17-member advisory panel starts work on compulsory education for children with special needs

Dr Janil Puthucheary (centre) will be heading the 17-member advisory panel that will look into the implementation of compulsory education for children with moderate to severe special needs.
Dr Janil Puthucheary (centre) will be heading the 17-member advisory panel that will look into the implementation of compulsory education for children with moderate to severe special needs.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A 17-member advisory panel headed by Dr Janil Puthucheary, who is Minister of State for Education, has been appointed to look into the implementation of compulsory education for children with moderate to severe special needs.

Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng had announced last month (November) that starting from 2019, this group of children will need to attend publicly-funded schools, just like all other children in Singapore, unless they apply for exemption.

In a statement on Tuesday (Dec 13), the Ministry of Education (MOE) said that the advisory panel will consult groups - such as special education (Sped) schools, educators, parents and voluntary welfare organisations - and is expected to present its recommendations to the ministry by the end of 2017.

The panel comprises professionals with a range of expertise, including experienced Sped leaders, educators and medical practitioners.

Dr Puthucheary said in the statement: "The work ahead of the panel will not be easy. We need to look at the finer details of implementing compulsory education so that we can appreciate concerns and operational difficulties, and think through what are the best solutions for our children.

"We are mindful of the impact our work will have on children with special educational needs, their families and the Sped community, and we will make careful, considered recommendations to ensure a smooth implementation process."

Ms Denise Phua, vice-chairman of the panel, said: "I am very encouraged to be a part of this panel with so many other people passionate about helping children with special educational needs. Education is an important stepping stone to a better life for every child.

"I look forward to a robust discussion with fellow panel members on how compulsory education can be implemented to best serve our children."

The other panel members are:

- Dr Mariam Aljunied, a principal educational psychologist at MOE

- Mr Ang Wei Neng, member of Grace Orchard School's school management committee and a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education

- Ms Chia Yong Yong, president of SPD, formerly known as the Society for the Physically Disabled

- Madam Ruby Chiew, AWWA School principal

- Dr Chong Shang Chee, senior consultant and head of National University Hospital's Child Development Unit

- Mr Gerard Ee, chairman of Canossian School's school management committee

- Mr Ho Jack Yong, assistant director at Singapore Management University's Diversity and Inclusion Office

- Ms Tina Hung, deputy chief executive officer of the National Council of Social Service

- Madam Law Li Mei, principal of Fairfield Methodist School (Primary)

- Dr Lee Tung Jean, deputy secretary of the Ministry of Social and Family Development

- Mrs Pek Kwee Lan, principal of Endeavour Primary School

- Ms Suzana Soo, principal of Minds Lee Kong Chian Gardens School

- Mrs June Tham, former executive director of the Rainbow Centre

- Mr Wong Siew Hoong, MOE's director-general of Education

- Dr Faye Yang Phey Hong, senior principal psychologist at KK Women's and Children's Hospital's Child Development Department