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Include Sped teachers for annual award

It is the time of the year when the annual President's Award for Teachers is to be given out to teachers to recognise their professional excellence.

As in previous years, the nominees will have to be from primary or secondary schools, junior colleges, centralised institutes, polytechnics or the Institute of Technical Education.

In 2004, I had asked why teachers in special education (Sped) schools were not included in the nomination for the award.

In response, the organisers of the Caring Teacher Awards 2004 said "the award for special school teachers is under study".

It is disappointing to note that to date, Sped school teachers are still not considered for such awards.

According to the Ministry of Health, the number of young children diagnosed with developmental conditions, such as autism, speech and language delays and global developmental delay, has tripled in the past decade.

About 4,000 new patients were diagnosed in 2015 by the Child Development Programme at the KK Women's and Children's Hospital and the National University Hospital. This is a 60 per cent increase from around 2,500 new cases diagnosed in 2010.

The Ministry of Education has expanded some existing Sped schools to boost the number of places offered to children who need special education. This, in turn, has led to a greater need for Sped teachers.

Sped teachers are mostly paid less and do not get as much recognition and appreciation as their general education colleagues.

The exclusion of Sped teachers from this annual award is an example of a lack of appreciation for them.

The Education Ministry should take this opportunity to give better recognition to Sped teachers so that more people will be attracted to work with children with special needs.

Betty Ho Peck Woon (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 07, 2018, with the headline 'Include Sped teachers for annual award'. Print Edition | Subscribe