interest such as environmental sustainability, race and religion.

10. Through CCE 2021, we hope that students will be equipped to become more resilient, stay mentally healthy, and engage one another respectfully and constructively on issues.

Teacher Training: Centre for CCE in NIE

11. Ms Carrie Tan and Dr Shahira Abdullah have also asked how teachers are equipped to strengthen mental health support and navigate contemporary issues.

12. We will be launching a new 'Centre for CCE' at NIE to helm teacher education for CCE by end-2022.

13. The Centre will bring together local and international experts in CCE research and professional development and provide critical thought leadership in this field.

14. This could establish NIE as a leader for CCE in the region.

15. The Centre signals our strong commitment to be evidence-based in our curricular and pedagogical approaches.

16. As part of strengthening teachers' professional development for CCE, our courses equip teachers with the skills to teach CCE.

17. MOE has regular dialogues with our educators to understand their teaching needs and also be attuned to the issues that students are concerned about.

18. Every secondary school also has trained Specialised CCE Teachers to role model and coach other teachers in facilitating challenging CCE discussions.

19. From 2022 onwards, every pre-university institution will also be equipped with Specialised CCE Teachers.

Programmes & Curriculum, and Support in Schools and IHLS

Programmes & Curriculum

20. Beyond CCE, our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) are enhancing mental health support, by strengthening programmes on mental wellness literacy and awareness.

21. Our polytechnics and ITE have worked with the Health Promotion Board to launch a new mental wellness curriculum for all Year 1 students from 2020 and 2021 respectively, to raise awareness and understanding of mental health and also to foster early help-seeking behaviour.

22. The AUs are also promoting mental wellness through briefings during freshmen orientation and university-wide programmes.

Peer Support

23. Another key pillar of mental health support is peer support. Hence, as MOE has announced last year, we will establish a peer support culture and structure in every school by the end of this year.

24. Currently, all IHLs have peer support programmes.

25. From this year, schools will also appoint dedicated Key Personnel to oversee peer support and student well-being matters.

26. They will tap on student peer supporters to help students involved in incidents that affect their well-being.

Professional Support

27. Alongside peer support, I agree with Mr Darryl David that counselling and guidance must be made readily available to those who need it. Counsellors are vital members of the student support team.

28. MOE will continue to grow the number of teacher counsellors and equip them further over time.

Community Support

29. MOE's efforts complement larger nationwide movements to destigmatise mental health and encourage help-seeking.

30. Last year, MSF, MOH and MOE started the Youth Mental Well-Being Network. Over 1,500 enthusiastic individuals came together to strengthen the youth mental well-being space.

31. I am proud to share that the network has initiated ideas for over 30 potential ground-up projects.

32. One team I've met is equipping parents to strengthen emotional literacy in their children.

33. Another team is working on reframing perceptions of counselling and destigmatising help-seeking.

34. I sincerely thank the Network members for their efforts and we warmly welcome others to join them!

35. As we emerge from COVID and face ongoing challenges, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

36. But the journey within each and every one of us is not a journey we need to walk alone.

37. Let this be our gentle encouragement and steadfast commitment to one another.

Strengthening Support for Students with SEN

38. Chairman, I would now like to reaffirm MOE's commitment to an important group – students with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

39. In recent years, we have developed the landscape significantly.

40. As Mdm Rahayu Mahzam has suggested, we need to grow our students with Special Educational Needs as well as typically-developing students in the soft skills that will last them into adult life.

1) Support across Stages and Transitions

41. Learned members such as Ms Denise Phua and Mr Shawn Huang have shared how transitioning between stages can be daunting for students, especially those with Special Educational Needs.

Into Primary School: 'TRANSIT' Intervention for P1 Students with Social and Behavioural Needs

42. For instance, for preschool children, moving to P1 can be a major transition, as Mr Patrick Tay had mentioned.

43. To help them along, MOE's Nurturing Early Learners framework, which is used by MOE Kindergartens (MKs) and other preschools, focuses on nurturing children's curiosity, socio-emotional and motor skills and love for learning, alongside basic literacy and numeracy goals.

44. But we recognise that some students with SEN need further support.

45. MOE is therefore introducing a new targeted intervention, called TRANSIT (or TRANsition Support for InTegration), to all primary schools by 2026 for P1 students with social and behavioural needs.

46. These students will receive support from Allied Educators (Learning and Behavioural Support) and teachers to develop foundational self-management skills, in small groups and in their classrooms, during their P1 year.

47. By the end of P1, students should be able to learn independently in class, with occasional help.

48. One of the first pilot schools is Elias Park Primary.

49. One student, let's call him M, had a difficult time adjusting when he entered P1. He would lie on the floor and shout in class.

50. Through TRANSIT, our teachers and Allied Educators (LBS) taught M self-management skills, such as working within his personal space and communication. He was prompted to apply these skills throughout the school day and his parents reinforced them at home.

51. Today, M has a positive learning attitude and he interacts well with his peers.

52. By end-2021, MOE would have piloted TRANSIT in about 40 schools – or one out of five primary schools.

53. As the pilot outcomes have been promising, MOE will roll out TRANSIT in all primary schools by 2026, benefitting around five to 10 P1 students in each school per year.

