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Headlines for August 5–11, 2021

Finland is set to expand compulsory education by three years,  Singapore is adding a focus on mental health into its national curriculum Korea is investing in childcare to get more women back into the workforce, and more schools than expected are taking advantage of summer school funding in England.

Finland Rolls Out Preschool Pilot as It Extends Compulsory Secondary School

Finland is launching a pilot this week to begin free preschool education for 5-year-olds, with over 10,000 children and one-third of municipalities participating. Finland has long started compulsory education at age 7, with preschool starting at age 6, reasoning that children under 6 could participate in optional enrichment activities at private childcare centers. However, the existing system has raised concerns about whether Finland is doing enough to ensure that all children start school on an equal playing field. In addition, some policymakers have argued that the relatively low participation of women in the workforce is due in part to the late start of school. Nevertheless, concerns remain about whether the country has enough qualified preschool teachers to reach younger children, so the pilot will start small before potentially expanding. The move comes as Finland officially begins its long-discussed two-year expansion of compulsory education, meaning that today’s Finnish 5-year-olds could be in school a full three years longer than their older peers. Read more at YLE.

FinlandYoungChildren

Singapore Introduces New Measures Focused on Student Mental Health

Rathi Parimalan, Superintendent West 1, Schools Division, Singapore
Rathi Parimalan, Superintendent West 1, Schools Division, Singapore

The Ministry of Education announced new measures to support student well-being. All teachers will receive “enhanced professional development” on mental health and how to identify and support students in need. In addition, the Ministry plans to deploy additional specially trained teacher-counselors in schools, expanding from the current 700 to more than 1,000. These measures are part of a larger effort the jurisdiction is making to promote student well-being. For instance, Singapore recently revised its Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) curriculum to include enhanced features on mental health education and required all schools to implement peer support systems. As part of a new task force, the Ministry of Education will work with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social and Family Development to develop an “overarching national strategy and action plan on mental health and well-being.” Read more at Channel News Asia.

Korea Expands Child Care Services to Encourage More Women to Work

Korea’s Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki recently announced plans to expand child care services across the country, including into the evening hours, to encourage more women to work. As in many other countries, the pandemic made it hard for Korean mothers to work while also supporting their children who were too young for school or learning from home. Prior to the pandemic, the country was already facing dual demographic challenges: a low birthrate and a rapidly aging population, resulting in a decline in labor supply. However, parents and teachers’ groups are criticizing the government’s plan, saying that it would mean children have to stay at school for long periods of time so their parents can work late. Many say what is needed is a more accommodating workplace culture that enables working parents to use childcare leave and flexible work hours so they can spend more time at home with their children.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki
Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki

Majority of Secondary Schools to Provide Summer School Programs in England

England's Minister of State for Schools, Nick GIbb
England's Minister of State for Schools, Nick GIbb

More English secondary schools are carrying on with summer school programming than previously thought. Nearly three in four mainstream secondary schools in England will provide summer schooling to students, according to data from the Department for Education (DfE). The DfE data was released after a survey of more than 1,000 primary and secondary school leaders earlier this month suggested that only 18 percent of schools intended to run summer schools, in large part due to the need to give students “a proper break” over the summer. However, DfE data suggests that 74 percent of secondary schools have signed up, with over 500,000 students expected to benefit from face-to-face learning over the summer break. Summer schools will include a variety of academic and enrichment activities, from math and English lessons to clubs and sports. Funding comes from the government’s £1.7 billion (US$2.4 billion) “catch-up” package announced in February, £200 million (US$277 million) of which was specifically earmarked for summer schools this year. Schools minister Nick Gibb said: “It’s very good to see so many children will now have the opportunity to enjoy clubs and activities this summer, building friendships and supporting their mental and physical health, alongside their educational progress.”