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Accessing Quality Education: Beyond the Classroom Walls
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Opinion

Accessing Quality Education: Beyond the Classroom Walls

John Doe
John Doe
a person teaching a group of children

The education of a generation is an extensive and complex undertaking.

Consider the span of time it takes to bring a single individual from nursery and preschool, through the primary and secondary school levels to the various branches of tertiary education. This journey could range from at least 12 years to almost three decades for the dedicated academic.

Keep in mind the need to cater to the individual’s development along the entire stretch in terms of how he or she learns, their psychosocial, physical, emotional and mental health, and their attitudes during the learning process. Now multiply that by over 30,000 for the number of students in each cohort year in Singapore, and you get a sense of the seemingly impossible task that faces the Ministry of Education.

The 32,000 plus teachers in Singapore (MOE, 2021) are doing a highly commendable job as it is. Singapore is ranked 21st in the latest education ranking of the Best Countries Report (World Population Review, 2022) and topped the world in the 2018 Global Competence test, conducted as part of the Programme for International Student Assessment (ST, 2020).

The Singapore education system also has facilities and options for those with learning disabilities, allowing those with conditions such as autism and Down syndrome to obtain a formal education, with pathways to employment for those who are able to do so.

There is a plethora of exit points for those who graduate from the education system here. Besides those with learning disabilities, one could complete formal education after attaining a polytechnic diploma, a university degree or even a doctorate.

While some of that depends on their innate aptitude for study, the students’ early childhood education plays a large part. While it is compulsory for all Singaporean citizens to attend primary school (MOE, 2021), the same is not true for preschool.

Government statistics reflect that nearly 99% of children in Singapore would have at least some preschool education by the age of six (MSF, 2016). This is commendable, but many still do not get the essential foundation that preschools offer, which leads in part to the learning difficulties (not to be confused with disabilities) that some children may face in keeping pace with their peers (Channel News Asia, 2019).

Learning difficulties are when a child, whose IQ is not affected, finds it challenging to learn in a particular way (MyLife Care, 2018). It could stem from conditions such as dyslexia or psychological issues such as anxiety and depression, inhibiting the child’s learning abilities and approach to studies.

Children with learning difficulties face problems with literacy and numeracy (Raising Children, 2021), which is an issue as English and Mathematics are the two core subjects that determine entry into post-secondary education.

Fortunately, there are many groups who are supporting children and youth struggling with primary and secondary school education. Although they are not teachers per se, the programme staff and volunteers of these groups are helping children with learning difficulties, who are usually from challenging backgrounds, to improve their academic abilities.

For instance, social enterprise Catch Them Young’s programme KidsExcel is partnering with the Lions Community Service Foundation to help primary- and secondary-going school children in their academic curriculum.

KidsExcel complements their tutoring time with workshops in sports and drama, which motivates the children to improve academically and to enjoy these popular activities offered by KidsExcel staff.

“I love interacting with the kids and I want to make a positive impact in their lives,” enthuses volunteer Ms Joycelyn Fung. “I have forged good relationships with the children and their parents. In the two years I have been here, it has been very fulfilling and rewarding to see the kids develop and grow.”

Resilience is a clear lesson learnt by KidsExcel care recipients, with 10-year-old Syakir stating that he would never give up in his pursuits, while 12-year-old Elfie proclaims: “I will never stop when I am tired, but will stop when I am done.”

Staff Madam Haznita shares: “It has been a joy working with the kids. Some came with little confidence and had difficulties adjusting, so we needed to spend time getting to know them better and help them settle. It is very rewarding to know they look forward to KidsExcel classes and seeing them every week. This is what motivates me.”

Another programme, Reading Odyssey by SHINE Children and Youth Services, helps to boost children’s literary abilities by inculcating a love for stories through story-telling and literature-related activities.

Taking these children onto journeys of the imagination to improve their linguistic capabilities are volunteers Bee Peng and Natasha. Every week, they tap into their dramatis personae and bring stories to life for the children.

“I like everything in Reading Odyssey, especially the games,” says P2 student beneficiary Kim Yan. “Teacher Bee Peng helps me to understand how the games are played. She is kind and patient. I thank her for teaching me.”

Bee Peng says: “I believe in the quality of Reading Odyssey; it has a positive impact on the lives of the children and has elements of character building. And I truly enjoy interacting with the children.”

Another P2 child, Divinya, demonstrates her newfound verbosity: “I like the games in Reading Odyssey and the snacks given out. My teacher Natasha helps me with reading unfamiliar words. If I don’t know the words, she helps me to pronounce them and tells me the meaning of the words. She is always present for the sessions, she never absents herself. She is always there for me. Thank you teacher, for teaching me and giving me lots of stars.” Divinya also expressed a wish for Natasha to continue teaching her in Reading Odyssey, a testament to the positive impact that even volunteers can have on our children.

