Speech by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education, at TOUCH Family Conference

Published Date: 02 June 2022 09:30 AM

News Speeches

Introduction

1. Good morning guests of honour. All of you have been working hard to bring about change, and to touch the lives of our people. And today you are rightfully the guests of honour.

2. I would like to congratulate TOUCH on its family conference which is held for the second year running.

Family as the bedrock of our society

3. All of us here believe that families are the essential component units in our society. Families help to shape our lives, nurture our growth, and support us to become our better selves.

4. Everyone here will also agree that all families go through challenges at times.

5. Every generation will have our fair share of challenges. Every generation will have to evolve ways to overcome our respective challenges.

6. For this generation, I think we have three key challenges.

7. It is important for us to talk about how we can overcome these challenges at the individual, community and societal level.

What Is the State of the Family Today?

8. First, let us take a look at the state of our family today. Our first challenge is that the size of our families continues to shrink, and nuclearise.

  1. Each household has fewer people today than a decade ago.
  2. There are also fewer households with multi-generational families living together.
  3. Smaller families mean that there are fewer resources and less support in each family, including the presence of working adults who can support elderly family members, adults to guide the young.

9. Second, our families now face many new stressors.

  1. The more connected world has accentuated the ability and desire to compare incessantly and more intensely. It has reshaped one's aspirations and sense of one's position in society. This often leads to greater stress and anxiety among parents and their children.
  2. These are over and above the variety of stressors on a day-to-day basis, such as juggling family and work commitments, and managing care arrangements.
  3. Some of our vulnerable families are also facing acute and complex challenges, which we know COVID-19 has exacerbated.

10. Third, we know that as societies mature and become more developed, there is always the risk that resources, as well as disadvantages, may get passed on from generation to generation – accentuating inequality and reducing social mobility. Stratification happens. Much more has to be done to keep societies mobile, and for us to help everyone to realise their potential regardless of their starting point in life. While the absolute outcomes of our least advantaged families continue to improve over time, their relative outcomes remain a source of concern for us all.

  1. We will need to keep moving together, to counter stratification and ensure that social mobility continues to be a mainstay for families in Singapore.
  2. Social mobility must continue to be the defining feature of our Singapore social compact.

A Whole-Of-Society Approach to Supporting Family Resilience

11. We can mount a whole-of-society effort to strengthen the family as a core institution of our society.

12. Individually, we need to strengthen the confidence of our children and people to navigate a more uncertain, more connected, and faster-paced world. To develop skill sets and values that enable our people to thrive and to bounce back from adversity.

13. As a community, we also need to continue strengthening our networks of support for families, and enhancing their linkages with their extended families, to counter the continued nuclearisation of the family unit. We also need to work together to provide better support and access to resources to strengthen family resilience amidst all the changes.

  1. On this note, I would like to commend the new community initiative by TOUCH, named 'The Pebble Walk', which will be featured in different precincts in Tanjong Pagar GRC in support of Beyond the Label.
  2. Truly, we need a collective effort to achieve an inclusive society, where people with mental health conditions are no longer stigmatised, and where help-seeking behaviour is encouraged.

14. At the national level, we also want to continue uplifting families across generations.

  1. To do this, we adopt a life course approach.
    1. Starting from a younger age, we are making pre-school education more accessible, especially for the less privileged families among us.
    2. For school-going children who need support, we are expanding the number of schools that receive additional resources and teachers for targeted intervention programmes.
    3. In post-secondary education, we are strengthening support measures for students with higher needs, and providing job placements and career guidance.
  2. Beyond the education system, we are also working to better provide for the needs of families. Examples include:
    1. The building of inter-generational ties as supported through housing schemes, such as the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme and Proximity Housing Grant.
    2. More students and families in need will also be matched with community resources through the UPLIFT Community Network, expanding support to a total of 12 towns this year.
    3. Lifelong training, which allows our people to keep pace with economic demands, to earn a respectable income and take care of their families are also an important part. It is not just about how well our graduates do at the starting point in their career, it is also how well they are able to progress throughout their careers that will prevent intergenerational disadvantages from being passed from one generation to the next;
    4. We will continue to enhance support for career guidance and transitions, not just for entry to the job market, but for mid-career and older workers as well.

Conclusion

15. There is something that all of us can do. The presence of all of you here today – researchers, professionals, families, public officers, and more – represent the ecosystem of care we can provide to families. You are able to initiate programmes to help individuals establish a strong foundation amidst the challenges. You are the ones who can bring the resources and come together to formulate community-specific solutions to meet the diverse needs of the community. You are the partners who are working closely with Government agencies to develop programmes and to carry out the last mile work that is necessary to translate all the national programmes into tangible help for our families in need.

16. Let us all work together to help our families overcome these challenges at the individual, community and national level. Let us work hard to make sure that as Singapore continues to progress, we prevent intergenerational disadvantages from being passed on from one generation to the next so that we can truly realise the dream of being a Singaporean. And we will always distinguish ourselves as a community where everyone can develop to their fullest potential regardless of their starting point in life.

17. As I was sharing with public officers yesterday, the Singapore compact is about the following:

  1. First, ensuring that everyone can fulfil their potential.
  2. Second, ensuring that every generation can do better than the previous generation.
  3. And third, whenever we encounter a challenge, we all come together to play our part – at the individual level, community level and national level, and from the people sector, private sector and public sector.

18. We will distinguish ourselves as a nation because we will always come together cohesively, and in unity to overcome any challenges that we may face.

19. On that note, I look forward to the discussion with you on how we can develop solutions that cater to our specific communities, mobilising the resources from different people of different sectors.

20. Thank you very much and all the best.

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