Opening Remarks by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education at Lutheran Community Care Services' Builders Connect

Published Date: 22 November 2021 12:00 PM

News Speeches

Mr. Justin Mui, Executive Director, LCCS

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Introduction

1. Good morning. It is a pleasure to be addressing all of you at the inaugural Builders Connect event organised by Lutheran Community Care Services (LCCS). I am heartened to see our schools work with community partners to adopt a whole-school approach in addressing students' needs holistically and promoting mental well-being in students.

2. In today's complex world, our children and youth are exposed to many forces that shape their environment and experiences, such as the nuclearization of families, compared to larger families in the past. They are constantly connected to their peers over social media, and exposed to different mindsets, values and ways of life from around the world through the internet, and the COVID-19 pandemic and technological disruptions have created a constant sense of uncertainty.

3. To help them navigate this dynamic environment, it is important to build the resilience and confidence of our children through a whole-of-society effort.

4. One key aspect of this is to build a caring and nurturing culture in our schools through partnerships between educators, parents and social service professionals.

5. The Builders Project is an example of such ongoing efforts. Piloted in 2015 as a collaboration between National Council of Social Services (NCSS) & LCCS, the programme has provided a safe and nurturing school environment for the children involved, regardless of backgrounds. Conceived as a whole-school approach, the LCCS team has strived to support teachers, parents and the children to build, strengthen and restore relationships with one another.

6. The Builders Project is anchored upon the evidence-based Restorative Practices which has been shown to help children better engage others in school. To empower all stakeholders involved to speak the same restorative language, the team has run workshops to equip teachers and parents.

7. To date, The Builders Project has worked with more than 1200 students and 150 teachers, and 60 parents across 6 primary schools. These students received guidance on how to develop effective relationships with their peers and trusted adults, which in turn helps them to become individuals who are more resilient and confident.

8. One meaningful feature of the programme happens during the "building phase". Students are seated in a circle to share their feelings and struggles with their classmates. Students are encouraged to listen to their classmates, and to show empathy and care while supporting one another as peers. This practice widens their circle of support and build a sense of connectedness in the class community.

9. Let me share the experience of Manfred, a Primary 4 boy who benefitted from this programme. He had previously shoplifted so that he could give his classmates gifts to please them and make them accept him. The Builders team brought Manfred, his mother and teachers together to acknowledge the difficult family circumstances that led to Manfred's behaviour, as well as guide him to realise that his actions have hurt the people who care for him, and that acceptance from peers is not based on gifting.

10. Through the facilitated conversation, he has built a positive relationship with the shopkeeper. Manfred accepted the shopkeeper's suggestion to water a plant daily while reflecting on his actions.

11. Together with the LCCS staff, he presented the plant to the shopkeeper when it was fully grown. Just like the plant, Manfred has grown from this incident with the help from the Builders team. More about Manfred's story will be shown in a video later.

12. As part of efforts to strengthen the mental well-being of our children, the Builders team has also adapted the programme to build a more inclusive and relational school environment for students.

13. Emphasis is placed on building a safe space amongst the class community for all students to voice out on how they are coping. This allows students to empathise with those who are facing difficulties, and take steps to support them. Through this, the Builders team hope to see students feeling empowered in a culture of care and take the initiative to look out for one another in the school setting.

14. In addition, teachers' mental well-being is supported through their involvement in self-care circles. The process provides a safe space for teachers to share their burdens with their peers, and promote self-exploration and self-compassion in an empathetic and supportive atmosphere.

15. Let me conclude by saying that I am encouraged to see more community efforts to support the mental well-being of our children and youth from all backgrounds. These efforts complement the Character and Citizenship curriculum in our schools to reinforce the development of prosocial values and skills, and empower our students to form strong and positive relationships in schools and beyond.

16. May the good work of social service agencies like LCCS inspire other community partners to work with our schools.

17. I wish all of you a fruitful session of learning and connecting. Thank you.

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