MOE to progressively roll out mental health lessons for primary, secondary & pre-uni students

Chan noted that Singapore's youths were subjected to "multiple pressures in the world."

Matthias Ang | December 12, 2021, 10:53 AM

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The Ministry of Education (MOE) will progressively roll out Mental Health Education lessons for students at the primary, secondary and pre-university levels, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Dec. 11.

Speaking at the launch of the e-book "Project: It'll Be Alright", at the National Museum of Singapore, he elaborated that as part of the refreshed Character and Citizenship Education, such lessons had already been rolled out for lower secondary students.

The aim of such lessons, Chan added, is to equip students with the knowledge and skills to build their resilience, strengthen their mental well-being, resolve their challenges and seek help when needed.

All schools have dedicated time and space at the start of each term for teachers to check in on students

In addition, since September this year, every school has dedicated time and space at the start of every term for teachers to check in on the well-being of students.

Chan elaborated that teachers have been provided with practical pedagogical resources and tools to monitor and support students’ well-being, while lesson activities have also been designed to help teachers kick-start conversations with students about sharing and discussing such issues.

Chan also highlighted that MOE is seeking to widen the outreach of peer support in school, given that all schools have such a structure in place and are looking at empowering their students to make an impact on the school community.

There are also 25 Parent Support Groups (PSGs) that have taken the lead in assisting parents whose children and families could require additional support.

Chan said:

"Some are sharing resources and directing fellow parents to community helplines. Others are organising sessions to share parenting tips and advice on identifying signs of stressors and ways to seek help."

As for the government, the minister highlighted that MOE is working with the Ministry of Health and other agencies on areas such as helping youths and parents to better access coordinated mental health services, as well as partnering and empowering parents to strengthen and support their child’s mental well-being.

Efforts are also being made to address the negative impact of digital technology and social media on the mental well-being of youths, with more details to be shared in the coming months, he said.

Definition of success must also be broadened

With regard to society, Chan pointed out that it was important for the public to find a way to broaden the social definition of success.

"This is a fundamental cultural change that we need to bring about. We need to let our children know that success is not based just on how they do in examinations. As a society, we want to embrace a diversity of talents that will strengthen our country’s resilience."

On MOE's part, it has since made some structural shifts in recent years to reduce the overemphasis on academics as a measure of success.

This has included "evolving" the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) examinations, by widening the scoring bands, so that students do not need to "chase down every last mark", and assessing each student based on their own progress regardless of how their peers perform.

Chan acknowledged that a "skewed perspective" of a degree being a "failproof" way to secure a good future still prevailed.

As such, he highlighted:

"We need to remove such artificial and incomplete yardsticks of success prescribed by others. In its place, we must recognise and value the intrinsic worth of each and every youth and empower them to find their own path forward, and to chart their own destiny."

Chan: "Youths face multiple pressures in the world"

The minister noted:

"Today, our youths face multiple pressures in their world. They grapple with managing their social life while balancing their academic and professional pursuits. They deal with expectations that are both self-imposed and imposed upon them by society and their families. They also need to learn to navigate and thrive in a competitive, high-performing environment."

In addition, they must also contend with unique challenges that the older generation has not experienced — social media and digital technology.

He said:

"They live and learn with technology. They stay connected to their friends and families with technology and social media. They organise themselves around meaningful causes through social media and rally one another to advocate for social issues using technology."

Hence, while Singapore's youths have been able to harness the potential of technology and social media, these have also potentially fuelled feelings of anxiety, distorted their self-image, impacted their self-esteem, and increased social pressure among many of them.

In addition, online risks such as cyber-bullying, which transcend physical boundaries and often bypass the awareness of parents, have also made it difficult for parents to protect their children from such harms.

There is also the pandemic's dimension to consider, given that it has brought the mental health issues of youth to the forefront.

Chan added, "Some parents are facing financial and job uncertainty. The resulting tension at home has also affected the mental well-being of the family and their children."

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Top image from Chan Chun Sing Facebook