A volunteer since 2017, Natasha believes in the programme’s aim of elevating the children’s self-confidence through learning and reading: “There are many opportunities to interact with the children via discussion of the stories, which allows me to journey with them and help them improve.”

Regardless of their motivation, it is clear from the number of children going through such programmes—about 350 and 180 annually from the KidsExcel and Reading Odyssey programmes—that programme staff and volunteers for such extracurricular activities are just as much teachers to our children as educators in school.

If you would like to support programmes such Reading Odyssey and KidsExcel in providing quality education to our children and make a difference in their lives, please visit Ways to give.

This article was written CFS Principal Consultant Reutens-Tan. He is an experienced sustainability advocate and practitioner, working closely with charities to build thriving communities, which he believes is key to a sustainable Singapore.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CFS or its members.

References

Channel New Asia. (15 September 2019). Commentary: Long-neglected but now in the spotlight, Singapore’s pre-school sectorhttps://www.channelnewsasia.com/commentary/pre-school-enhanced-subsidies-access-moe-kindergartens-859951

Ministry of Education. (18 October 2021). Compulsory education.
https://www.moe.gov.sg/primary/compulsory-education#:~:text=All%20Singapore%20Citizens%20born%20after,deferment%20to%20enter%20Primary%201
.

Ministry of Education. (Accessed 26 July 2022). Education Statistics Digest 2021
https:/www.moe.gov.sg/-/media/files/about-us/education-statistics-digest-2021.ashx?la=en&hash=9E7EFD9B8088817C207F8AE797037AAA2A49F167

MyLife Care. 20 September 2018. What Is The Difference Between ‘Learning Difficulties’ And ‘Learning Disabilities’? https://mylifehomecare.co.uk/insight/learning-difficulties-learning-disabilities-difference/#:~:text=a%20learning%20disability%20constitutes%20a,overall%20IQ%20of%20an%20individual

Raising Children. (2 July 2021). Learning difficulties and learning disorders: children and teenagers.
https://raisingchildren.net.au/school-age/school-learning/learning-difficulties/learning-disabilities-signs-and-support

The Straits Times. (22 October 2020). Singapore’s 15-year-olds top OECD’s Pisa global competence test.
https://str.sg/J62f

World Population Review. (Accessed 26 July 2022). Education Rankings by Country 2022.  
https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/education-rankings-by-country

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Events

[Webinar] Facilitating Philanthropy: Taxation, Structures and Legacy Giving

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We would like to give a big thank you to the Law Society of Singapore and the Singapore Management University’s Centre for Commercial Law in Asia for inviting our CEO, Ms Catherine Loh, to be a part of the panel for the Facilitating Philanthropy: Taxation, Structures and Legacy Giving webinar. 

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News

Sayang Sayang Fund: new initiatives

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John Doe
A younger Man teaching an woman how to use a smartphone.

The Community Foundation of Singapore today gave an update on the fund raising efforts for the Sayang Sayang Fund (SSF) and announced new initiatives that the Fund will support. One of these initiatives is an extension of the previously announced SeniorsOK@Home programme – CapitaLand #LoveOurSeniors – in collaboration with the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC). CapitaLand Hope Foundation will be donating $700,000 towards this new programme. This will be on top of the $3 million goal CFS has set earlier.

Todate, SSF has received $1.1 million in donations and pledges of about $1 million. The Fund is still a distance away from the goal it set for end April. As the COVID-19 pandemic escalates, there are new needs emerging from the community and the funds raised will allow the Sayang Sayang Fund to address emerging needs quickly.

Chief Executive Officer of the Community Foundation of Singapore, Ms Catherine Loh, said, “Singaporeans have been very generous and we are so touched and grateful that many donors – individuals and corporates — have come forward to donate when they hear about the Fund. I would like to encourage everyone else to come together and support the Sayang Sayang Fund, to meet the gaps in the community.

UPDATE ON INITIATIVES

1. SeniorsOK@Home
SeniorOK@Home will provide for immediate aid like food, necessities and medical supplies to seniors with limited mobility and confined at home. It also provides for digital solutions, such as video conferencing, and online recreational activities for seniors at home, to minimise social isolation. For centre-based charities who are providing essential services, CFS is funding disinfection and sanitisation of premises, as well as additional manpower to maintain the standard and quality of care for the seniors.