Into Secondary School: Peer Support Networks

54. For adolescents, entering secondary school is another milestone.

55. Through school-based interventions such as 'Circle of Friends' and peer support structures in every school, schools are building an inclusive culture where peers actively look out for one another and those with Special Educational Needs.

56. Ms Phua and Mdm Rahayu have asked about MOE's plans to support students with Special Educational Needs in mainstream schools to better prepare them for the next phase of their lives. We have increased the number of AEDs(LBS) in our schools, who work alongside teachers and ECG counsellors to prepare students with Special Educational Needs for further studies and work.

Opportunities for Interaction

57. We agree with Mdm Rahayu on the importance of promoting interaction between students with and without SEN. Mr Mark Chay has pointed out the benefits of para-sports.

58. One key way to sustained relationships between mainstream and SPED schools is through Satellite Partnerships. MOE will strengthen these partnerships and work with Ms Phua and other sector leaders to increase opportunities for meaningful interaction.

59. We will continue to work with schools and partners to develop more inclusion opportunities, including para-sports, that meet our diverse students' needs, develop their strengths and forge mutual understanding and respect.

Into IHLs

60. As students progress to IHLs, they can receive course guidance, access arrangements, SEN-related funding for Assistive Technology devices and support services, and also internship support.

Onto Post-School Pathways

61. Finally, Mr Patrick Tay and Ms Denise Phua have asked about SPED students' transition from school to work.

62. SPED graduates can take up certifications like ITE Skills Certificate or Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ), or participate in the School-to-Work (S2W) Transition Programme by MOE, MSF and SG Enable, which provides customised training pathways, job matching, and work options.

63. I salute the SPED schools for their personalised approach to finding job opportunities and matching their students to jobs.

64. Overall, about half of SPED graduates are successfully employed or progress to post-secondary educational institutions like ITE and other further training.

2) Support through Infrastructure and Professional Development

65. MOE affirms its strong commitment to the SPED sector. As Ms Phua has observed, we build schools, provide significant funding and send personnel to work with Social Service Agencies and also to contribute their expertise.

Expansion of Capacity of SPED schools in the West for Students with Mild Intellectual Disability (MID)

66. I would now like to share about the expansion of capacity of SPED schools. We will be expanding Grace Orchard School (GOS). This is to help meet the demand for places in the West region and enhance the accessibility of SPED schools serving students with Mild Intellectual Disability (MID).

67. With the expansion, GOS will cater to 600 students aged seven to 18, from 450 today.

68. In our work to expand GOS, as with the other seven new SPED schools, we work in consultation with the Social Service Agencies' staff to improve students' educational experiences. Our students can look forward to: One, new vocational training facilities; Two, larger classrooms and modulation spaces to cater to students who also have Autism Spectrum Disorder; and Three, facilities for PE and sports, like sheltered playgrounds and outdoor fitness areas.

Collaborating to grow skills and envision as a community in support of students with SEN

69. Alongside enhanced infrastructure, we will develop the skills of all school personnel in both mainstream and SPED schools, through coaching, pre-service training and in-service courses.

70. Our teachers frequently come together across schools, sharing and innovating with their practices. We seek to build on the strong spirit of collaboration which we are seeing amongst the SPED schools.

71. Thus, we agree wholeheartedly with Ms Phua's call that MOE, together with other agencies, stakeholders and SPED staff, should work together to envision a brighter future for our SPED graduates and their families.

72. As we strive to make our education system more inclusive, where each and every child is recognised, appreciated and supported for who they are, I call on everyone to play a part in making this reality possible.

73. Mr Chairman Sir, in Chinese please.

74. 世界瞬息万变,克服挑战的韧性及毅力尤为重要,因此我们需要更加重视学生们的品格教育。

[The rapidly changing world brings many challenges to students. To equip them to develop the resilience to surmount these challenges requires a concerted effort and a steadfast commitment to leave no one behind.]

75. 为此,我们将设立一所品格与公民教育中心,以强化教师们在这方面的师资培训,同时也发展出更有益于学生的教学法。同时,品格与公民教育必须建立在良好价值观的基础之上,这需要学校、母语教师、家庭及社区的紧密合作。

[We are thus launching a new centre for CCE to helm teacher education for CCE and also develop pedagogies which will best help our students. We also recognise that CCE education has to be founded on values and we will work closely with mother tongue teachers, families and the community to deliver CCE effectively.]

76. 我们也会推出新计划,比如新生融入支援,或TRANSIT,让那些在社交方面可能需要帮助的小一新生们,让他们受益。

[We are also rolling out new initiatives such as TRANSIT which will benefit young children with social and behavioural needs and who need support as they enter Primary 1.]

77. 在孩子刚开始小学旅程的关键时期,这种有针对性的措施将帮助学生们更好地融入学校环境。我们相信这些一点一滴的工作,将有利于打造一个更具包容性的学习环境。谢谢大家!

[Such targeted interventions at a milestone in a child's education journey can help ensure that no child is left behind. We also firmly believe that these little steps all add up in building a more inclusive society. Thank you.]

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