Debate on ministries' budgets: Education

More help in school for students with special needs

From July, teachers in mainstream schools will get access to bite-size online learning modules that will better equip them to teach students with special educational needs (SEN).

Around 80 per cent of students with special needs are taught in mainstream schools, while the remaining 20 per cent with higher needs go to special education (Sped) schools.

In announcing this move yesterday, Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah said that funding for Sped schools has risen by about 40 per cent in the past five years, but "we can and will do more".

Three new Sped schools will be opened, she said, on top of the 19 existing schools.

Of the three, one is for students with moderate to severe special needs who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability.

The other two are for students with moderate special needs with ASD who can access the national curriculum.

The Ministry of Education is also recruiting more non-teaching staff to provide learning and behavioural support to students with special needs.

Last July, it increased the number of training places for these allied educators from 60 to 600 a year.

These educators support children who have learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, as well as counsel and guide them on integrating into mainstream schools.

Now, there are around 2,000 allied educators, with about 600 specialising in learning and behavioural support working in primary and secondary schools.

Other types of allied educators include school counsellors, outdoor adventure educators and student welfare officers.

  • 2,000 

    Number of allied educators. They support children who have learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, as well as counsel and guide them on integrating into mainstream schools.

    600 

    Number of such educators who specialise in learning and behavioural support working in primary and secondary schools.

Ms Indranee, in her reply to Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC) and Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC), also said that the SEN Fund will be extended to students with learning and language difficulties, such as dyslexia, and social and behavioural difficulties like autism.

From next month, students can tap the fund to buy assistive technology devices - such as a reader pen for someone with dyslexia - for up to a maximum of $5,000.

When the fund was set up in 2014, it was for polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education students with physical or sensory impairment, such as deafness or blindness.

The autonomous universities will extend the same support to their students with special needs, Ms Indranee added.

She said: "Feedback on the SEN Fund has been positive. It has helped students to keep up with academic learning and improve day-to-day interaction with peers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2020, with the headline 'More help in school for students with special needs'. Print Edition | Subscribe