Continuing efforts to get students from different groups to interact

We thank Mr Kelvin Seah Lee Nguon for his letter (Inclusivity doesn't help only those with special needs; Nov 6).

The Ministry of Education (MOE) and volunteer welfare organisations running special education (Sped) schools have always sought to maximise interaction between students in Sped and mainstream schools.

Satellite partnerships between the two groups of schools have been in place since 2008 and they provide purposeful and appropriate interactions between the students. An example is the combined community service and co-curricular programmes for students of Bowen Secondary School and Awwa School.

These partnerships help Sped school students build their social skills and confidence while mainstream school students develop greater awareness, understanding and acceptance of their peers from Sped schools.

MOE, schools and partner organisations also work together to promote inclusivity in the arts, sports and community service.

For example, the inaugural Play Inclusive festival brought together student-athletes from several Sped schools and mainstream schools. Students learnt a new sport together and were able to participate as a combined team in the tournaments.

Nevertheless, we are mindful that not all children with special education needs are comfortable in social settings, and some may need long-term support by specially trained teachers to develop the necessary skills. Thus, we carefully pace their exposure to social settings.

About 80 per cent of special education needs students, or 24,000 students, including those with sensory and physical impairment, attend mainstream schools. As they learn, play and grow together, friendships form and they learn to value one another.

MOE will continue to review and improve efforts to strengthen interaction between children with special education needs and their peers.

As Singapore aspires to be a more inclusive society, we welcome and create a bigger space for persons with disabilities and special needs.

To do so, we greatly value the perspectives of parents as well as insights gained from study trips like those mounted by Lien Foundation with The Straits Times.

Lucy Toh (Mrs)

Divisional Director

Special Educational Needs Division

Ministry of Education

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2018, with the headline 'Continuing efforts to get students from different groups to interact'. Print Edition | Subscribe