The Straits Times
Published on Dec 03, 2012

Reach deserves continued govt funding


THE work of the Reach (Response, Early Intervention and Assessment in Community Mental Health) programme is laudable and fills an important gap for children with special needs studying in mainstream schools ("More children get early help with mental health issues" and "Offer more help to special needs children in regular schools" by Mrs Padmini Kesavapany; both published last Monday).

The education review should also consider how our system can cater to children with special needs in a structured and holistic fashion. It is heartening that the Ministry of Education website states that it has "a commitment to ensure that the potential of each pupil is recognised, nurtured and developed".

The extent and nature of help the Government can and should provide to children with special needs is a complex issue with many competing concerns and which requires the input of experts.

However, it is noteworthy that we currently spend resources to conduct nationwide tests to sieve out "gifted" children and train teachers on how to engage such students. MOE's commitment would ring hollow if it does not spend at least an equal amount of effort in fulfilling the potential of children with special needs.

In this regard, Mrs Kesavapany's suggestion to establish special education centres within mainstream schools is certainly worth looking into, but one that the Government cannot implement in a short time.

One interim measure would be to continue government funding for the Reach programme so as to benefit as many children with special needs as possible.

Esther Yee (Ms)