Task force to release recommendations next year

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As the task force is still in its preliminary stage, it will release its recommendations next year.

While the recommendations take into account students from all levels, there will be a focus on pre-school and primary school pupils as early intervention is critical to get the child on track, said Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah, who heads the task force.

Those implemented will be evaluated over one to two years, and the Ministry for Education will assess if the task force needs to continue beyond 2020.

Part of its role is to integrate work done by various stakeholders, consult those working with disadvantaged children, and brainstorm for solutions with the community.

One of the task force's eight members - Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State, Ministry of Social and Family Development - said reaching out to parents is important as they play a crucial role in their children's development.

Ms Michelle Yeo, co-founder of ReadAble, a literacy programme for children from low-income families, said that absenteeism is a multifaceted problem and that there are many reasons less privileged children lack the motivation to go to school.

She said: "Some of these children do not speak English as their first language. If the child starts Primary 1 at an disadvantage, it can be demoralising for them and becomes a huge reason for them not to go to school.

"Some parents are employed in shift work, which can lack flexibility and job security, and these daily stresses sometimes take priority over their children's access to education."

Asked if the task force is a step in the right direction, Ms Yeo said: "It is hard to comment on the task force now, but it is a signal that there is political will to tackle the issue of inequality and education in Singapore."