4 special needs schools to teach digital skills

Madam Siti Fadillah Mohamed Noor, 41, and her son Muhammad Sayfullah Mohamad Sahrin, 16, chatting with Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran at the Digital Inclusion Festival yesterday. The teenager, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, a
Madam Siti Fadillah Mohamed Noor, 41, and her son Muhammad Sayfullah Mohamad Sahrin, 16, chatting with Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran at the Digital Inclusion Festival yesterday. The teenager, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, attends school at Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Move follows pilot scheme and will benefit over 700 students

More than 700 students with special needs will learn how to search for information on the Internet, make e-payments, use e-mail and chat online in their day-to-day lessons next year, when four schools incorporate basic digital skills into their academic curricula.

The four schools are the Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN) Delta Senior School, APSN Tanglin School, Grace Orchard School and Metta School.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said that the lessons will support the learning needs of students with mild intellectual disabilities, as well as those with autism spectrum disorder, who are between 13 and 20 years old.

This next step in building a digitally inclusive society comes after a pilot programme for 70 students earlier this year received positive feedback.

In announcing the move yesterday, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said students in the pilot learnt about their SingPass accounts and how to use them to access government services, adding that the lessons were aimed at helping the students lead productive and meaningful lives.

Gaining access to digital platforms and services is a skill that every Singaporean should have, he said.

Mr Iswaran, who was speaking at the launch of the inaugural Digital Inclusion Festival at the Lifelong Learning Institute, said: "Building a digitally ready society is not only about ensuring that technology is accessible to all. It is also about equipping people with the skills to use the technology in ways that add value to their lives."

 
 
 

One student who attended the pilot programme, Mr Oun Zi Le, 18, from APSN Delta Senior School, said: "I learnt how to create a Gmail account this year. I can send (and) receive e-mails.

"I also know how to attach files. It is so easy; I now read my e-mails using my phone."

Mr Subash Lazar, principal of APSN Delta Senior School, said the lessons have enabled students like Mr Oun to be more confident when interacting with others and participating in the community.

"We should never assume that our students are all on the same page when it comes to affinity for technology and its uses," he said.

"A deliberate and strategic inclusion of basic digital skills into the curriculum will ensure that our students remain relevant and competent in a world where technological advancement is ever accelerating."

Mr Iswaran also announced that IMDA and APSN Tanglin School have developed a Cyber-wellness Adventure Virtual Reality game, in which students can learn about different practices to improve their cyber hygiene and why it is important to do so. This will complement the new curriculum.

In the game, students will learn to set strong passwords, identify fake news, manage cyber bullies and understand the ethical consequences of their digital footprint, said IMDA.

Mr Iswaran also said that more than 600 organisations have supported the Digital Participation Pledge (DPP), a series of commitments to help make technology more inclusive.

These include equipping employees with digital skills; educating customers, clients or stakeholders on the use of their digital services; offering and designing their digital services to be inclusive and safe; and volunteering or giving resources to support digital-readiness efforts.

Organisations that have taken up the DPP have pledged to fulfil commitments in at least one area.

Mr Iswaran said that an award ceremony will be held in November to acknowledge some of these organisations.

"It is our way to recognise organisations which have initiatives in place to prepare their employees, stakeholders and the community to be digitally ready," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2019, with the headline '4 special needs schools to teach digital skills'. Print Edition | Subscribe