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Accessing Quality Education: Three Areas Where Donors Can Make A Difference
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Accessing Quality Education: Three Areas Where Donors Can Make A Difference

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Smiling children wearing orange shirts sitting at a table with notebooks

Students without means often do not enjoy the same opportunities as their well-to-do peers. Some are forced to give up their studies to support themselves and their families. Others struggle throughout school without realising they have a learning disability. Some younger children are less school-ready, leading them to fall behind academically. With grants from CFS donors, at-risk students can get the right support to access quality education, one of five focal outcome-centred causes that CFS champions.  

We firmly believe education can boost a person’s employability, and promote inclusivity and integration within society. However, we recognise that not every child has an equal shot at obtaining the education they need. With targeted philanthropy, we bridge critical gaps and improve social mobility for our most vulnerable young.

CFS curates evidence-backed programmes that stretch from pre-school to tertiary level. In this article, we focus on three essential areas where, together with our donors, we continue to make a tangible impact. These are financial assistance for living expenses, helping children with learning differences and building skills for primary-level pupils. 

Letting Students Focus on Learning Through Financial Assistance

At the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), students gain diplomas and valuable skills in a variety of industries, from food science to nursing to IT.  The majority of ITE students, however, come from challenging backgrounds: 46% are from families with a per capita income of under $1,000, more than twice the national average. Many then have to work part-time, leaving less time for their studies.

ITE lends a helping hand to these youths through the Monthly Financial Assistance Scheme (MFAS). Beneficiaries receive $150 per month for six months to help with their food and transport costs. 

ITE is only able to help some of their students with MFAS and relies on donor support to ensure greater coverage. This would help even more students on their quest to graduate and find gainful employment. 

Similar financial assistance schemes are also offered by AMKFSC Community Services Ltd, Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic. Numerous students with limited family support stand to benefit from your generosity.

Support for Dyslexia Assessments

Children with learning differences often have difficulties keeping up in school. This can severely impact their academic life and hurt their career opportunities. Some have dyslexia without knowing it: global incidence rates suggest that up to 10% of the school-going population may suffer from dyslexia.

In Singapore, the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) conducts close to 1,000 psycho-educational assessments each year, based on referrals by teachers and parents. These assessments are important in identifying the needs of struggling learners to make appropriate recommendations for learning support. However, about 35% of these children come from low-income families, who will not be able to afford the costly assessment fees.

Donor support from CFS directly funds psycho-educational assessments by trained psychologists at DAS. Once diagnosed, the children will be able to receive support tailored to their learning abilities. Through early intervention, donors are helping disadvantaged children overcome their learning differences, allowing them to fulfil their potential.

After-School Enrichment Builds Skills and Confidence

Each child starts at a different point in primary school based on their socio-economic background. Those from families facing challenges may have weaker literacy or numeracy skills and thus be less prepared for school.  Being placed into lower-performing classes may demoralise and frustrate these children, leading to disinterest and reduced academic motivation.

KidsExcel works closely with primary schools to reach out to students from families with a gross household income below $2,750 or per capita income below $690. It runs regular enrichment sessions which address learning gaps as well as activities centred on sports and life skills. This includes drama, public speaking and robotics. The programme boosts resilience and character-building while helping the kids academically. It also empowers parents to participate in their children’s educational journey.

In 2022, KidsExcel served 350 primary school children across 11 centres. An encouraging number of children were able to improve their grades, while 87% of Primary 6 pupils passed their PSLE. Through KidsExcel, donors are helping to level the playing field for underprivileged children in primary schools. 

We could spark change with far-reaching effects by funding a programme that improves access to quality education. Drawing on our experience working with charities and partners over the years, CFS is here to offer advisory and administrative support so that you can focus on the transformative power of your giving to educational causes.  

Learn how CFS can help you support access to quality education at https://www.cf.org.sg/giving/ways-to-give/.