2. CapitaLand #LoveOurSeniors
With the rise of cases from nursing homes, the Sayang Sayang Fund has curated an extension to SeniorsOK@Home – the CapitaLand #LoveOurSeniors. CapitaLand Hope Foundation will be donating $700,000 towards this new programme, which will support community care providers with personal protection equipment and disinfection of the premises if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19. The contribution will also go towards a preparedness fund: to keep the vulnerable seniors engaged, as well as to appreciate the hard work and dedication of community care staff. AIC will be executing the programme.

3. SafeSleep@Home
Given the rapid increase in cases, there is also urgent concern for the rough sleepers in Singapore. The 2019 homeless survey published by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy indicated that there are about 1,000 homeless persons living in the streets. They are now all at-risk and need to find immediate shelter during the circuit breaker. SafeSleep@Home is an initiative to aid 500 rough sleepers find temporary lodgings, daily necessities and food supplies.

About Sayang Sayang Fund

The Fund provides care and support for vulnerable communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. By convening the community and acting together, the Fund can help community partners move their essential work forward in this critical moment and support the individuals and families hit hardest by the impacts of COVID-19 and associated containment efforts.

The additional $3.7 million the Fund hopes to raise will support local charities and non-profits whose programmes and proposals meet three key objectives:

1. Provide emergency response funds that enable immediate and short-term relief for individuals and families from marginalised communities adversely affected by the COVID-19 situation.
2. Provide innovation solutions and research that address current and emerging needs to combat the COVID-19 situation.
3. Build capabilities for charitable organisations so that their clients can continue to access essential support and assistance during the COVID-19 situation.

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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Opinion

Speech by Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at CFS’s 10th anniversary celebrations: Working together to build a caring Singapore

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John Doe
Grace Fu delivering speech at podium to audience.

Mr Laurence Lien, Chairman, Community Foundation of Singapore
Ms Catherine Loh, CEO, Community Foundation of Singapore
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is indeed my great pleasure to be here today. First, I would like to congratulate the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) on its 10th anniversary. Throughout the past decade, CFS has done excellent work in raising funds and giving out grants, as well as in inspiring and enabling giving in Singapore. This is in no small part due to the generosity and hard work of staff, donors and partners. I’d like to express my gratitude and to commend all of you for your contributions. CFS was first started during the tumultuous period after the global financial crisis, and conversations about donations must have been difficult. Nevertheless, under the stewardship of Laurence, Catherine and Stanley, CFS has really grown over the years. Once again, thank you so much!

Philanthropy has played an important role in Singapore’s history
Philanthropy has always played an important role in the history and development of Singapore. In fact, records of philanthropy in Singapore go back to as early as the 1800s when immigrants came to this country in search of opportunities. Notable philanthropists such as Lim Nee Soon, Tan Kah Kee, Syed Mohamed Alsagoff and Govindasamy Pillai have responded to the needs of their times. These are early pioneers who have very selflessly and generously helped their communities. They helped to build up Singapore in the pre-war years, rebuild it in the post-war years, and worked alongside the government to develop our infrastructure after independence.

Today, it is just as crucial to build a culture of care and contribution. We live in an increasingly complex and dynamic environment. In many developed countries, socio-economic challenges have bred distrust and grown uncertainty. Terrorism continues to be a global threat. Within our region, exclusivist trends are rising, and societies are becoming increasingly polarised. At the same time, technology is disrupting nearly everything, from industries and jobs, to the way we live, to the way we do business and interact with one another, to our social hierarchy. Singapore is not immune to such threats and challenges, especially when we are so diverse as a people. So when we care and look out for one another, when we have that relationship that is beyond the transactional but instead comes from within the heart and is genuine, we will be better equipped to stand together in times of crisis.

Government support for philanthropy
There is already a strong support infrastructure for philanthropy to thrive. The Government gives tax deductions for donations to charities. There are matched-funding initiatives that have spurred more giving by individuals and corporates; for example, MCCY’s Cultural Matching Fund which supports giving to arts and culture, and the One Team Singapore Fund, which supports high performance sport.

The Government is also committed to developing a well-governed and thriving charity sector, with strong public support. In January this year, the Parliament passed the Charities (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to strengthen governance of fund-raising in response to trends in charitable giving.

As Singapore’s only community foundation, CFS plays an important role as a bridge between local communities and the larger charitable ecosystem. Beyond just encouraging cheque-book donations, CFS has connected donors with organisations that support their cause. For example, 71-year-old Mr Govind Bommi felt an affinity for the eldercare sector. Through CFS, he was connected with Metta Day Rehabilitation Centre, which provides rehabilitative care for elderly beneficiaries from all races and backgrounds. He then set up a fund to support the Centre, and continues to volunteer there today.

