SINGAPORE : Students of Special Education (SPED) schools and their parents will get stronger support, with more funds and a revised curriculum framework.
This includes a S$4.5 million fund to improve the schools’ information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure.
Twelve—year—old Nikki Ang can key in words or choose colours — by tilting her head. A camera helps track her head movement.
Nikki, who suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and has difficulty using her limbs, now finds it easier to take part in classroom activities.
Ramlan Hamim, a teacher at Rainbow Centre Yishun Park School, said: "Usually, our students have low self—esteem because when they see others being able to do better and they can’t, they tell themselves they do not want to do it.
"By having ICT (tools) in the classroom...it shows that they can do it too, and...every time I ask them whether they want to do it, they always say ’yes, I want to do it’, because they know they can now. It definitely (increases their) self—confidence."
More students of SPED schools will benefit from such innovative teaching methods, now that the Ministry of Education has started a new fund for schools to use on ICT.
The S$4.5 million fund will be available to all 20 SPED schools over the next three years, starting April next year. Schools can use the money to upgrade current IT facilities or implement new programmes that use info—comm technology in the classroom.
Like mainstream schools, SPED schools will now offer Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) to help students develop self—worth, civic responsibility and a sense of belonging to the nation.
Sim Ann, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education, said: "We have seen (how) well—designed CCE programmes really help to bring our SPED students out of the school, into the community. I think it helps in terms of integration. It helps in making them more comfortable with society at large and the other way around as well.
"It also makes them realise ’I have something to contribute, I have something to share’, and I think that is a very important outcome that we want to strive for. Our students are very much a part of society.’’
Parents whose children have been diagnosed with special needs will get greater support too, through a guidance service that will help them decide whether to transfer their children from mainstream schools to SPED schools.
Ms Sim Ann said: "For students with moderate to severe special needs, there is a limit to how far the mainstream setting can be customised for their needs. The student is not able to access the curriculum as it is taught in the classroom, and personally, I find that it is a missed opportunity for the child.
"I have also seen cases where after transferring to a Special Education school, the child really blossoms because the setting is so much more conducive to the child; his sense of achievement, his sense of confidence increases by leaps and bounds, and I would say that the positive cycle kicks in because he finds that he is able to understand what is being said in class.
"He is able to achieve and...he becomes more confident and he is ready to learn more and he becomes so much more positive and happy about going to school. So it boils down to whether or not the setting is the best for the child; we know that every child is unique.
"So we hope that with the post—diagnosis education guidance, we will be able to help guide more households, more parents to make the right choice for their children."
There are about 10,000 students in mainstream schools with mild special needs.
The Ministry of Education estimates that some 500 students have more severe special needs and may fare better in a SPED school.
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