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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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Events

Colabs launches Seniors series to tackle the question ‘How can our seniors live more happily in the community?’

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A gathering of individuals seated at tables within a room, engaged in conversation and activities.

In October 2018, 55 representatives from the government, corporate and non-profit sectors together with a group of senior citizens, gathered to deliberate the answers to one question: How can our seniors live more happily in the community? 

For everyone in the room, the inaugural session of Seniors Colabs marked the start of a new collaborative journey, with participants expected to meet regularly over a six-month period to share knowledge, build insights and find practical ways to help seniors age well. As the third and final run of a three-part Colabs series, Seniors Colabs brings people with a common desire to tackle issues around growing old in Singapore.

The Lien Foundation kicked off the session with an overview of the senior care landscape. Research showed that while Singaporeans were ageing from a position of strength in terms of health and financial outcomes, higher life expectancies and declining fertility rates will mean fewer caregivers for a fast-ageing population. Given this, families will have to increasingly depend on the community for support and care in the long run.

Moving away from the broader perspective, participants at the second session in November took a human-centered approach to understand the needs of the elderly. Insights were shared by the National Council of Social Services’ “Understanding the Quality of Life for Seniors” – a study that surveyed over 1,000 seniors living in Singapore on their perceived well-being.

Results showed that in line with global trends, seniors in Singapore have a significantly lower quality of life compared with the general population. The elderly in Singapore were most keen to see improvements in their physical and psychological well-being; as well as an increase in their level of independence.

During discussions that followed, Colabs participants acknowledged that seniors in Singapore are a diverse group. Thus, having the right mindsets and assumptions determined whether services would be relevant. Most participants took a practical stance and spoke about issues around social support, caregiving, healthcare, finance and mobility. “Empathy alone does not pay the bills,” summed up a Colabs participant from a non-profit organisation.

Invigorated by passionate conversations, the Seniors Colabs community closed the year by taking the opportunity to establish connections with like-minded people across sectors.

Colabs is a philanthropic initiative by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre and the Community Foundation of Singapore. It drives collaboration by bringing together the public, private and social sectors to tackle complex social issues. It enables philanthropists, businesses, non-profits and sector experts to collectively build insights and co-create solutions for lasting change.

The next session of Seniors Colabs will take place in January 2019. If you’re interested in Colabs, visit here or write to colabs@cf.org.sg.

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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

The power of the collective: CapitaLand Hope Foundation joins hands with AIC and CFS to bring cheer to seniors

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a group of people holding a large check

How do you combat loneliness among older folk? The FUN! Fund – a partnership between Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) and The Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) – hopes to do this by piloting activities that encourage play, generate laughter and build connections. It’s a fresh approach towards reframing the ageing challenge and a promising effort at collaborative philanthropy.

The brand-new fund has struck a chord with CapitaLand Hope Foundation (CHF), the philanthropic arm of CapitaLand Group. Established in 2005, the foundation seeks to improve the quality of life of seniors. It also aims to nurture and inspire the young and protect the environment for future generations.

“We believe that each older person deserves to live life to the fullest as they age in place and in the community. However, there are vulnerable seniors in the community who face daily life challenges such as mobility difficulties, isolation, and lack of adequate support due to family circumstances,” says Ms Lydia Ang, General Manager of CapitaLand Hope Foundation.

Loneliness is a serious issue for our elderly. It erodes mental and physical well-being and can even reduce lifespans. In mid-2021, a study by the Centre for Ageing Research and Education at Duke-NUS found that those aged 60 and above who see themselves as lonely can expect to live three to five years less compared to their peers who don’t feel lonely. The study, also found that a third of aged 60–69 years and 40% of those aged 80 and above perceived themselves as lonely. Those are sobering statistics indeed.

