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More at-risk students to benefit from uplift scheme

Pilot programme to be expanded to about 100 schools to help 13,000 disadvantaged children

A pilot scheme to help at-risk students stay in school through after-school support and customised holiday programmes will be expanded to about 100 primary and secondary schools in the next few years.

About 13,000 students will benefit when the scheme is expanded, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

It is part of efforts aimed at closing the gaps that children from disadvantaged homes may face.

The scheme by the Ministry of Education (MOE), known as the Uplift Enhanced School Resourcing programme, has been piloted in 23 schools since 2019 and helped improve the academic work and school attendance of more than 2,000 students each year.

From next year, four to five more teachers will be deployed to each school in the programme, starting with another 24 schools, MOE said.

Speaking at a virtual appreciation event for educators and community partners, PM Lee said results from the pilot scheme are encouraging.

More primary school pupils have enrolled in their schools' student care centres, while secondary school students in the pilot now get along better with their classmates, he added.

While Singapore has made big strides in uplifting its people since independence, PM Lee said there is still work to be done to help children who grow up in disadvantaged circumstances.

"This is a never-ending mission. In every generation, there will always be some who do better and others who do less well," he said.

Singapore remains determined to prevent poverty and disadvantage from becoming entrenched from generation to generation, he added.

Another programme getting a boost is the Uplift Community Pilot, which involves volunteers checking in regularly with families and providing mentoring support via home visits and phone calls.

It has supported more than 300 primary and secondary school students in four areas - Boon Lay, Bukit Merah, Kreta Ayer and Woodlands - since January last year.

From next year, it will be rolled out nationwide in stages, starting with eight more areas - Bedok, Choa Chu Kang, Geylang Serai, Jalan Besar, Punggol, Sengkang, Toa Payoh and Yishun.

Its aim is to help about 1,800 students nationwide each year when fully implemented.

Likewise, KidStart, an early childhood pilot programme launched in 2016, is on track to support 5,000 children by 2023, said PM Lee.

It has shown good outcomes in helping lower-income couples prepare for parenthood and will be expanded nationwide thereafter to reach more families, he added.

PM Lee said: "Today, over 2,000 children have benefited. Their parents understand better how to nurture them. The children, in turn, are more confident in interacting and socialising, and they are picking up life skills like reading."

Beyond the school system, PM Lee said the home environment plays a crucial role. Difficulties at home, such as financial problems and conflict, can affect children's studies, as well as their mental and emotional well-being, he added.

PM Lee said the Community Link (ComLink) scheme will target 14,000 families with young children living in public rental housing over the next three years. ComLink aims to better coordinate the efforts of different agencies and community partners to help families.

PM Lee said social disparities have become more visible during crises like the Covid-19 pandemic.

For instance, switching to home-based learning was not smooth for every child due to limited access to laptops or lack of fast Internet connection at home.

These issues are likely to persist even after the pandemic, and family support, parental guidance and mentorship can make a lasting difference, he added.

Education