10 schools to get officers trained in social work
Tuesday, 17 February 2015
SINGAPORE: To better support students in difficult family
circumstances, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will deploy one social
work-trained officer each to selected schools to reach out to them and their
families in ways that teachers and school counsellors might not be able to.
Known as student welfare officers, the ministry will introduce
these officers into 10 schools - five secondary and five primary schools - by
next month. The pilot will run for at least a year and be evaluated to
determine the future scalability of such a scheme.
The 10 schools are Hong Kah Secondary, Shuqun Secondary,
Greenview Secondary, CHIJ St Theresa Convent Secondary , North View Secondary,
Gan Eng Seng Primary, MacPherson Primary, Yio Chu Kang Primary, Juying Primary
and Boon Lay Garden Primary.
The officers, who are trained in social work, will work closely
with parents to help students stay engaged in learning, said an MOE
spokesperson — particularly those who struggle with attending school, have
behavioural issues, and experience difficulties in their home and social
The student welfare officers will also tap social services
agencies and community resources where necessary, added the spokesperson. This
might include connecting families with voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs)
that provide youth and family programmes. The officers could also work with
social service offices located in housing estates to offer the families help in
the form of financial assistance
and job matching.
Youth workers have said keeping troubled youth engaged in school
remains a worrying issue because of social problems such as broken families and
MOE statistics show that less than 1 per cent of each Primary
One cohort in the last five years has failed to complete secondary school.
In 2012, a National Institute of Education study involving 3,000
youth revealed that youth gamers spent about 20 hours a week on gaming and
about 10 per cent of them displayed symptoms of obsessive video gaming.
Since 2005, all schools have had at least one resident
counsellor on hand to guide students in aspects of socio-emotional and mental
health. Principals can also seek VWOs to help conduct home visits and provide intervention programmes.
OFFICERS, COMMUNITY RESOURCES HELP PROVIDE SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS AND THEIR
Principals participating in the pilot said the student welfare
officers will help facilitate the use of community resources to provide
holistic support for students and their families.
Said Yio Chu Kang Primary School principal Teo Whye Choo: “We recognise that in
certain cases, such as marital discord, the complex and difficult family
circumstances of some students go beyond what the form teachers and school
counsellor can typically advise or handle."
“Our student welfare officer
will be our key link person to agencies such as the Social Service Offices or
Family Service Centres to help these families access a wider network of
community resources and services,” added Mrs Teo.
Ms Mak Yin Fun, who was deployed to the school as part of the
pilot, said her roles include conducting home visits to help stabilise the home environment and conducting prevention programmes
for the students.
Unlike social workers in the community, she does not deal
directly with problems faced by the parents such as unemployment, but refers them
to social service agencies.
“As I am a representative from the school, I find that the
students’ families are more responsive and cooperative as we work together on
the common goal to
maximise the child’s potential,” she said.
Community social workers who work with youths, such as Mr Wilson
Tan, felt a supportive family environment plays a part in keeping a child in
school. But Mr Tan, who is executive director of Youth Guidance Outreach
Services, felt VWOs might be better placed to connect students and families
with community resources.
Mr Palvindran Jayram, an acting team leader with the Lutheran
Community Care Services, on the other hand, said youth workers have only a
finite amount of time with students and limited access to parents. Having
student welfare officers in schools can plug those gaps, he said.
However, students may be more comfortable sharing their feelings
with youth workers who are not part of the school, he added.
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Source: Today (Online), mediacorp