Students with special needs often find it hard to thrive in Singapore’s education system.
And during the Ministry of Education’s Committee of Supply debate, Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah focused on this topic in her speech on Monday, March 4.
Compulsory education for students with special education needs
According to Indranee, students with moderate to severe special education needs will be included under Singapore’s Compulsory Education framework.
This means that depending on the severity of their special education needs, students will have to enrol into either a mainstream primary school or a government-funded special education school.
These special education schools are run by social service organisations but are recognised as national primary schools. Examples include Chaoyang School, the MINDS schools, the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore School, and the Rainbow Centre schools.
Even though these students attend non-mainstream primary schools, Indranee says students from special education schools and mainstream schools have the opportunity to interact.
She highlighted the example of a Visual Arts Collaboration programme that brought together Rainbow Centre, a special education school, and six other mainstream schools to create 3D artwork from recycled materials in 2018.
Free assistive leaning devices
Aside from that, Indranee also mentioned that students from special education schools receive support — via education tools and a network of qualified educators — throughout their years in the education system.
For example, students with hearing loss, visual impairment, and physical impairment receive assistive learning devices such as frequency modulation equipment, Braille notebooks, computer systems with specialised features, talking calculators, voice synthesisers, customised furniture and specialised software.
She also said an “ecosystem of support” that staff in schools provide to students helps those with various special needs with their journeys through school, and also in transitioning between mainstream and special education schools.
Qualified educators to support students with special needs
Even in mainstream schools, students with special education needs are supported by qualified educators.
For example, Allied Educators (Learning and Behavioural Support) are go through a customised National Institute of Education (NIE) Diploma in Special Education to ensure they are specially trained for special needs support. According to Indranee, the number of these educators increased by over 40 per cent within the last five years.
Additionally, a core group of teachers in primary and secondary mainstream schools undergo a Certificate-level training in Special Needs at NIE. These teachers will then guide their colleagues in better supporting students with special education needs.
Lastly, all Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) have Special Education Needs offices on campus, and about two-thirds of academic staff in IHL have undergone basic training to support students with special needs.
Transiting into the workforce
Even with all these, students with special needs require help in transiting into the workforce. For example, institutes of higher learning work closely with SG Enable to support students with special education needs through internships and mentoring programmes.
Indranee used the example of Rachael, a graduate of Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore School. Rachael is hemiplegic, meaning she has weaker functions on the right side of her body.
During her studies, Rachael underwent month-long work attachments at a supermarket, a laundry factory, and a cafe, and one of the things she learnt was how to travel independently from home to work.
One of her internship placements was at Foreword Coffee, which accommodated her special needs by providing labels and visuals to help her follow certain steps.
For full article, please visit: https://mothership.sg/2019/03/special-education-needs-students-singapore/