“Many of our schools are already contributing to the community around them. I take pride in the term “neighbourhood school”. Our schools are in their neighbourhood, they are part of their neighbourhood,” said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat at the 17th Appointment and Appreciation Ceremony for Principals in December last year.
Contributing to the neighbourhood
Schools are located all around Singapore, providing our children with easy access to a good education, and bring life to the communities.
“The schools exist to serve the neighbourhood community, especially primary schools, because distance is a consideration for the young ones,” said Principal, Mdm Pang Sui San, who shared that Loyang Primary School was built to serve the young estate almost 25 years ago.
To do more for the neighbourhood, the school has been organising a biennial Loyang Fiestasince 2009, attracting more than a thousand visitors each time. Unlike usual fundraising funfairs, the Loyang Fiesta focuses on promoting active families, a healthy lifestyle and a happy community.
“It takes a whole village to raise a child,” said Mdm Pang, “Students must understand that they belong to this larger community.”
Families, neighbours and friends are invited to join in. Students would put up performances, man booths, assist with free health screenings, distribute mozzie kits and interact with the public. Public agencies like the Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Civil Defence Force also join in by putting up demonstrations.
“Through these, they see the importance of crime prevention and community preparedness,” said Mdm Pang.
At the fiesta, everyone would attempt a record-breaking feat together. Last year, 353 people set the record for the largest relay race with a beanbag placed on their heads. It may seem simple, but it celebrated the spirit of the community.
Involving the community
Neighbourhood schools also benefit from close partnership with the community. At Tampines Primary School, regular sessions are planned to help parents, alumni, students, the school advisory committee and community partners understand the education direction for the year and discuss the plans of the school.
“It’s important for us to get their inputs on our plans for the coming year,” said the Principal, Miss Veronica Tay.
Their candid feedback has shaped some of the school programmes. At one session, parents suggested being included in the Values-in-Education project of delivering food parcels to the needy.
“They can be active participants alongside their children and role-model good values,” said Miss Tay.
Being closely knit with the community provides neighbourhood schools with the opportunity to offer more than just textbook knowledge. If we accept that education needs to be holistic, perhaps we will see neighbourhood schools in a different light.