On Jan 13 2017, 49 individuals representing stakeholders including companies and foundations gathered at Credit Suisse’s Wealth Institute for the inaugural Children & Youth CoLABS to discuss how education can be a gamechanger for social mobility.

Children from low-income families may face more obstacles in their social mobility journey and struggle to escape the cycle of poverty.

Is there a link between economic background and educational achievements?

Mr Pok Vic Tor, co-founder of Viva Kids and Kids Excel, a speaker at the Children & Youth CoLABS event, says that children from low-income families, single-parent families and dysfunctional families are the most difficult to reach via the school system.

What are the challenges faced by these children?

Professor Phyllis Ghim-Lian Chew, a tenured professor of sociolinguistics at the National Institute of Education and former president of women support group AWARE, who also spoke at the event, says: Children may face similar problems, regardless of economic background. The difference is that low-income families do not have the resources to provide for a holistic childhood.

Mr Pok adds: “These children also tend to face a lack of motivation.”

So what can be done to better support the inside and outside of the school system?

Professor Chew suggests that a level playing field should exist from Primary 1. “Children should also be taught basic communication and emotional skills,” she adds.

But Mr Pok notes that teachers “already have too many projects and students to handle”.

“We need a solution that engages with the family first, as well as the community,” he says.

Participants also came up with ideas on how givers and donors, whether an individual or organisation, can work together to achieve their shared vision. Here are three of them:

  1. Engage in collaborative research (eg. mapping needs and players in the sector) so that resources are not wasted.
  2. Fund pilot projects, especially smaller ones that you can test, monitor and improve on.
  3. Tap on skilled talent, for instance, experienced retirees.

CoLABS, an initiative of NVPC and the Community Foundation of Singapore, is a network of impact-oriented givers coming together to tackle complex social problems that they care about. To find out more, visit our website or email colabs@nvpc.org.sg.

I want to create a society where all children can reach for their dreams. Dreams strived for, dreams achieved.

JOHN DONALDSON

Singapore Management University

My vision for this sector is one where we provide assistance that extends beyond pure financial aid, so that kids can develop holistically.

LAURA LEE

SymAsia