SINGAPORE - About 20 full-time Ministry of Education (MOE) teachers have been seconded to juvenile homes on two-year stints since last year, to help plug gaps in residents' schooling.
Previously, academic classes at these homes were conducted by part-time or relief teachers, who may be less committed.
The new arrangement was revealed by a spokesman for the Ministry of Social and Family Development last week, during a media visit to the Singapore Girls' Home.
The pool of full-time teachers means another can take over if one teacher falls ill.
"Education is one of the main anchors that can hold them (residents) and engage them," said the spokesman.
"If they are not getting the education they require, then when they leave the homes, it is difficult for them to cope with the academic stresses."
Ms Ang Lay Hoon, a youth caseworker at the Boys' Home, said the full-time teachers have helped the residents "renew their interest in learning", and seeing peers' results improve spurs them to do better.
The teachers were picked from more than 100 who applied. They needed to have taught for at least six years and worked with Normal stream students.
One such teacher is Ms Suvian Tan, 41, who sees joining the juvenile homes, where she teaches science, as "teaching with a social cause".
Previously involved in her church's youth ministry, she wanted to work more directly with the young, especially those from difficult circumstances.
"Looking at their background, it's really quite sad, and knowing that they have to go through that..." she said, her voice trailing off.
"You wish to be that pseudo-parent for some of them," she added.
With juvenile home residents usually less motivated to learn, lessons have to be engaging and relevant, she added.
The Straits Times observed her lesson last week, when she was teaching four girls about energy and how to make a solar cooker, using foil-lined material to reflect sunlight.
Teaching in juvenile homes requires Ms Tan to be more aware of security. During the science lesson, for instance, she gives the students a pair of scissors to cut the materials only when they need it, and takes it back after use.
Asked what keeps her going, she recalled something a Boys' Home resident said at an awards ceremony last year.
"He said that in the past, he always went up on stage to be caned, but now he was going up on stage to receive an award."
This article was published on April 21 in The Straits Times.
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