According to Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), there are currently about 400 Student Care Centres (SCC) in schools and the community. About 21000 students are enrolled in these SCC.
There are about 162 primary schools in Singapore. On average, each school has about 1000 students. That means there are 162000 primary school going children in Singapore. In other words, one out of eight students in Singapore requires SCC. If we were to
consider those SCC or equivalent not registered with MSF, close to 1 out of 5 primary school students in Singapore needs SCC services.
That is quite a substantiate number and this figure is constantly increasing in our ever burgeoning dual income society. Added to this, there will probably be another 2 out of 8 students in Singapore that may be taken care of by grandparents and domestic helpers. This means that nearly half our students are probably in need of after-school education/supervision.
What are the impacts of such a large group of students spending sustained afterschool hours to Singapore and society? The short answer! Huge if we do not get our afterschool care system right in Singapore!
Today, we will discuss specifically how we can collectively make our afterschool care in Singapore better. Here are three areas we can focused on first to make our afterschool care system in Singapore.
Three Areas We Can Improve on Our Afterschool Care
1. Ensure a Holistic Approach to Our Afterschool Care Programme
Afterschool care education cannot be taken in isolation for our children. During normal school days, our children spend three big blocks of time learning and developing.
Firstly, they spend about 6 hours in school every morning and early afternoon. Secondly, primary school going kids spend another 4 hours in the afternoon at home, either in a student care centre or in school doing a variety of Co-Curricular Activities or school-based enrichment programmes. Thirdly, they spend another 2-3 hours at home with their families before ending their day.
We need to raise questions about what are the activities and programmes they do in all three blocks. There is also a need for us as parents and educators to analyse the alignment of these programmes for the holistic education of our children. For instance, do we know enough of what is happening in school to ensure that what is done afterschool to consolidate learning and to supplement learning so that our children’s education is heading in the direction we want?
Schools do a good job educating our children in literacy, numeracy, science, social skills and character development. Hence, it would make sense for our afterschool care centres and the homes to complement these programmes to ensure the effective learning by our students
2. Pay More Attention to Our Afterschool Care Educators or Supervisors
There is an old saying, “The students are as good as their teachers.” How true! Just like a good football team that is playing well, you can be sure that at the helm, there is very reputed and good football manager steering the team to their success.
For our afterschool care system in Singapore, more can be done to improve the quality of afterschool care educators and staff.
Firstly, owners of afterschool care centres should devote more resources to upgrade afterschool care staff in their charge. As students receive better afterschool education and care, their academic and holistic outcomes will improve. This will provide a good, trusted brand for their afterschool care centres, which will mean higher enrolment in the future. Short-term pain for long-term gain.
Secondly, the education authorities in Singapore can put more emphasis on raising the standards of afterschool staff. If we as a country is beginning to realize the importance of the pre-school sector and are willing to devote substantial social resources, funding and attention to ensuring better quality pre-school educators, we should do the same for the afterschool sector.
As I have argued in an early post, The Importance of Afterschool Care, learning habits and content takes time to build and to consolidate. Imagine learning all the good literacy, numeracy and thinking skill sets early in pre-school only to lose them because our kids no longer build upon these skills once they enter primary school.
Learning needs to be continual in some form, otherwise the cumulative benefits will disappear which is why, there is a need to start establishing certain baseline standards for the afterschool care system in Singapore. This will force afterschool care vendors to start upgrading their staff properly to be educators rather than just purely care takers.
Parents can also play a part by scrutinizing afterschool care staff more closely. The other thing parents can do is to be ready to pay a little more for afterschool centres that can provide more quality educators in the afterschool care staff strength.
At our Gummy Cove student care centres, every personnel running our Multiple Intelligence and Academic programmes in the centres are qualified in their own areas. For instance our Art Instructors are diploma holders of local Art Institutions like NAFA and LaSelle, currently pursuing degree in the Arts. Those conducting sports enrichment on certain days are trained sports educators. Our piano trainers are the provided by our partner, Lowrey Music School. Our academic tutors are also qualified tutors.
3. Improving Basic Programmes in Our Afterschool Care in Singapore
In Singapore today, most of our afterschool care centres are essentially ‘babysitting’ services. Yes, they do cater to a need. Parents looking for afterschool care need their children to be cleaned, fed and supervised in healthy and safe ways. However, more can be done and this mind-set must change.
Spending 4-5 hours on a daily basis for the whole school year is a long time. As parents and educators, do we want our kids to be meaningfully and relevantly engaged in learning or simply passing time?
If afterschool care businesses and parents shift their thinking, we can really reinvent a quality afterschool care system in Singapore which can radically improve our human resource quality in the end. Your children will succeed more in school, I am sure as parents, and educators you will be most pleased.
Perhaps more afterschool care centres can take a deeper look at the different child development and learning literature and theories in existence and adopt something that they believe in. Thereafter, aligning their programmes to the relevant educational philosophy can bring many good our children’s afterschool care systems.
The numbers and vibrancy of the afterschool scene in Singapore will not be decreasing anytime soon in the future. Given the need for most families to rely on dual income in Singapore, the need for more afterschool care will only rise. This means that a large percentage of our primary school children will need to be educated and taken care of in the right way if we are to truly develop and stretch them holistically.
Under such circumstances, more can be done to align our children’s education for the whole day by collaborating more as stakeholders, educational authorities can improve the staff quality of afterschool centres, and more can be done change mind-set and bring a truly good afterschool education system into play.