Bullying, learning difficulties and family problems are some of the issues handled by one of the first schools to try the student development team concept, now set to be rolled out islandwide. Xinmin Primary in Hougang formed its team two years ago. It consisted of teaching staff and a counsellor.
A key factor is that team members are responsible for the well-being of pupils at different levels in the school. Following Xinmin, six schools piloted such teams last year, and 18 more have formed teams this year. Education Minister Heng Swee Keat announced last week that every school will have a student development team by 2016, to provide socio-emotional support to students. This will include inculcating values and providing counselling when necessary.
Looking back at possible lessons from Xinmin's experience, Primary 1 year-head Rosnita Ibrahim, 36, said that issues her pupils face include being late for class, refusing to attend school, and bullying on the school bus. "When I hear of such cases, I will have to speak to the pupils, investigate, and then get their parents to work with me," she said. Mr Edwin Yu, year-head for the Primary 6 level, noted that pupils at different levels have needs unique to them. Year-heads often have to keep an ear to the ground to find out what is happening among pupils, he added.
For instance, Primary 6 pupils spend a lot more time using the computer, and are exposed to more things at a younger age, said the 41-year-old teacher. Xinmin's 12-member team includes two vice-principals, a school counsellor, heads-in-charge of discipline and character and citizenship education, and six year-heads. The six year-heads work closely with form teachers to spot pupils who need extra help.
As pupils progress to secondary level, their needs change. Madam Chong Lin Lin, year-head of the Secondary 4 and 5 levels at Zhenghua Secondary, said she provides her students with guidance on study techniques and post-secondary education pathways. "At that level, students are very concerned about their exams. I will talk to the students about motivation, stress management and studying techniques," said Madam Chong, who also heads the student development department.
"I will get the students to formulate study plans and talk to them about goal-setting."
She added that she checks back with the students regularly to monitor their progress and ensure they are on track. Zhenghua principal Fiona Yeo said that with the student development teams, "you can really surface different problems, such as realising that certain classes are facing more stress than others".
"Then we customise lessons on stress management accordingly and they are more targeted to each class, each student."
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