PM Lee pledges more help for Special Education students

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (centre) and his wife Ho Ching (back row, third from right) pose for pictures with students from special needs school Pathlight. The Government will do more for special education students as part of its drive to bu
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (centre) and his wife Ho Ching (back row, third from right) pose for pictures with students from special needs school Pathlight. The Government will do more for special education students as part of its drive to build a fair and inclusive society and help every child achieve his potential, pledged Mr Lee on Tuesday, Oct 1, 2013, at Pathlight's 10th anniversary. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

The Government will do more for special education students as part of its drive to build a fair and inclusive society and help every child achieve his potential, pledged Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday.

Speaking at the 10th anniversary of special needs school Pathlight, Mr Lee said the Government is studying how to expand vocational education and help more Special Education (Sped) students make the transition from school to work.

Currently, about 25 per cent of the 5,000 students in Sped schools graduate with recognised vocational certification. The Ministry of Education (MOE) said it aims to work with other agencies to enhance vocational education for more groups of Sped students who are capable of working.

Each of the 20 Sped schools will also be twinned with a mainstream school to promote interaction between the students and there will be scholarships for teachers to pursue Masters programmes in Special Education.

This comes on top of greater investments in education and the Sped sector over the past few years to support objectives - such as keeping all paths upwards open and giving every child a strong foundation for lifelong learning.

For instance, said Mr Lee, the Government spends more per capita for Sped schools than for mainstream schools.

But, he said supporting people with disabilities is not just about schools or what the Government can do.

"Beyond the school system, we must build a fair and just society which respects every person, which treats everyone with dignity, especially those with disabilities," he said, noting that this was why Singapore ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in August.

Mr Lee spoke of the importance of three groups of people in supporting those with disabilities: families, the public and the people and private sector.

He paid tribute to the people behind Pathlight, which has an enrolment of 800 today and is looking to grow this to 1,000. The school's success story "reflects our commitment to give hope and opportunity to all Singaporeans" and shows the way forward for the melding of Government support and community activism, said Mr Lee.

Singling out Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP and Pathlight co-founder Denise Phua, Mr Lee said that it was through encouragement by activists like her that the Government has invested much more resources in Sped schools over the years. But the real reason Pathlight has succeeded is through the passion and dedication of Ms Phua and her fellow activists, he said.