Singapore Youth: Improved Digital Communication Skills but Worse Mental Health and Wellbeing

The survey, carried out to mark World Youth Skills Day 2021, explores public attitudes towards COVID-19 and its impact on children’s education, wellbeing and skills development among 500 adults aged 18 – 65 years old in Singapore

Singapore, July 15th, 2021 – Almost four in ten Singaporeans (37%) think that improved digital communication skills will be one positive long-lasting outcome for children and young people in Singapore, according to a new survey from Ipsos. At the same time, Singaporeans say that worse mental health and wellbeing (36%) and Underdeveloped social skills or issues with self-esteem (34%) are long-lasting outcomes to be expected for Singapore’s youth. Nearly a quarter of Singaporeans (24%) also believe that children will be unable to make up for missed formal education resulting in worse qualifications. Despite this, 76% think school closures are or were an acceptable price to pay to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus.

Key Findings:

The survey, carried out to mark World Youth Skills Day 2021, explores public attitudes towards COVID-19 and its impact on children’s education, wellbeing and skills development among 500 adults aged 18 – 65 years old in Singapore1. The survey was similarly conducted in 28 other countries2.

Maintaining focus and concentration on schoolwork is seen as the biggest issue affecting children and young people of all age groups as they return to the classroom.

Respondents were asked to select up to three issues that they think will have the biggest impact on the wellbeing of children and young people whose schools have closed as they return to in-person education.

  • Half (50%) think that maintaining concentration on schoolwork will be among the biggest issues facing children and young people aged up to 18 as they return to school.
  • Other issues that are of significant concern are adjusting to changes in the school environment (37%) and maintaining good behaviour and discipline (37%).

Improved digital communication skills but at the expense of mental health for children and young people.

  • • 37% of Singaporeans expect that improved digital communication skills will be a long-lasting outcome of the pandemic. This is the highest level recorded among the 29 countries surveyed. The global average standing at just 19%.
  • This is however at the expense of mental health and wellbeing which was selected by 36% of Singaporeans in the top 3 likely persistent outcomes. This is close to the global average of 37%.
  • Other outcomes that are perceived to likely persist for Singapore’s youth include underdeveloped social skills or issues with self-esteem (34%) and higher unemployment rates and lost earnings (32%).

Despite this, most say that school closures are or were an acceptable price to pay to reduce the spread of the virus,

  • 3 out of 4 (76%) Singaporeans say that school closures are or were an acceptable price to pay to reduce the spread of the virus, while 7% it is or was not an acceptable measure.

Access to digital technology followed by support for families who need it to fund education-related expenses, are perceived to be most important to improving access to education post pandemic.

Respondents were asked to select up to three actions, if any, that they think will be most important for improving access to education for children and young people in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Among the top areas selected were actions related to digitalisation such as funding for computers, laptops and tablets (57%), better access to a high-speed internet connection for all (42%), and funding for IT training programmes to improve digital skills (42%).
  • Support for families who need it to fund school uniforms, books, transport, and other education-related expenses was the other area highlighted by 51% of Singaporeans.

For now, Singaporeans say that the government’s focus in the aftermath of the pandemic should remain on public healthcare and social security & financial support for the people.

Respondents were asked to identify up to three areas, if any, that they think should be priority areas for public spending in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • In almost every country surveyed, people are more likely to see spending on public health as a top priority than any of the other options (with a global country average of 58%). On average, social security and financial support for people ranks second, with four in ten (40%) on average across the 29 countries citing it as a priority area for public spending, while primary and secondary education ranks third (with a global country average of 27%).
  • In Singapore, public health and financial support for people are the top 2 priority areas as well, highlighted by 56% and 48% of respondents respectively. Primary and secondary education however appears much lower down the list of priorities (8%).
  • Job security remains a major concern. 34% of Singaporeans would like more government training programmes to improve people's skills and employability.
  • Singaporeans want their government to prioritise domestic spending above overseas spending. Just 4% in Singapore and 4% on average across the 29 countries think that spending on overseas development and foreign aid should be a priority. Among the high-income G8 countries, a similar share (just 4% on average) want their governments to prioritise spending on overseas development/foreign aid.

Melanie Ng, Director of Public Affairs at Ipsos in Singapore said, “While parents and students have expressed concern over home-based learning and falling behind, Singaporeans are mostly agreeable with local government safety measures. The extent of these measures balanced the safety of students and staff, while limiting compromise on education progress and the social benefits that are associated with in-school activities and interactions.

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