3 special ed schools to take in 75 more kids in total annually

Senior Minister of State for Education, and Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary icing a doughnut as students Pow Kai Lee, 15, and Muhd Irsyad Zainal Ariffin, 16, look on, during a baking lesson at Rainbow Centre-Yishun Park School yester
Senior Minister of State for Education, and Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary icing a doughnut as students Pow Kai Lee, 15, and Muhd Irsyad Zainal Ariffin, 16, look on, during a baking lesson at Rainbow Centre-Yishun Park School yesterday.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Three special education schools that offer programmes for children with moderate to severe autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will be expanding to take in 75 more students in total each year.

The expansion, which will start from the second half of this year, aims to cater to the increased demand for such programmes in government-funded special education schools run by voluntary welfare organisations.

This is driven by an increase in the reported number of students with the disorder, said the Ministry of Education.

The three schools are Eden School, Awwa School and Rainbow Centre, which are run by voluntary welfare organisations Autism Association Singapore, Awwa and Rainbow Centre respectively. School fees range from $86 to $350 a month before subsidies.

At Rainbow Centre, enrolment between 2009 and 2015 at its Margaret Drive School and Yishun Park School has increased by nearly 50 per cent from 515 to 759 students.

"With the 75 new places that we are going to offer, (to) every Singaporean child who has a need for special education, we can say, 'You have a place'," Senior Minister of State for Education, and Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary told reporters yesterday after touring Rainbow Centre-Yishun Park School.

Last December, the Government revealed that one in 150 children here has autism - higher than the World Health Organisation's global figure of one in 160 children.

Dr Janil said the reasons for the increase in demand for places in special education schools for children with ASD include the ability to diagnose autism in children at a younger age. "We're also getting better at persuading families... that we can provide a meaningful educational opportunity for these children," he added.

The three schools will each be opening an additional campus.

For Eden School, it will be at the site of the former Hong Kah Primary School, while Awwa School will open another campus at the former Bedok West Primary School. Rainbow Centre will have its interim campus at the site of the former Si Ling Secondary School.

Opening dates for the additional campuses are not firmed up yet. From the second half of this year, the additional enrolment at Awwa School will operate at Minds Fernvale Gardens School, which will share its campus and continue normal operations.

From next year, the additional Eden School campus will operate out of Chong Boon Secondary School, which will be merging with and moving to the current Yio Chu Kang Secondary School's campus.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2017, with the headline '3 special ed schools to take in 75 more kids in total annually'. Print Edition | Subscribe