Mr Murali Pillai
MP for Bukit Batok
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development in light of the requirement under the Compulsory Education Act for a parent to ensure that his child attends primary school regularly, whether the Ministry intends to update the criteria under the Children and Young Persons Act to include the situation of a parent or guardian of a child neglecting to ensure that the child attends primary school regularly when determining whether a child or young person is in need of care or protection.
1. The reasons for irregular school attendance are often complex. There may be underlying stressors faced by the family, including marital, financial, substance abuse or health challenges. These issues may temporarily affect a family’s ability to care for a child.
2. As articulated in Parliament when the Compulsory Education (CE) Act was introduced, parents are primarily responsible for ensuring their children attend school regularly. The family and community should play an active role in supporting parents to send their children to school before the State steps in to compel them to do so.
3. It is not necessary for the Children and Young Persons Act to specifically cover irregular school attendance as the framework established by the CE Act already covers this aspect. Recognising that irregular attendance at school can be due to multiple and complex factors, MOE takes a holistic approach by working with parents, schools, community groups, and relevant agencies to counsel and support the family to help all students attend school. Legal enforcement is considered when all intervention and counselling efforts have been exhausted.
4. The Children and Young Persons Act is intended to protect primarily children who have been seriously harmed or are at risk of serious harm. In such situations, the Ministry’s Child Protective Service will intervene and work with community partners and the family through a range of services, to address the safety and well-being of children and young persons. Early intervention remains key to reaching out to these families. The Social Service Offices and community partners such as the Family Service Centres also stand ready to help families through their challenges.