Established in 1999



Public Others Government Business Arts Community
Entertainment Lifestyle Services People Travel Internet Stuff



     FrontPage Edition: Tue 16 October 2007

Weather: Meteorological Service Singapore    High & Low Tides

Yesterday   2007   2006   2005   2004   2003   2002   2001   2000   1999

Creating a Singapore fit for children



An Excerpt

Between 1980 and 2006, the general divorce rate for women rose from 3.8 to 8.0 for every 1,000 married resident females.
In 1990, about 4 percent of resident households with at least one child below 16 years were headed by single parents. In 2005, this proportion grew to 5 percent. Despite the parents' best intentions, these families are more likely to struggle to provide the best home and future for their children.
The rise of single parenthood in this generation illuminates the changing face of family life over the centuries and the inextricable link between economic development and family form...
The key question for all of us today is what impact the post-modern world is likely to have on family life. The sociological impacts are likely to be as profound as the earlier revolutions. As early as the seventies. American academic Edward Shorter[1] noted three key traits of the post-modern family, which I am sure we can relate to.
First, adolescent indifference to the family's identity and a corresponding identification with other networks and their peers. Second, instability in the lives of couples. The divorce rates I mentioned earlier are one manifestation. Finally, the end of the notion of a ''nest'' in nuclear family life, with the liberation of women. As more women enter the workforce, fewer children now return to homes with mums awaiting their return.
Another feature of the post-modern family is susceptibility to a myriad of influences, including electronic media. Our children grow up with MapleStory and World of Warcraft where they lead virtual lives and belong to virtual tribes.
They are well-versed in the applications of YouTube for viewing all kinds of videos beyond the censorship or supervision. And they are well entrenched in the worlds of MySpace, Friendster, Facebook which provide them with a platform to mingle and catch up with their friends without having to leave their homes.
What does this mean for the ''post-modern'' child, so to speak? It means living in a world of abundant choices whilst being bombarded by unlimited temptations and influences.
It means the richness of participating in multiple communities, whilst struggling to find one's core identity and values. It means the opportunity to chart new frontiers but sometimes without the clear guidance of a moral compass.
The complexities of the world would also mean that children who are more well-off may face one too many choices or temptations whilst children who are less well-off may miss out on opportunities that the post-modern world offers...
Children in Singapore enjoy accessible, high quality and equitable health care. In 2005, the infant mortality rate was 2.1 per 1,000 live births, compared to 26.3 per 1,000 live births in 1965.
Our infant mortality rate was ranked by UNICEF's ''State of the World's Children Report'' in 2005 and 2006 as the best in the world. This dramatic improvement is attributable to improvements in obstetric care, and advances in medical care, especially in newborn care in Singapore.
Today, a robust health screening programme is in place for the young. Annually, about 99 percent of 7 and 12-year-olds are screened for abnormal hearing, visual acuity and heart conditions, and provided with growth and developmental assessment in schools.
Children identified with health problems are referred to relevant healthcare institutions for further evaluation and management at the primary, secondary and tertiary care levels.
Health, of course, is not just about the absence of illness, disease or injury. It is also about general well-being. The mental health issues of children and adolescents are slowly gaining prominence. It is an area that we must understand better and tackle in a more holistic manner...
Let me move on to the area of education. The challenge is to impart to our children the values, skills and knowledge needed to thrive in a rapidly changing world. Education remains the key enabler and it is a resource-intensive endeavour. Today, the Government invests about $6.5 billion in education - about 3.5 percent of our GDP.
Our priority for all children is to get them to schools in the first instance. A cornerstone of this effort is our compulsory education policy for primary school education, in place since 2003...
For those who are already in schools, our priority is to keep them in our system for as long as we can. Northlight School, set up in 2006, embodies this effort. Northlight's mandate is to engage and educate premature primary school leavers or those who have not done well in the Primary School Leaving Examination.
From 2008, we will see the end of the streaming into EM1, EM2 and EM3 bands and the introduction of a more ''a la carte'' menu selection of study to cater to varying levels of ability and perhaps, more importantly, address the issue of stigmatisation for children who struggle in schools.
We must not destroy our children's sense of self worth and self esteem. This approach will hopefully also help to lower the attrition rate in schools. Our target is to halve the dropout rate at primary and secondary school levels from three percent to 1.5 percent by 2010.
We also want to provide greater educational pathways to recognise different talent and widen the definition of success. For example, the Singapore Sports School, started in 2004. Next year, the School of the Arts will open its doors for aspiring young artists.
We are also introducing greater flexibility in moving across the various streams and learning institutions - ITEs, Polytechnics and Universities.
We are now seeing the results of our early investments in education. The percentage of primary one students not completing secondary education has been steadily decreasing, from 4.3 percent in 2001 to 2.6 percent in 2005, with a corresponding increase in the rates of progression to post-secondary institutions.
In the Global Competitiveness Report 2005/2006 published by the World Economic Forum, Singapore's education system, as well as our science and mathematics education, was ranked first in terms of the ability to meet the needs of a competitive economy...
I believe that the next big frontier is pre-school education. The literature consistently suggests that early intervention through a high quality pre-school education can help make up for deficiencies in home environments by way of ensuring school readiness.
Yet 2006 figures show that five percent of children entering primary school have not attended preschool. We want to ensure that as many children as possible are in preschool, so that they get a good start in life.
Financial assistance schemes help ensure low-income children have access to preschool education. The Kindergarten Financial Assistance Scheme (KiFAS), for example, provides a monthly fee subsidy for children to attend eligible kindergartens...
A key instrument for protecting children from abuse and neglect is the Children and Young Persons Act. The Act also provides for treatment against child abuse and neglect.
The Child Protection Service (CPS) at MCYS is the key agency bearing statutory responsibility to protect children from abuse and neglect. CPS works in partnership with other agencies, such as the police, schools, hospitals and social service agencies, to ensure an integrated system of timely intervention for victims of child abuse or neglect.
The incidence of child abuse in Singapore is low. In the last five years, about 175 cases of child abuse were investigated each year. Whilst the number is small relative to the entire cohort of children in Singapore, we have a duty of care towards these children. Every case is a future robbed...
The Enabling Masterplan for 2007 to 2011, which was announced earlier this year, is a wide-ranging masterplan which looks into services for people with disabilities.
More concretely, for school-going children, there will be more funding and support for Special Education (SPED), including cross posting of teachers from MOE's mainstream schools to SPED. A purpose-built SPED school is also on the cards to be completed by next year.
There will also be more Special Needs officers and support for children with disabilities in mainstream schools. MOE has set aside some S$50 million per year, to equip mainstream schools to better support students with special needs in their midst.
A child with disabilities needs all the support he/she needs during their early years. To that end, we extended the Foreign Domestic Work Levy concession to families with disabled members, as well as starting a caregiver training grant in October this year, to empower these families...
As we work towards creating a Singapore fit for children, we must also recognise the role that our children play in creating their destinies. Their participation would lend robustness and inspiration to the process. We must engage children as active partners in this process and not approach them as mere recipients of our policies...

Full Text of Speech

Source: News 28 Sep 2007

Important Notice

Our FrontPage Editions are a historical record of our Web site and reflect the changing of the times, and also of our Web site through time. We do not and will not update the links and stories on these FrontPages even if they have become obsolete.


If you have an event or some news to share with our readers, send the details, including picture(s), to us at 

We are now 14421 pages thick and growing.

Public Holidays DEEPAVALI is the next public holiday. It falls on 8 November 2007.