Special education schools should be part of national system

Straits Times Forum, 18 October 2014 (print edition)

THE Disabled People’s Association (DPA) thanks the Ministry of Education (MOE) for addressing its concerns about the exemption of children with disabilities from the Compulsory Education Act (“Special education can’t be ‘one size fits all‘”; last Saturday).

We are not proposing that education should be “one size fits all”; rather, there should be one education system that accommodates the needs of all children here.

The DPA works with a diverse group of people with different disabilities, and recognises that no one type of learning would suit them all.

Special education schools have the expertise to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities and help them flourish, and should continue to have an integral role in Singapore’s education system, regardless of whether the MOE takes a larger governance role over them.

To reiterate the DPA’s position, we believe that children with disabilities should not be automatically exempted from compulsory education to attend special education schools. Instead, such schools should be, in some way, part of the national education system, under the ultimate governance of the MOE.

In that way, there would be no need to exempt these children from compulsory education. Those with more severe disabilities could apply for exemptions in the same way any home-schooled student would.

There is no reason why the MOE taking a greater governance role in special education would mean that the needs of children with disabilities would not be catered for.

As it is, there are a number of children with special needs in national schools, and allied educators work with teachers to support them in mainstream classes.

In this way, the MOE already cares for those with various learning styles and does not run a “one size fits all” education system.

The application of compulsory education to all children in Singapore does not mean education has to be homogenised.

The DPA is confident that the MOE can extend the national education system to welcome special education schools into that community in the future, and become one system that accommodates all children’s needs.

If MOE would like further clarification on DPA’s position or to work together to start a dialogue on how special education can be integrated into national education, we would be more than happy to do so.

Marissa Lee Medjeral-Mills (Dr)
Executive Director
Disabled People’s Association

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