May 22, 2018
MOE will continue to review support provisions in mainstream and SPED schools
We refer to the recent letters on building up an inclusive education system, "Adaptation is key to building inclusive education for children with special needs" (May 15), and "Not just adaptation, but assistive technology plays major role in inclusive education" (May 20).
From 2019, the Compulsory Education Act will be extended to children with moderate-to-severe special educational needs born on or after Jan 2, 2012. The extension of this Act requires all students with special educational needs to enrol in a national school — this could be a mainstream school or a special education (SPED) school, depending on the students' needs.
Students with mild special educational needs attend mainstream schools as they have the cognitive ability and adaptive skills to learn in large-group settings and access the national curriculum. These students receive a range of assistance including specialised support programmes and services, specialised personnel such as teachers trained in special needs, allied educators in learning and behavioural support, school counsellors and psychologists with the Ministry of Education (MOE).
Voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) also provide school-based services, which are fully funded by MOE, to support the needs of students with visual, hearing or physical impairment.
Schools provide customised support based on the needs of the individual student. For example, a school may enrol a student in a specialised support programme. He or she might also meet the allied educators in learning and behavioural support twice a week for group coaching sessions. With parental consent, the school could enlist the help of peer supporters. The student may also be recommended an assistive technology device and may choose to apply for assessment accommodations (for example, extending the amount of time required for a test). These help to provide equal access to instruction and assessment for students with special educational needs. The intent is for students to be less reliant on the various levels of support as they go along, and to develop good coping strategies leading to independence when they go on to higher education and the workforce.
Students whose moderate-to-severe special educational needs require intensive specialised assistance and a customised curriculum attend SPED schools. These schools have dedicated facilities and trained teachers and allied professionals who cater to their specific needs in small group settings.
In addition, SPED schools offer a holistic education tailored to different disability profiles (eg. intellectual disability, autism or sensory loss). The schools' curriculum is customised through the use of specialised pedagogies and assistive technologies. Every student has an individual education plan with specific instructional goals and supports to meet their learning needs, with the goal for students to become integrated and contributing members of society. As part of their curriculum, students participate in opportunities to interact with peers in mainstream schools and with the community. Students assessed to be able to take up work participate in internships and receive job coaching, and schools work together with parents and caregivers in developing the students' skills.
MOE will continue to review support provisions in mainstream and SPED schools, and to study best practices to ensure that sufficient assistance is available to students with diverse needs, especially those with special educational needs. To this end, MOE values the partnership and expertise of concerned and experienced individuals and VWOs.
Special Educational Needs Division,
Ministry of Education