The Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA), a self-help group for the Indian community in Singapore, was launched in 1991 to address the educational and socio-economic issues facing the community.
Since its inception, its aim has always been to build a strong and vibrant Indian Singaporean community, by providing the young with educational and financial help, and providing the necessary assistance and aid to low-income families.
"Our first priority is to reduce the 20 per cent of Indians in the low-income group and to narrow the gap," said Mr K. Barathan, who came on board as SINDA's CEO in July last year. "We also want to ensure that every Indian who is joining the workforce is gainfully employed and is a good citizen to the country, and we start by motivating the young."
One of SINDA's areas of focus for 2015 is maximising educational opportunities for all students.
The self-help group has two main tuition programmes - the SINDA Tutorials for Enhanced Programme (STEP) and Project Teach. While Project Teach is a school-based supplementary educational programme, providing before- or after-school lessons for weaker students, STEP functions like tuition centres. Both programmes have customised curricula, tailored to high, middle and low achievers. The programmes currently run for maths and science.
There are plans to reduce the student-teacher ratio from the present 12 students to one teacher, so as to provide better student-teacher engagement and more personalised attention. As SINDA's tuition programmes complement the Ministry of Education syllabus, the tuition programmes are where students can clarify doubts, concepts, and so on. The self-help group is, therefore, also looking at how they can develop its own content and pedagogy that will supplement and complement the MOE syllabus.
Part of SINDA's efforts have also focused on motivating youths who are either at-risk, unmotivated or have no aspirations.
"Children from low-income families need to be given guidance in their studies," Mr Barathan explained. "We also find that youths in the Indian community need to identify their aspirations, and we then need to motivate them to achieve their goal."
Evidence of its efforts to reach out to these groups came in the form of the Positive Youth Award in November, which was handed out to 146 youths who showed positive improvement in their attitudes and are more motivated to aspire towards something meaningful.
On the other end of the spectrum, high achievers are not overlooked. Polytechnic, junior college and Institute of Technical Education students with leadership qualities are identified through their respective schools and put into the SINDA Young Leaders Programme, where their skills are groomed, while upper primary students have the Star Leadership programme.
SINDA has also been running pre-school programmes on weekends. One of its programmes is Project Read, where volunteers visit the homes of pre-schoolers to enhance their reading capabilities over a six-month period. It has also partnered with the National Library Board for Book and Shelf, a project that provided children with study corners and books to pique their interest in learning.
In 2015, SINDA plans to launch the Literacy and Numeracy Programme, geared towards pre-school children. This programme will be run by the People's Association's Indian Activity Executive Committees islandwide. The children will be taught reading and maths skills by volunteers who will be trained for the programme.