Over the years, various avenues of support have been introduced in efforts to bridge the educational inequality gap and give students from low-income families a boost in school and life.
Key recent initiatives spearheaded by the government include stronger after-school support schemes for at-risk youths, such as the Uplift Enhanced School Resourcing programme, and early-childhood programme KidStart that equips parents from low-income families with the know-how to support their child’s development from birth.
Collaborative efforts between the government, non-profit organisations (NPOs), and the community are also underway; for instance, The Uplift Community Network connects students from disadvantaged families with social service agencies and volunteers who provide mentorship and regular check-ins.
As of 2019, there are 176 kidREAD clubs – a nationwide reading programme by Programmes by the National Library of Singapore – where volunteers perform reading sessions for underprivileged children.
NPOs and volunteer-run outfits that work to support literacy and education include Engineering Good (which empowers vulnerable communities through digital inclusion initiatives), ReadAble (which runs weekly ready and language arts classes for children and youths in Jalan Kukoh), and Children’s Wishing Well (which provides a range of services to support both the educational and daily living needs of disadvantaged youth), to name a few.
How are corporate organisations playing their part? The ST School Pocket Money Fund provides financial aid to help low-income families afford school-related expenses like bus fares and recess meals. More companies are also working directly with NPOs to fund bursaries or offer financial aid; for instance, Eastspring Singapore has pledged to fund $2,000 worth of vouchers for child beneficiaries under the Yellow Ribbon’s Yellow Brick Road programme created to support families of the incarcerated.
What else can be done?
All of these programmes are important and beneficial in narrowing inequalities. However, beyond these approaches, reducing educational inequality is also about having a mindset shift to create a more compassionate culture in society, one that actively avoids perpetuating stereotypes and making assumptions about students’ academic abilities based on their background.
For instance, encouraging our children to look out for classmates around them who might be struggling, or offering to tutor a child in need.
Whether you’re an individual or a corporation, we can all play a part to make education more accessible and equitable for all. Together, we can equalise the starting lines and inspire hope and a brighter future for the next generation.