SINGAPORE: Mental wellness and peer support will be given more focus in schools soon, as the Ministry of Education refreshes the Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) curriculum for 2021.
“One key challenge our youths face today is mental well-being,” said Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah in Parliament on Wednesday (Mar 4).
As such, mental health will be part of the new CCE curriculum in secondary schools, “to help students to understand common mental health issues and their symptoms, know when and how to seek help for themselves and others, and develop empathy and care towards persons with mental health issues”, said Ms Indranee, during her ministry’s Committee of Supply debate.
Similarly, polytechnics and the Institute for Technical Education (ITE) have also worked with the Health Promotion Board to develop mental health resources for students.
Other than educating students, teachers will also create “a positive school learning environment”.
Teachers are taught to create a “positive classroom culture” as part of their training, and “positive teacher-students relationships are strongly emphasised”, said Ms Indranee. The ministry will develop teachers’ capabilities through SkillsFuture for Educators.
Building on that, schools will have to teach students how to overcome setbacks.
“To help students face challenges confidently, we will help students develop the resilience mindset of ‘I am, I have, I can’,” said Ms Indranee.
This mindset will teach students to appreciate their strengths, harness positive beliefs about themselves, tap on peer and family support and equip them with skills such as emotional regulation, problem-solving and managing relationships and conflicts.
As peer support can contribute to students’ well-being, MOE will also establish peer support structures in every school by 2022.
“Our vision is for every student to be a peer supporter, forming a strong network of support in their class, CCA (co-curricular activity) or peer group, where they can look out for each other and seek guidance from teachers or counsellors where necessary,” said Ms Indranee.
Despite these measures, students who still struggle with mental health issues will require more support, she added.
Teachers in schools and Institute of Higher Learnings’ class advisors will be trained to pick up signs of distress, reach out to these students and refer them to mental health professionals if needed.
MORAL VALUES AND DISCUSSIONS ON CONTEMPORARY ISSUES
As part of the refreshed CCE curriculum, primary schools will emphasise the teaching of moral values, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung during his Committee of Supply speech on Wednesday.
“As the Chinese saying goes … values before academics,” said Mr Ong.
The bulk of CCE lessons for Primary 1 to 3 students will be devoted to character and values, while CCE and mother tongue lessons for all primary school students will be better aligned, as many character and values lessons are taught during mother tongue lessons, he said.
National education and citizenship, currently part of the CCE curriculum, will be taught during the Form Teacher Guidance Period instead. This will apply to Primary 4 to 6 students.
MOE will also increase efforts to engage secondary school students on contemporary issues through CCE lessons, covering topics such as climate change, government policies and race and religion.
“(Some of these topics) may be sensitive to discuss, but they are important to help our students better understand the complexities of our country and our life,” said Mr Ong.
“Teachers will guide students to listen attentively, converse respectfully and be open to differing perspectives.”
As specialised skills may be needed to facilitate discussion of complex or sensitive topics, every secondary school will have specialised CCE teachers by 2022.
Outside the classroom, CCE will be integrated into activities such as CCAs, camps, cohort learning journeys and Values-in-Action.
Three new models of CCA allocation will be piloted at several primary schools in 2020, aimed at eliminating CCA selection trials.
The ministry is also looking into expanding a pilot that allows students to participate in CCAs not offered in their schools, while some schools will trial combined teams for CCAs with small enrolment.
The new CCE curriculum will be progressively implemented in all primary and secondary schools from 2021, said Mr Ong.
To allow students to engage Southeast Asia better, the humanities curriculum will place more emphasis on studying Asia, said Mr Ong.
“It must provide students with a deeper appreciation of the geographies, histories, cultures, languages and economies of our regional countries,” he said.
More overseas trips will also be organised to Asian countries. Singaporean students should experience Asia, as it is “our own backyard” and where Singaporeans “have a natural competitive advantage”, added Mr Ong.
These measures will go towards the 70-70 goal announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Sweet Keat in his Budget statement.
Under this goal, Institutes of Higher Learning will aim for 70 per cent of their students to have overseas exposure, with a further 70 per cent of these students to have exposure to ASEAN, China or India.
READ: Budget 2020: New target for overseas opportunities for students, with focus on SE Asia, China, India
MOE will also teach conversational ASEAN languages starting with Vietnamese and Thai. This will be offered to students from primary to pre-university levels and it will be a 10-hour language and cultural exposure component.
“Southeast Asia is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. Together with China, India, Japan, Korea, they all form part of our natural hinterland.
“Singapore-based enterprises need to be able to venture out to the region, and Singaporeans must be able to play a part in it. To do so, we need to be equipped with the relevant knowledge, language and cultural skills,” said Mr Ong.