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Tough regimen in Boys' Home

Structure and discipline help young people stay on the straight and narrow.

Said youth guidance officer Ken How: "Teachers follow the MOE syllabus, so classes are more structured. The boys feel good about higher standards and they're more interested (to learn)."

But it can be tough inside. Flag-raising and breakfast aside, those in the Singapore Boys' Home start their morning with a body check, which is a standard protocol. Bruises signal that fights might have taken place at night.

"The visual checks tell us the (physically) weaker boys are okay," Mr How, 33, said. A Cisco officer, armed with baton and handcuffs, is stationed with him.

Quick to spot tell-tale signs before fights break out, Mr How intervenes during quarrels and warns residents to behave.

"That's usually enough to get them to stop," the former army regular said. And boys who lay hands on each other are caned "on the spot".