Two years of living under COVID-19 pandemic restrictions made things much worse. Many older folks stayed home. Being less tech-savvy, they had to grapple with severe social isolation. Those in nursing and care homes saw a stark drop in visitors. Many caregiving staff shows increased burnout and psychological distress in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The FUN! Fund plans to empower community care organisations to collaborate with different stakeholder to develop fun and meaningful activities that seniors can look forward to. There will be development of playbook and post running workshops to share learnings for other organisations to replicate and implement.

CHF got to know about the FUN! Fund through its previous links with AIC and CFS. In 2020, when the pandemic struck, the foundation generously contributed S$700,000 to provide emergency support for community care providers and affected seniors and family members. For CHF, the FUN! Fund dovetails with its efforts to help seniors age in place through its #LoveOurSeniors initiative, which provides the vulnerable elderly with better nutrition, enhanced well-being and improved living conditions.

Tapping on its experience from #LoveOurSeniors, and by working jointly with AIC and CFS, the foundation believes it can help develop innovative programmes that bring cheer to isolated seniors. It also hopes to rally more like-minded partners and the community to join in this effort.

“Through FUN! Fund, multiple donors from different sectors are galvanised to pool and align funding against an agreed set of criteria within a short period of time. This has allowed smaller enterprises to leverage the larger network and platform of FUN! Fund to do good together, as they might not have sufficient resources to effectively contribute to the community on their own,” says Ms Ang.

The FUN! Fund is an example of a pooled fund spearheaded by CFS. Our collective impact funds are designed to raise capital from across the giving spectrum and unite partners to drive positive change. We bring together charities and donors, experience and insights, which amplifies the impact of giving and fosters new solutions.

No individual or organisation can solve complex social issues independently, and private foundations like CHF are embracing collaborative philanthropy. “We believe in the power of the collective, where different stakeholders with respective expertise, knowledge and skills come together as one, leveraging each other’s strengths and resources for the common good. Through the years, we have been rallying our employees, tenants, customers and the wider community to do good together,” says Ms Ang.

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News

Four teachers recognised for excellence in early childhood, special needs education

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four teachers receiving an award

Ms Sulochanah Kanapathy’s pupil was already four years old but he could not say a word.

But Ms Sulochanah, 47, was determined to help, and taught the child with special needs to speak his first words.

The teacher from Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten went the extra mile by conducting home visits, giving the child additional teaching materials, and training his parents to better manage his learning.

That incident from seven years ago drove her to take a course in special needs education to understand children with such challenges better.

On Wednesday (Nov 24), she received the Leading Foundation Teacher Award, in the Early Childhood Educator category, at the National Institute of Education (NIE) in Nanyang Technological University.

Besides Ms Sulochanah, Ms A. Neshanthini Neelamohan, 33, from Sparkletots Preschool @ Braddell Heights Block 246, also received the Leading Foundation Award in the same category.

Ms Wong Jia Min, 34, from Fei Yue Community Services and Mrs Lee E-Lyn, 47, from Methodist Girls’ School (Primary) received the Leading Foundation Award in the Special Needs Educator Category.

The Leading Foundation Teacher Award, established in 2013, recognises excellence in early childhood, special needs and allied educators who have made significant contributions to the well-being and teaching of their students. It is administered by NIE and the Community Foundation of Singapore.

The four were selected through appraisals and interviews by the judging panel, which comprised members from NIE, the Ministry of Education and the National Institute of Early Childhood Development.

This year, there were a total of 57 nominations.

Among the winners was Ms Neshanthini,who is a firm believer in ensuring that her lessons appeal to all types of learners.

There is always something for her pupils, be it visual, auditory or tactile. For instance, she often uses food essence to stimulate her pupils’ senses as part of sensory play, she said.

As for Ms Wong Jia Min, she believes parental support is key to a child’s development.

For example, Ms Wong brought in a professional sign language interpreter so that a student with behavioural issues could communicate more effectively with her deaf parents.

Many house visits later, Ms Wong and a social worker noticed a major positive change in the student’s behaviour.

