When the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) first unveiled the Inclusive Preschool model in 2017, it was a move that brought about positive responses from parents and educators.
In line with this new initiative, SAIL Playhouse will open its doors to all children this month. SAIL, which stands for Strengthening Abilities, Inclusive Learning, is an inclusive preschool that aims to cater to the individual needs of each child. It provides aptly designed learning environments and implements support systems that allow every child to learn successfully.
The model allows children with special needs to develop social and communication skills in a mainstream preschool setting. Meanwhile, children with typical needs can learn to understand and accept differences between themselves and their peers.
It was set up by a team of early childhood educators and therapists, accepting children aged 18 months to six years old - whether they have typical or special needs.
At the preschool, toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners alike can learn to work and play with peers who are different from them.
Inclusive education model
SAIL Playhouse adopts an education model that embraces inclusivity and includes four key components: holistic curriculum, universally designed environment, strong support systems, and having parents as important partners.
Based on Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, the school's curriculum is designed to offer individual learning experiences for each child.
"When we develop our curriculum, we consider the potential barriers that children of diverse abilities may have and address them through differentiated instructions. We then think about who may fall through the gaps, and adaptations are put in place to make learning accessible to these children," says Ms Chua Pei Lin, 30, centre director for SAIL Playhouse.
For holistic learning, SAIL Playhouse implements STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and literacy into its daily programme.
On its premises are spaces that are conducive for learning, allowing children to be curious explorers.
Children can visit designated interest centres, such as a cooking studio, dramatic play area, and a light and shadow exploration room. There are also wide pathways and rails, making the centre accessible to children regardless of their mobility.
One special feature of the school is a sanctuary-like alcove included in every classroom. Children can enter the alcove whenever they feel overwhelmed and require quiet time to calm down. This allows them to cope with difficult emotions and become more resilient.
Working with educators and parents
By providing ongoing training and support for its educators, SAIL Playhouse supports diverse learning needs in the classroom.
Educators at SAIL Playhouse are required to go through a Preparatory Training Course to strengthen their competence and confidence in teaching children with diverse needs.
Early intervention specialists and allied health professionals aid the educators in facilitating meaningful interactions with the children and help them to engage in fruitful learning experiences.
To build stronger relationships with parents, SAIL Playhouse has put various programmes in place to foster parent involvement.
One such initiative is the "Breakfast with Me" day, a weekly initiative where parents are invited to have breakfast with their children at the centre.
Apart from spending quality time with their children, this allows parents to connect and offer support to one another.
SAIL Playhouse hopes that its high-quality inclusive early education model will encourage more private preschools, anchor operators and the Government to move towards an inclusive education system - even as Singapore strives to become a more inclusive, diverse and accepting nation.