More schools join hands for lessons on inclusivity

Dunman High School's Arthur Yeo (left) and Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore Towner Gardens School's Mohd Shameer Mohd Rafiq with recycling logos they designed.
Dunman High School’s Arthur Yeo (left) and Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore Towner Gardens School’s Mohd Shameer Mohd Rafiq with recycling logos they designed.PHOTO: COURTESY OF MISS LOW XIN TIAN
Minds Towner Gardens School student Shawn Goh (right) in a discussion with Dunman High School student Tan Qi En as they researched and designed logos using basic computer skills.
Minds Towner Gardens School student Shawn Goh (right) in a discussion with Dunman High School student Tan Qi En as they researched and designed logos using basic computer skills.PHOTO: COURTESY OF MISS LOW XIN TIAN

Mainstream, special education students get more avenues to mix

More mainstream schools and special education schools are joining hands to plan activities for their students to mix, in the hope that they learn to interact with peers who may be different.

Students mingle through co-curricular activities, games and community projects, while teachers exchange ideas about curricula and classroom management.

Some students with special needs who are deemed academically ready can also join their peers in mainstream schools for academic subjects.

Currently, 16 special education schools and 19 mainstream schools have such programmes together, as part of the Education Ministry's Satellite Partnership Programme.

Most of the partner schools are located near each other.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the ministry said it is working towards all 19 special education schools having such tie-ups.

The programme was launched in 2008 with two special education schools - Pathlight School and Canossian School - and three mainstream schools.

Grace Orchard School and Rulang Primary School, which are connected by a side gate, have organised common activities for their students since 2011.

Students take turns to go to each other's school - both in Jurong - to play games and sports regularly, and attend major events like for Racial Harmony Day.

Teachers from partner schools share strategies

This year, pupils from both schools even put up a combined Chinese dance item.

Pupils from Grace Orchard School and Rulang Primary School having lunch together before the start of their combined dance practice in July.
Pupils from Grace Orchard School and Rulang Primary School having lunch together before the start of their combined dance practice in July. PHOTO: COURTESY OF GRACE ORCHARD SCHOOL, RULANG PRIMARY SCHOOL

 
 

Their teachers have also exchanged academic and behavioural strategies that can be applied across both groups of students.

Ms Lisa Goh, principal of Grace Orchard School, said that its students, who have mild intellectual disabilities or autism, look forward to meeting pupils from Rulang Primary.

"Having interaction with neurotypical students helps them to learn social skills that don't come so naturally... It's also important for mainstream students to learn about differences from a young age, and yet also see that there are similarities in many ways," she said.

Grace Orchard School student Sarah-Jane Lishi Joseph, 15, was attached to Rulang Primary as a library assistant for 10 weeks earlier this year.

Such job stints were designed by both schools to help Grace Orchard students pick up skills in office work, for example.

Said Sarah-Jane, who has autism: "I learnt to be independent in sorting out books in the library and I made five new friends. I learnt to be more confident in speaking and sharing with new people."

Since last year, Dunman High School and the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds) Towner Gardens School have also significantly increased the avenues for their students to interact, from festival celebrations to weekly activities.

Dunman High student Chin Shu Yee first got to know students with special needs two years ago during an arts and craft session, where students used play dough to help those from Towner Gardens School develop their motor skills.

"It was an eye-opening experience. The students had some learning difficulties, but they were outgoing and open," said the 15-year-old, who on her own initiative this year worked with teachers from Minds Towner Gardens School to plan games for its mathematics carnival.

She also gathered her classmates to help out at the carnival as station masters or guides.

"Before this, I didn't quite understand people with special needs and I thought it would be hard to have a conversation with them," she said.

"They're outside our usual circle of friends, but actually they are students like us, who want to learn more."


Partner schools

• Canossian School and Canossa Catholic Primary

• Pathlight School (Secondary) with Peirce Secondary, Yio Chu Kang Secondary and Mayflower Secondary

• Pathlight School (Primary) and Townsville Primary

• Minds Fernvale Gardens School and Fernvale Primary

• Grace Orchard School and Rulang Primary

• APSN Chaoyang School and Presbyterian High

• APSN Katong School and Bedok View Secondary

• Rainbow Centre - Yishun Park School and Chung Cheng High (Yishun)

• Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore School and Tampines Meridian Junior College

• Eden School and Princess Elizabeth Primary

• AWWA School and Bowen Secondary

• Minds Lee Kong Chian Gardens School and Queenstown Secondary

• Rainbow Centre - Margaret Drive School and Queenstown Primary

• Minds Woodlands Gardens School and Chongfu School

• St Andrew's Autism School and Anglican High

• APSN Tanglin School and Bukit Merah Secondary

• Minds Towner Gardens School and Dunman High

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2019, with the headline 'More schools join hands for lessons on inclusivity'. Print Edition | Subscribe