Closing gap between aspiration and participation
But there is more we can do for Singapore to be a more caring society. The Individual Giving Survey conducted by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) showed that although the total donation amount to organisations has grown over the years, the overall rate of donation* has declined, with 3 in 4 donating in 2016, compared to 9 in 10 a decade ago. However, among the non-donors, 1 in 3 said they are likely to donate in future. Similarly, in the volunteering space, there is high propensity among non-volunteers to volunteer in future.

We want to close this gap between aspiration and participation, and unite Singaporeans through a common culture of care. This is the basis for SG Cares, a national movement for us to better support one another in making Singapore a caring society through giving, through volunteering, and through acts of kindness. By bringing together partners across the people and private sectors, SG Cares enables the building of capabilities across organisations to grow opportunities for contribution. SG Cares also better equips individuals and organisations who want to give back, and connects them with suitable opportunities to do so. So it’s very much an encouragement and a call to action. But more importantly, it’s about building the infrastructure, platforms, connections and capabilities within the sector.

The work at CFS contributes to SG Cares, because an impactful philanthropy landscape is a hallmark of a caring society, where those with resources give back effectively to help those in need. Collaboration is the way to go, and donors today are taking more initiative, and seeking more meaningful engagement opportunities. CFS is well positioned to seize these opportunities and provide the platforms. For example, the Colabs series by CFS and NVPC brings together givers, non-profits and sector experts to build insights and co-create solutions together. This not only encourages more collective efforts that deliver impact, but also deepens the knowledge base to guide donors to areas of needs. It also improves the design of programmes and how volunteers are involved, to better serve the community.

Caring involves all of us
The making of a caring Singapore involves and requires all of us – the government, non-profit sector, businesses and individuals – to work together to find solutions and demonstrate care and compassion for our community. With this shared sense of responsibility, we stand a better chance in riding out the waves of global uncertainty and disruption. By caring for one another, we foster resilient communities that stand together in both good and bad times.

To conclude, I would like to leave you with the words of Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Once again, congratulations to CFS on your 10th anniversary! And once again, thank you for your contributions and I hope you will continue to inspire others with your efforts and actions. I’m sure there will be greater capacity for CFS to grow. Thank you.

Grace Fu
Minister for Community, Culture and Youth

*Through both formal and informal means.

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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Stories Of Impact

Life after winning the 2020 Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award: Natalie Koh’s pursuit of a career in musical excellence

John Doe
John Doe
a woman playing a violin

Winning the Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award in 2020 was a pleasant surprise for talented violinist Natalie Koh, who was not usually recognised for her solo performances and had to prepare for the Award’s audition just after last year’s circuit breaker without any formal instruction.

“I am deeply honoured to have received the Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award in 2020. Violin playing has always been something that I am very passionate about, although my growth and achievements have not always been a given,” says Natalie. 

“A lot of conscientious and diligent work was put into moulding myself into the musician that I am currently and that I am proud to be.”

Since then, the budding musician has kept herself busy and forged determinedly ahead in her musical career. These included performing in digital concert recordings, teaching the violin at Forte Musicademy as a private violin teacher, and engaging with the special needs community through various community art activities.

Apart from keeping a hectic schedule as a performer, Natalie also spends much time imparting her love of music to the next generation of budding musicians — serving as a Teaching Assistant in her Alma Mater, the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, and as an Assistant Director for classical music concert recordings and productions by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, alongside other local organisations.

The promising young musician was also able to present her solo recital at the Awards, for which she was extremely excited and thankful for, as her graduation recital was put off last year due to the pandemic’s restrictions. “Overall, I would say that my recital was a success, and I hope that I fared well as a representative on behalf of the Award and the music community,” Natalie recalls with pride.

The Award’s prize money has enabled Natalie to realise her dreams of going overseas to attain a Master’s in Violin Performance, which will broaden her horizons as a performing violinist, music educator and community artist. She hopes to take the experience and knowledge gained from the two years abroad and expand her musical practice upon her return to Singapore.

Natalie recognises that living and studying in Chicago will prove to be expensive, but with the $10,000 award money, she will be able to defray some of her living costs. With the reduced financial burden, the young musician will be able to focus on learning to the fullest of her abilities in the States.

The Goh Soon Tioe Award has supported yet another promising young musician in paving her way to a brighter future towards a career in music, and adding another valuable gem to the flourishing music scene in Singapore.

“I am deeply thankful for the recognition and the support from the Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award and the Community Foundation of Singapore. This Award has raised my profile as an emerging musician in Singapore, and I sincerely hope that I can be one to shape and grow the classical music scene in Singapore,” says Natalie.

Read and learn more about Natalie’s first steps into music and how she grew to become the talented musician that she is here.

If you would like to contribute towards the arts or support causes that you are passionate about, please visit our website at https://www.cf.org.sg/

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