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Newsletter: November 2011

Another of our Metta School students, Lai Bo Cheng, was featured on TODAYonline! Check out this article about the SPED schools in Singapore  if you have missed it.

SINGAPORE – From social-emotional learning and life skills to vocational aptitude, all Special Education (SPED) schools will have a standard framework to work with to educate special needs children.

The inaugural framework – a draft of which would be available to schools at the end of this month – will provide greater consistency on the outcomes expected from a child in a SPED school: For instance, by the age of 18, the child would be able to identify his own emotions and be able to care for himself and manage personal hygiene.

Yesterday, more details of the framework to standardise outcomes and curriculum were unveiled. It was first revealed by Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Education and Law) Sim Ann in an interview with Today published on Tuesday.

The framework is a response to calls for greater standardisation of curriculum and a higher level of professionalism among SPED schools.

Ms Sim, who has been tasked to review the sector, elaborated on the mechanics of the framework yesterday at the inaugural SPED conference.

Among other initiatives, she also launched the Ministry of Education (MOE)-Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) Work Experience Programme for special needs students. Under the programme, these students will be given job attachments for a period ranging between a few weeks and a year.

On the outcomes and curriculum framework, Ms Sim said it will articulate what a child could achieve after 12 years of education in a SPED school and educational outcomes. Ms Sim reiterated that the schools have to adapt these broad goals according to individual’s needs.

Said Ms Sim: “We recognise that the educational needs of students with special needs are diverse and complex, and believe it is important for each school to have the space to tailor its curriculum to meet their unique needs.”

A ‘common language’ for SPED schools: Sim Ann 

Still, Ms Sim noted that having shared goals will not only give parents a clearer idea of what to expect from different SPED schools, it also provides a “common language” between schools and relevant stakeholders during evaluation and allow resources to be channelled appropriately.

SPED educators Today spoke to welcomed the framework. It will raise the sector’s overall standards and facilitate transfer of students between schools. But they reiterated the need for flexibility and that schools need to take charge in tailoring the curriculum according to the strengths of each special needs child.

Metta School vice-principal Anuwar Abdul Wahab said: “If we want the SPED sector to move forward, the schools cannot all be moving in different directions and forming their own outcomes. (But) we should not be trying to assess the students based on academic skills like literacy … there is a need to assess the child holistically, including their skills for independent living.”

St Andrew’s Autism School principal Diana Chin noted that, while not all the outcomes are attainable by every special needs child, they help to stretch the child and encourages teachers to have higher expectations of what each child can achieve. Still, she reiterated the need for schools to be supported by MOE in implementing the framework.

Apart from the framework, other educators such as AWWA School principal Ruby Chiew suggested more vocational opportunities for lower functioning pupils. Concurring with Ms Chiew, Pathlight and Eden School supervisor Denise Phua also called for a body with “strong leadership” to oversee strategic issues in the SPED sector and ensure due diligence in the appointment of management committee members in SPED schools.

At the conference yesterday, seven employers were commended for their participation in the MOE-SNEF programme. Among them was Mandarin Orchard hotel, which employed Metta School student Lai Bo Cheng, 15, as a trainee doorman as part of his vocational training.

Ms Sim also gave out six inaugural SPED scholarships leading to a Masters degree.