1st primary school for those who are deaf opens in 2018

Amirul Afiq Rozlan, a Secondary 2 student at Balestier Hill Secondary who was diagnosed with hearing loss in 2005, at a science remedial class taught by Madam Nafisah Mohd Amin, 49. She communicates with the 15-year-old using sign language.
Amirul Afiq Rozlan, a Secondary 2 student at Balestier Hill Secondary who was diagnosed with hearing loss in 2005, at a science remedial class taught by Madam Nafisah Mohd Amin, 49. She communicates with the 15-year-old using sign language.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

From next year, Beatty Secondary replaces current 2 schools for sign-language students

A primary school will be designated for deaf children who use sign language from 2018.

Currently these pupils attend Lighthouse School, a special education establishment.

The existing primary school will be in a central location and further details will be revealed later, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said yesterday as it announced the development.

CULTURE OF ACCEPTANCE

Giving our students the opportunity to interact with and learn from one another is a very encouraging step towards forging a more inclusive society.

DR JANIL PUTHUCHEARY, Minister of State for Education.

It will be the first primary school designated to accept pupils who are deaf, although there are already four that cater for them at secondary level.

Outram and St Anthony's Canossian Secondary both cater to students who learn via the oral approach, which focuses on the spoken language, lip reading, and voice training.

Balestier Hill and Boon Lay secondaries cater to students who use sign language.

From next year, the latter two schools, which have fewer than 15 such students, will be replaced by Beatty Secondary in Toa Payoh as a result of falling student numbers.

In a statement yesterday, the MOE said that designated schools have teachers trained to support these students using methods such as sign interpretation, social-emotional support and assistive technology devices.

It added: "With a small number of these students (using sign language), locating them in a single designated secondary school will provide them with a greater sense of community, with more opportunities for mutual communication through signing, social interactions and peer support.

"This will also allow better pooling and strengthening of specialised resources within one location."

The MOE will continue to tap the expertise of the Singapore Association of the Deaf (SADeaf) to increase the number of trained staff in the newly designated schools.

Ms Irene Yee, president of SADeaf, said sign language will be used as the language of conversation and to support instruction for students in these schools.

"We are certain that deaf students will benefit tremendously from the integration with their hearing peers in the mainstream designated primary school."

Dr Janil Puthucheary, Minister of State for Education, said these efforts are an extension of MOE's support programmes for these students.

"Giving our students the opportunity to interact with and learn from one another is a very encouraging step towards forging a more inclusive society," he said.

Secondary 2 student Amirul Afiq Rozlan, who was diagnosed with profound hearing loss in 2005, will be moving to Beatty Secondary next year, along with his current schoolmates from Balestier Hill Secondary, one of the merging schools which did not have a Secondary 1 cohort this year.

The 15-year-old, who uses sign language, said: "I am excited about going to a new school because I am looking forward to having more friends."

Since joining a mainstream school, teachers have given him extra attention, and friends who learnt sign language to communicate with him help him interpret information and instructions.

"I do not feel different when I am with my friends. They accept me as one of them, and we go out together as a group," he said.

Madam Nafisah Mohd Amin, 49, one of three teachers at Balestier Hill Secondary trained to support students with hearing loss, said: "Amirul is a fun-loving boy who doesn't let his deafness hinder him in any way."


Correction Note: This article has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2016, with the headline '1st primary school for those who are deaf opens in 2018'. Print Edition | Subscribe