Teaching Mental Wellness in Schools

Updated: Mar 23

On a recent news release by Channel News Asia, Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) has formally introduced mental health as part of their Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) syllabus. (reference video here) Personally, having served as a school counsellor for more than a decade, I would like to affirm this move. To be honest, this may not be a new initiative, as I believe some schools would have had implemented it on their own. However, there was no "formal" recognition of it until recently.

All along, MOE has tried various means at tackling the mental and emotional wellbeing of students, first by introducing Teacher-counsellors, followed by School Counsellors (SC). However, with various degree of needs, and limited manpower of 1 to 2 school counsellors per school, efforts to attempt implementing preventive measures usually end up only scrapping the surface of the real problem. The SCs usually have to be engaged in what I named "fire-fighting", where our time are very much occupied by those meltdowns/acting-out. Paired in the intensive paperwork, database update, and verbal reporting to the higher management, one can hardly have much time to execute these preventive/psychoeducational measures.

Even with the CCE department on board, it really also depends on the school's management to decide on how much resources are they willing to invest. The unfortunate reality is that every MOE officer has their own KPI to meet, and hence the differing amount of effort in which they are willing to invest in taking care of this "second order" tasks.

While it is encouraging to see MOE making a stand regarding mental wellness teaching, we must remind every school that the needs are very different. "Every School is a Good School" is not wrong. But to be more accurate, "Every School is Good in their Unqiue Ways". You can never expect the same syllabus to work in a high achieving IP schools (e.g. HCI , RI), to work in specialized schools (e.g. Spectra, APS). Other than just the "hardware" (syllabus, infrastructure, resources), the "heart-ware" (values, believes, mindset) of educators should also be carefully filtered. Educators in these two opposing categories of schools need to know how much they can push the students, and what is considered a "good" amount of change. Hence, what I suggest is that, instead of a standardized set of materials for all schools, let the schools customize what best suits them. One possible way is to have a range of issues/topics, which different schools can select and implement/teach, based on their own needs. It is NEVER easy to teach soft skills, especially mental and emotional resilience. However, it is never too late to start!

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