Addenda to President's Address: Social mobility, training opportunities on MSF, MOE's agenda

SINGAPORE – Singaporeans hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis will continue to get support from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), which will be reviewing and strengthening the country’s social safety nets.

Support for the mental and family well-being will also be boosted, said Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli on Tuesday (Aug 25) in his ministry’s addendum to the President’s Address.

These are among a raft of measures on his ministry’s action plan to help people cope with the crisis and ensure social mobility.

“The crisis will not divert us from our efforts to improve social mobility,” the minister said, adding that his ministry will dovetail its efforts with the National Jobs Council’s task to train Singaporeans and help them find jobs.

Schemes to team up groups to actively reach out to those who need support will also be expanded, including the SG Cares Community Network and Community Link initiative that serve families in rental flats. “This has become especially important, as Covid-19 has exacerbated the challenges faced by vulnerable segments of our society who have less resources to buffer against the impact,” said Mr Masagos.

The MSF’s agenda includes: reaching out to people with disabilities and their caregivers, encouraging family-friendly practices such as flexible work and work-from-home arrangements, and adopting a more preventive approach and better rehabilitative methods to help youth-at-risk and offenders.

To ensure that every child can start off on the same footing, KidStart will be expanded to benefit more children. This is a programme for disadvantaged children that provides advice and support to families in areas such as child development and parent-child interaction.

EDUCATION MINISTRY’S PLEDGE TO SUSTAIN SOCIAL MOBILITY

The MSF’s efforts to tackle inequality will be augmented by the Ministry of Education (MOE), which also released its addendum on Tuesday.

“With Covid-19’s disproportionate impact on the disadvantaged, we are redoubling our efforts to make sure no child is left behind,” said Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who added that education remains the best way for Singapore to sustain and strengthen social mobility.

Partnerships under the MOE’s Uplift initiative, which sees schools and the community working together to support students from disadvantaged families, will be deepened to further help students.

In addition, new opportunities will be created for students of different backgrounds to interact and build bonds with one another, like through co-curricular activities.

With blended learning – mixing classroom lessons with online lessons – becoming an integral feature of the curriculum from next year, all secondary school students will get personal digital learning devices by the end of next year.

The MOE will also continue its move to shift away from an academics-focused approach, by pouring more resources into helping students develop holistically, and helping Singaporeans acquire skills.

Aptitude-based admissions at the six autonomous universities in Singapore will be widened, and more common entry programmes will be introduced in polytechnics and universities so that students have more time to decide on their academic specialisations.

More subsidised training pathways will also be opened for Institute of Technical Education graduates and working adults.

Students can also get more support, with a boost in the number of education and career guidance counsellors, allied educators and teachers.

Teachers’ skills in working with students with special needs will be improved, too.

“In the midst of crisis, we are seizing opportunities to reshape our education system for the longer term, and to accelerate improvements in the way we teach and learn,” said Mr Wong.

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