Mrs Lee, on the other hand, uses humour in her classes to allow her students to express themselves and to feel relaxed in a safe environment.

For instance, she records the children’s voices and plays the recordings back during oral practice. She focuses heavily on celebrating small successes and encouraging them.

“I’m not just their teacher, but their cheerleader too,” she said.

The awards are sponsored by The Leading Foundation, which was co-founded by Mr Lim Siong Guan, a professor in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and a former head of the Singapore Civil Service, with Ms Joanne H. Lim, founder of a communications consultancy.

Mrs Jennifer Lim, Prof Lim’s wife and the guest of honour, presented the awards to the winners, who also received a cash award of $2,500 and a certificate each.

Winners list
Early Childhood Educator category
Ms A. Neshanthini Neelamohan, 33, PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Braddell Heights Blk 246
Ms Sulochanah Kanapathy, 47, Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten

Special Needs Educator category
Mrs Lee E-Lyn, 47, Methodist Girls’ School (Primary)
Ms Wong Jia Min, 34, Fei Yue Community Services

If you would like to begin your giving journey with us at CFS, please read more here

This article was originally published in The Straits Times here. Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

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News

Fewer homeless people sleeping on S’pore streets last year; city area has highest number

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a homeless person lying on the floor
The number of homeless people in Singapore fell slightly last year, at a time when homelessness was on the rise in many countries amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the issue of homelessness also became less visible, as more people who would have slept on the streets went to stay at temporary shelters.
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.

The second nationwide street count of the homeless here found 1,036 people last year – 7 per cent less than the 1,115 people during the first such count in 2019.

That first nationwide street count has been described as a landmark study of an issue that was hidden from public discourse until recent years.

While the overall number has fallen slightly, where the homeless make their bed for the night has also changed.

The second street count found that those sleeping on the streets fell by 41 per cent from 1,050 in 2019 to 616 last year, while those staying at a temporary shelter for the homeless shot up from 65 to 420 in the same time period.

Dr Ng Kok Hoe, a senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, led a team of researchers at the school’s Social Inclusion Project to do the street count. They were aided by over 200 volunteers who pounded the streets, including combing 12,000 blocks of flats, late at night between February and April last year to count the number of people sleeping in public spaces.

The data on the number staying at temporary shelters for the homeless, which was provided by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), was included for the first time in last year’s count for a fuller understanding of the state of homelessness here.

The 78-page report was released on Thursday (Aug 11). The project was not commissioned by the Government and was funded by the Community Foundation of Singapore, Dr Ng said.

He said government agencies and volunteers reached out to those sleeping rough during the circuit breaker in 2020 to refer them to shelters and many of the homeless, who were also concerned about their health and safety, decided to go into one.

Some religious and charity groups opened their premises for the homeless for the night, as demand for places in such Safe Sound Sleeping Places soared. Two new transitional shelters, which offer a longer stay, also started operation in January last year, the report said.

These factors led to more staying at shelters and fewer on the streets, Dr Ng said.

From the second street count, the homeless were found sleeping in most parts of Singapore, from Bedok to Jurong West to Yishun. But more of them were found in larger, older and poorer neighbourhoods.

Some 72 persons were found sleeping in the City area, or downtown, which has the largest number of homeless persons.

The city area, or downtown, has the largest number of homeless people, though it fell last year from the 2019 count.

Most of the homeless are elderly men and the report pointed out that few women sleep on the streets due to safety concerns.

Last year’s count found a sharp decline in those sleeping rough in commercial buildings, like shopping malls and office blocks, and more slept at places like void decks, parks and playgrounds.

The report pointed out that while the pandemic triggered their admission into a shelter, the homeless person’s housing woes started long before Covid-19 struck.

Highly subsidised public rental housing will always be the last safety net for the most vulnerable, Dr Ng said.

