Parliament Secretary for Ministry for Education, Ms Low Yen Ling stated in Parliament during its last sitting in January that the current rate of expansion of the Primary Schools Student Care Centers (SCCs) has been meeting demand and that the Ministry of Education (MOE) will continue to monitor the demand for school-based SCCs places and work with schools to improve the accessibility of SCCs by setting up of new SCCs as well as expanding capacity for existing ones.
This was in response to questions filed by Mr Liang Eng Hwa from Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. Mr Liang had asked the Minister for Education (Schools) on the progress on the setting up of school-based SCCs in all primary schools and whether the Ministry is seeing increasing demand for more places, as well as whether the Ministry has plans to increase the number of places in each school.
Ms Low who answered on behalf of the Minister for Education (Schools), said, “MOE is on track to open SCCs in all Primary schools by end 2020. The provision of school-based SCC places has largely kept pace with demand as the majority of the schools do not have wait lists.”
She reiterated that within five years, MOE has steadily increased the number of school-based SCCs from less than 50 to 147 centers, which means 77 percent of our Primary schools have SCCs. Overall enrollment has risen steadily from about 3,000 to more than 18,000 students. For the schools with a wait list, the average number is less than 10.
Mr Liang further asked the Minister:
- Whether does MOE has plans to further scale up both SCCs for within the school as well as those that are inside the schools.
- Would MOE work with some of the Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) who are interested to set up SCCs which they slowed or stopped since the school-based SCCs were introduced?
Mr Liang thinks there is more demand (for the SCCs) and if MOE can increase the effort, it would especially help the working parents.
The Minister answered that MOE’s priority is to ensure that a nurturing environment is availed to the students who most need after-school care, where they can grow and flourish after school.
She explained, “Out of 147 SCCs in the Primary schools now, 45 percent of the SCCs are operated by VWOs and the remaining 55 percent of the centers are operated by private sector commercial operators.”
“We also recognise that demand may vary from school to school and from area to area. We work very closely with the school principals who will know, would have a good pulse check on the demand for SCC places in the school arising from meetings with parents and parents’ feedback,” she stated.
In places of higher demand, MOE works closely with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) as well as with the SCC operators, be it the VWOs or the private sector operators to increase capacity.
Ms Low said there are two ways to increase capacity; first is to open up a SCC in remaining Primary schools and second is to increase capacity in existing center. There will be another 43 SCCs to open to cover the total number of 190 Primary schools by year 2020, she said.
Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, Leon Perera also threw in his questions about the matter, asking whether MOE plays some role in reviewing the programs that the SCCs run to level up in terms of the quality of their programs and to share learnings as to the quality of the programs, and whether teachers in (some of) these SCCs trained to provide the appropriate care for students with different types of special needs.
Ms Low said the MOE team works closely with the MSF team to support the Student Care Officers (SCOs) working in the SCCs to provide care for the student after-school hours. MOE also work with them to provide professional development support.
“In August 2015, the MOE signed an MOU with the four self-help groups – CDAC, MENDAKI, SINDA and Eurasian Association (EA). Under the MOU, the four self-help groups have set up a joint venture company in November 2015 and they aim to set up 30 SCCs that would be owned by the self-help groups, which are also considered VWOs,” she said.
“They will set up 30 SCCs by year 2020 and they have reported to MOE that in January 2017, they have already hit 50 percent of the target. They already have SCCs in 15 schools to provide care for students who most need this,” she added.
And on children with special needs, Ms Low said that based on the feedback from parents, they see a lot of benefits of having their children stay in SCCs in a school-based environment.
It is within the school premises and this where the principal or the Allied Educator (AED) will be able to bridge the communications with the Student Care Officers with regard to the learning needs or learning difficulties of certain students in the SCCs and provide relevant support to them.
The support as being given is not just support from the MOE side but also the relevant disability division in MSF, Ms Low explained.