Compare a child whose parents can afford everything from food and clothes to music lessons, with a child whose reality is living in a rented flat with seven other family members, living hand to mouth. Who do you think would likely have an easier journey up the social mobility ladder?
I’m not saying that a child who comes from a low-income family will not be able to climb the social ladder. What I’m saying is that the child will have to do it carrying baggage, with contents that may include family-debt, discrimination and even addiction.
If children from low-income families are left to themselves to carry this baggage up the ladder, some may succeed moving up against all the odds through sheer willpower and determination, while others may fall off.
What if these children are given a helping hand? If there was someone who could take some load off their shoulders, would more of them be able to climb higher?
The Child Support Model
The Child Support Model, a flagship initiative of NTUC First Campus (NFC) is one such effort to help children from low-income families.
Started in 2016, the initiative was developed to provide social, learning and financial assistance programmes to disadvantaged pre-schoolers and their families. Its target groups include both children from low-income families and those with mild developmental or learning needs.
The model is delivered by 70 in-house Child Support Professionals from various disciplines such as learning support educators, therapists, child enabling executives and classroom co-facilitators.
All 140 My First Skool (MFS) pre-schools under NFC have implemented the model, benefiting some 15,000 pre-schoolers to date. Next year, NFC hopes the programme will benefit 3,000 more pre-schoolers through $7.3 million worth of assistance.
NFC also provides a priority registration and placement for children from low-income families at MFS pre-schools. Currently, 15 per cent of those enrolled in MFS are from such families, and their school fees can be as low as $5 to $10 per month.
More Can Be Done
However, lending support is one thing and having created results from the support is another.
That is why NFC recently announced that it will partner National Institute of Education to study the effects of the Child Support Model on the well-being and learning of pre-schoolers from low-income families.
The three-year research study will start next year and will be jointly conducted by two researchers from NFC and six from NIE.
The study will track the progress of 100 pre-schoolers from low-income families in 10 MFS KidStart centres. These children will be followed through their preschool journey from the time they enter K1 until they reach Primary 1.
Through the study, the researchers will look at how these children’s and their families’ situation are different before and after they receive assistance and support services from the Child Support Model.
Through the research findings, NFC said that it will gain informed insights to propose new policies that will further help these children and their families or make changes to existing ones.
NFC Group Child Support Officer Phoon Chew Ping said: “This research study demonstrates NFC’s commitment to boost social mobility through access to quality pre-school education. The study will tell the story of a Singapore approach to support pre-school children and their families from low-income backgrounds.”
Dean of NIE Office of Education Research Professor David Hung hopes the study will provide meaningful outcomes toward NFC’s future plans.
There’s no doubt that initiatives like the Child Support Model goes beyond financial aid and provides a holistic approach to trying to help disadvantaged children move up the social ladder.