However, he singled out the design of the Joint Singles Scheme, which is under the public rental housing scheme, as a “significant contributing factor to homelessness”. This is because two singles, who are often strangers, share a tiny HDB rental flat which usually have no bedrooms, and the lack of privacy or personal space may lead to conflict.

And some would rather sleep on the streets instead, he said.

The HDB and the Ministry of National Development (MND) recognise the challenges some have applying for or sharing a rental flat and they have been reviewing and adjusting the Joint Singles Scheme in recent years, the MSF said in a statement in response to the street count.

For example, since December last year (2021), the HDB and MND started a pilot scheme where social service agencies match tenants with similar preferences and habits to share a flat. Under this pilot, singles can apply for a public rental flat by themselves, without having to find a flatmate first.

Flats under this pilot come with partitions installed

Applicants’ eligibility and rent are assessed individually.

The HDB and MND are assessing the effectiveness of this pilot project to see whether to scale it up over time, the statement said.

The MSF said there has been a steady and collective progress in whole-of-society efforts to reach out to and support rough sleepers, to help them off the streets and into shelters.

It cited the 57-member Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers (Peers) Network, which comprises government agencies, religious groups and charities working together to ensure better coordination and synergy in the delivery of services to help the homeless.

The network’s partners have set up Safe Sound Sleeping Places. There are now about  20 such Places, which shelter about 100 homeless individuals. In addition, there are currently six transitional shelters serving families and about 270 individuals.

Since April 2020, over 680 homeless individuals who stayed at the various shelters have moved on to longer-term housing.

And since April this year, the MSF has been working with partners from the Peers Network and academic advisers to plan regular street counts. The first such coordinated street count will take place by the end of the year.

It said: “The street count will help us to collectively better understand the scale and geographical spread of rough sleeping in Singapore and render coordinated support to rough sleepers in need.”

Who were the homeless during the pandemic

Long-term homeless (those who were homeless before the pandemic) Newly homeless (those who had not slept rough before the pandemic) Transnational homeless (Singaporeans who live in Indonesia and Malaysia but travel to Singapore for work)
Sex  More men than women • Mix of men and women • Almost all men
Age • From 30s to 70s • From 30s to 70s • Mostly in their 50s
Family relationships • Almost all divorced, separated or never married • Having past conflict and estrangement, with many having lost contact with their family • Almost all divorced, separated or never married • Family relationships distant and strained, but connection remains • Long-term drift and overseas travel • Some had a spouse and young children in their adoptive countries whom they are still connected to
Work and finances • Low-wage and insecure jobs • Extreme poverty • Low-wage and insecure jobs, with a few having had better paying jobs in the past • Difficulty meeting basic needs • Regular border crossings for low-wage and insecure jobs in Singapore • A few did informal work outside Singapore • Low income
Housing histories • Lost matrimonial home or never purchased housing • Encountered barriers in public rental system • Episodes of low- cost market rentals • Lost matrimonial home or never purchased housing • Moved frequently to stay with family, friends • In low-cost market rental units • Lived in Malaysia or Indonesia • Encountered difficulties obtaining public housing in Singapore for non-citizen family members
Rough sleeping • From a few months to many years • No more than a few days when displaced during the pandemic • A mix of experiences, from rough sleeping to staying in homeless shelters
How they entered a shelter* • Found by volunteers or field workers while rough sleeping during pandemic • Some self-referrals • Self-referrals when pandemic disrupted housing arrangements • Most were stopped at immigration checkpoints and directed to a shelter after border closures**

*Homelessness counts usually include both rough sleepers (primary homelessness) and persons in homeless shelters (secondary homelessness).

**Those entering Singapore from Malaysia just before the borders were closed were identified as having no housing and referred for assistance so they could comply with Covid-19 rules on staying indoors

Table: STRAITS TIMES GRAPHICS  Source: LEE KUAN YEW SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY

If you would like to know more about the Sayang Sayang Fund, please visit here. This article was originally published in The Straits Times here. Source: The Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.
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