Exchange in Ministerial Statement on River Valley High School Incident

Ms Hazel Poa (Non-Constituency Member): Thank you, Deputy Speaker. This incident, as well as the incident at SJI, has thrown the spotlight on the importance of mental health.

Last year, the number of suicides among boys aged 10 to 19 was at a record high. I echo Mr Patrick Tay’s call, which the Minister did not specifically address, and urge the Minister to consider implementing measures to regularly and systematically monitor the mental well-being of our students, like how we monitor their academic achievements and physical fitness. This can be in the form of questionnaires that measure stress level, anxiety and depression. I understand from mental health professionals that such questionnaires are already available. The outcome of these questionnaires will allow us to proactively reach out to students who need help. Without measurement, we act and react with a blindfold.

The second question that I have is based on earlier exchanges. There is recognition that the workload on our teachers is heavy. Such being the case, why is the enrolment at NIE dropping?

Mr Chan Chun Sing: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I will respond to Ms Hazel Poa’s two points.

First, yes, today, we do track our students’ mental health. It may not be through the survey that she mentioned. We will certainly take a look at the kind of surveys possible. I want to highlight one point from what we understand. Surveys, questionnaires can be helpful, but beyond looking at trends, I think we need to build a relationship of trust that can allow our youths to seek help. It is not just measurement alone that we should be concerned with. What is perhaps even more important is to build that trust, that relationship, that allows, encourages and not impede our people seeking help. So, we will do both in this.

Second, we will continue to recruit teachers based on the cohort requirement. At the same time, the way we are structuring the work in the school now is that there are teachers, there are also teacher-counsellors, there are also counsellors and there are also operational managers, admin managers, so that certain people specialise in certain functions, rather than exactly like what was suggested that, perhaps, many, many years ago, that we would put all this workload – from administration to operations to teaching to counselling – all on the shoulders of our teachers.

The NIE numbers do not reflect the overall support structure that we are putting in place to execute the various operations in the schools, including the teaching and the social-emotional health monitoring of our students.