Why It Matters

Bringing out the best in Sped kids

Students from various special needs schools and Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) at the Lion, which is part of The Future of Us exhibition. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Ministry of Education's (MOE) mantra is that every school is a good school. With the move to extend the Compulsory Education Act to children with moderate to severe special needs, MOE has reaffirmed that every child matters too.

The ministry announced last week that, starting with the Primary 1 cohort in 2019, these special needs children have to attend a government-funded special education (Sped) school, unless they get approval to be exempted.

This signals the Government's commitment to give every child, including those with special needs, a primary education.

Currently, every cohort has about 1,770 special needs children. About 75 per cent of them have mild conditions. They come under the Compulsory Education Act and attend mainstream schools.

The rest have moderate to severe needs. They need not go to school currently, but nearly all do so. Only 2 per cent of the special needs cohort, or about 40 children, do not go to publicly funded schools. This is likely due to the severity of their conditions, or parents preferring to send them to private schools or to homeschool them.

MOE has also pledged that no special needs child will be denied an education because of a lack of places or finances. That tackles the issue of accessibility.

But more will need to be done for the education system in Singapore to be truly inclusive. Parents hope the Government will absorb more of the costs involved in schooling a special needs child, such as transport costs.

If mainstream schools are better equipped, more children with moderate needs would also be able to attend classes alongside their peers who do not have special needs.

MOE also has to ensure that Sped schools continue to have enough resources to cope with a possible rise in student enrolment.

Hopefully, the ministry will ensure that every Sped school is a good Sped school, just like other mainstream schools, to bring out the best in every child - even one with special needs.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2016, with the headline 'Bringing out the best in Sped kids'. Subscribe