DADs@School Forum 2019 gathered nearly 200 school leaders, parent support group and father group leaders as well as interested parents to discuss issues pertaining to fathering in schools on May 11, 2019. The Guest of Honour for the event was Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development.

In conjunction with DADs for Life’s 10th Anniversary, this year’s forum was themed Fathering in the next decade and discussed the challenges of fathering in the next 10 years.

In 2010, Fathers@Schools was launched under the DADs for Life umbrella as a platform to encourage more fathers to be actively engaged in their children’s academic life. Centre for Fathering, which took over the leadership of DADs for Life in 2015, organised the inaugural DADs@Schools Forum in 2016 to drive deeper engagement among existing father groups and promote the formation of new groups. To date, a total of 40 father groups has been formed with many more expected in the next few years.

During the forum, Mr Bryan Tan, CEO, Centre for Fathering and DADs for Life: Dads@School highlighted that the DADs@School Forum “has been instrumental in the work we do for DADs for Life as this is where fathers are raised, activated and mobilised to not just participate in school activities and partner the schools and parent support groups to run activities but to extend it beyond the schools to start community service.”

The forum also featured two speakers: Mr Peter Tan, Principal of Queensway Secondary School and former member of Father’s Action Network; and Mr Yuen Chee Onn, Group Head, Engagement & Partnerships, Centre for Fathering.

As the first speaker, Mr Peter Tan shared with audience words of wisdom gleamed from years of marriage and parenting. He said, “The best gift you can give to your children is to love the mother of your child. As fathers, we need to be ready to take our masks off. If we are wrong, we say we are wrong.”

Mr Yuen then came on stage and encouraged the audience to think about what children need and want, “What they want first and foremost to me, which is the most important, is love and affection. They need to know that we love them unconditionally. They need to know that we love them as they are.”

Minister Lee also shared from his heart about his parenting journey, saying, “It’s for me a constant reminder that I must play my part as a father, I must make time, I must set aside time, I must prioritise and not give leftover time. And I must find quality time.”

The forum ended with an interactive discussion session between the audience, Minister Lee and the speakers. Two fathers brought up the challenges of the aging population in the next ten years and how the fathers are stretched in different ways because they have to take time off to look after both their children and elderly parents.

Minister Lee acknowledged the issues raised by the fathers and said that more is being done to help corporations become more family friendly. However, ultimately, what is needed is to empower families and provide support to Dads and Mums, so that they can partner to look after the young and elderly in the family.