Framework needed for clarity, support

Making special education compulsory is pivotal to how our society matures as it seeks to keep pace with rapid changes ("Why no compulsory education yet"; July 31).

More young children are being diagnosed with developmental problems such as autism and speech and language delays, with a 60 per cent increase in new cases last year, compared with 2010.

This calls for a clear operational framework to systematically organise and deliver special education services, which only the legislative context offered by compulsory special education can provide.

With a clear operational framework, special education pedagogy and pedagogical training can converge on a common and core set of standards of best practice.

The professional implications would, in turn, be the creation of a special education curriculum that is broad-based and appropriate to meet the continuum of special needs students.

It would also necessitate clear pathways of professional development for those in the field of special education, which may, in turn, reverse the current challenge of retaining staff.

Most importantly, making special education compulsory makes the vital "connection" with the growing efforts and resources invested in early childhood to intervene early in special needs cases, raise awareness of developmental problems and improve the system of screening in pre-schools and in the community.

Compulsory special education maintains the support started early in the life of the child, laying a strong foundation for effective participation in the community in later life.

We need to believe that children with special needs also have hopes, dreams and aspirations, albeit unexpressed or expressed differently.

Our firm commitment to this can be demonstrated by affirming unanimously that education needs to be compulsory for all children.

Lucy Pou Kwee Hoon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2016, with the headline 'Framework needed for clarity, support'. Print Edition | Subscribe