'Boost morale of weaker pupils'

From left: Sinda trustees for life, Sat Pal Khattar, S. Dhanabalan and Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Sinda chairman, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, with a pupil at the tuition-programme centre in Tampines run by the Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda).

SINGAPORE - When weaker pupils start out behind their peers, it can lead to "a spiral" of lost confidence.

Helping children like these is the main challenge for community groups that run tutoring schemes, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmuguratnam said yesterday. His comments came after a visit to a tuition-programme centre in Tampines run by the Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda).

"(There are) students who start off weaker than others," said Mr Tharman, who is Sinda chairman. "You've got to make sure that doesn't lead to a loss of confidence because that can become a spiral."

He also held a dialogue with parents at East View Secondary School, where the centre is based.

Those who attended the session had differing views, he said. One father asked if children could finish their homework in school and relax at home, while a mother wanted her youngsters to be given more test papers. Both are valid points of view, he said. "The point of education is to find the right balance - don't overstress the children too much too early, particularly with examinations, but at the same time respect the aspirations of the parents, the children, which is a real strength in Singapore."

Those who attended the dialogue had children in Sinda's Step tuition programme in English, mathematics and science. It is open to all pupils, not just those from needy homes.

Other parents also asked if Step would be able to offer more subjects or more individualised teaching in classes with different ability levels. For example, Mrs Rimi Singh, 33, whose Primary 1 son takes Mandarin as his mother tongue as Hindi is offered only outside schools, suggested Sinda help with Mandarin tuition as well.

"If we had unlimited resources - many more teachers, a lot more money - we would try and help every single group," said Mr Tharman. "But with the limited resources we have, we need to focus on the group that needs help the most."

linettel@sph.com.sg
caiwj@sph.com.sg


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