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More care centres in primary schools

Fourteen new student-care centres were launched in primary schools last Wednesday, more centres will open by the year end.
Asia One - February 5, 2013
By: Sandra Davie, Stacey Chia
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More care centres in primary schools

SINGAPORE - Fourteen new student-care centres were launched in primary schools last Wednesday to provide after-school programmes such as enrichment activities and homework supervision.

More centres will open by the year end, bringing the total number to more than 80.

This means that close to half of the 187 primary schools will have these centres run by voluntary welfare organisations and commercial firms.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who announced the new centres during a visit to St Hilda's Primary last Wednesday, said parents are keen on them.

They are conveniently sited in school and there is better coordination between school teachers and centre staff in designing activities to complement what the school offers.

He added that the Ministry of Education (MOE) is working with three schools to fine-tune the after-school care model and see what works best.

Mr Heng said that despite the higher demand, MOE will continue to give priority to children from disadvantaged homes.

He noted that school principals report the centres make a difference to children who lack home support.

The average non-subsidised fee is $250 a month, but needy families can pay as little as $20 for their children to spend around six hours a day at the centre.

Among the 14 centres that opened on that day are six in new primary schools that welcomed their pioneer batches of Primary 1 pupils.

They include Sengkang Green Primary and Westwood Primary in Jurong West.

Westwood Primary principal Ng Yeow Ling said parents of 90 of the 240 Primary 1 pupils have signed up for the centre run by education firm Pro-Teach.

Centre manager Patsy Ong said it will offer character education and leadership development programmes, on top of mathematics and English-language enrichment activities.

Parents said the centres are a safer and more convenient alternative to leaving their children at home alone or with grandparents.

Mr Darren Potter, 40, an engineer who had enrolled his Primary 1 daughter Sophia at the centre at Westwood, said it will make it easier for his wife to return to work.

Mr Heng, who spoke to parents at St Hilda's Primary, urged them to recognise that every child is different and to help their offspring develop their talents and interests to the fullest.

Later, when asked by the media about the ministry's moves to reduce pressure, such as not naming top scorers in national examinations, he said: "My hope is that parents will begin to focus on the holistic development of their children."

He added that parents should study the different pathways in the education system and make the best use of the options to achieve the best outcome for their children.

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