Speech by Mr Ng Chee Meng, Acting Minister for Education (Schools), and Senior Minister of State for Transport, at the SPED Learning Day on 16 Oct 2015 at 12.00pm, Resorts World Sentosa

Published Date: 16 October 2015 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim,
Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Social and Family Development

Chan Lai Fung, PS (Education),

Neo Kian Hong, PS (Education Development),

Wong Siew Hoong, Director-General of Education,

VWO Leaders,

Members of the SPED School Management Committees,

Principals, Teachers, Staff of SPED schools,

Distinguished Guests, our Partners in Special Education,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

1. I am delighted to be here this morning at SPED Learning Day 2015. This is my first event with the SPED fraternity. I look forward to working closely with you as we continue our exciting journey to enhance the quality of special education.

2. This year marks the second SPED Learning Day. I understand that this is a day dedicated for educators to network and learn as a community. This morning, SPED schools organised professional sharings and learning journeys covering many aspects of teaching and learning. For example, MINDS Woodlands Gardens School explored how music can be harnessed to enhance student’s learning, while staff of St. Andrew’s Autism School had a fruitful time building a whole-school approach to strengthen partnerships with parents. I also learned that AWWA School and CPASS held a joint learning day to foster greater professional collaboration amongst their teachers.

Continuing Momentum of Improvement

3. In the last 5 years, MOE has built up a strong momentum of improvements to enhance the quality of SPED. My team and I in MOE will continue to build and sustain this momentum, and strengthen partnerships with schools, VWOs and the community.

Enhancing the Quality of Curriculum

4. Since the SPED Curriculum Framework was launched in 2012, MOE has worked closely with SPED schools on the fundamentals of curriculum such as Literacy and Numeracy. The “Direct Instruction” literacy programme is now a staple, and the more recent Numbers-in-Action programme has helped teachers build up skills to teach early numeracy.

5. Besides literacy and numeracy, social emotional and daily living skills are critical for students to have positive social relationships and live independently. During my recent visit to Metta School, I had the pleasure of observing a PATHS® lesson where I learned how to keep calm using the “Turtle” technique. I understand that the PATHS® programme, which teaches essential social skills, is now widely used in almost all schools. I also met Lee Yi Xuan, a 13 year-old student with Autism, who cooked fried rice as part of a Life Skills lesson. It was delicious!

6. I am heartened that SPED schools are putting in place programmes to develop daily living skills. Moving forward, we will continue to strengthen the building blocks of SPED, and place more focus on the teaching and learning of arts and sports to provide a holistic education for our students.

7. MOE has been working with the National Arts Council to promote the teaching of arts in SPED schools. I’m heartened to hear that many of you have worked with artists under the NAC Artist-SPED School Partnership Programme to co-develop innovative arts lessons. Through these art lessons, students have gained confidence in expressing themselves.

8. MOE and NAC will capture your innovative lesson plans in a resource toolkit to inspire more teachers to adopt new and exciting approaches in the teaching of arts to engage your students.

9. Besides the arts, active participation in sports provides SPED students more options for leisure, and enables them to lead healthy and active lifestyles. I am heartened that our schools offer not just physical education classes but also sports CCAs such as swimming, track and field, and Boccia. SPED schools participate actively in national sports competitions, including the upcoming 8th ASEAN Para-Games. Moving forward, MOE will continue to support schools with training and resources to better customise physical education and sports to meet the needs of your students.

10. ICT is a powerful enabler for improvements in teaching and learning. Since the launch of the MOE-Tote Board ICT Fund in 2012, many teachers have used ICT innovatively to make lessons more engaging. For example, Rainbow Centre Yishun Park School has set up “My Space”, a redesigned learning environment for students with multiple disabilities to better access learning through technology. It uses a “magic carpet” technology that simulates different authentic environments to engage students in their learning. To further support schools, MOE will increase funding for schools to hire an IT Professional and strengthen ICT infrastructure.

Achieving Living, Learning and Working Outcomes

11. Curriculum improvements must be student-centric and outcomes-focused. As curriculum leaders, you should never lose sight of the child. I urge you to know your students well, and work with their families and caregivers to set meaningful and aspirational goals to help them achieve positive outcomes in living, learning and working.

12. Last year, MOE announced the School-to-Work (S2W) Transition Programme, a whole-of-government initiative by MOE, MSF and SG Enable to facilitate a seamless transition for students at a critical juncture in their lives. We have successfully placed 30 graduates in various pathways after their graduation such as internships to facilitate employment opportunities. Employers have been positive about their contributions and indicated interest in hiring some of our SPED graduates after they complete their training.

13. These graduates are acquiring important work skills and gaining greater confidence as contributing individuals in their work place. This is in no small part due to the dedicated efforts of the school staff in working closely with MOE and SG Enable to provide valuable resources and support for students and their families.

14. I would like to personally thank the 5 prototype schools for their dedicated participation in the S2W prototype. Through your hard work and belief in your students, you have paved the way for more students with diverse disabilities to realise their potential for employment. The team will consolidate key learnings from the prototype and extend the programme to more schools in phases from 2016.

Teachers as Key Enablers

15. Every one of you is a curriculum leader in your own right. You have the ability to inform, influence and inspire those around you. I am heartened to learn that many of you have been working collaboratively in Professional Learning Teams, using approaches like Universal Design for Learning and Lesson Study to improve students’ learning outcomes. You have also taken on leadership roles such as CCE Champions and more recently, Literacy Mentors, to drive curriculum improvement efforts in your schools.

16. You play a crucial role in making the curriculum come alive for your students. It is amazing how much students can achieve when teachers believe in them. Take Muhammad Syazwi Bin Hasan, a 19 year-old student, whom I met at Metta School. Under the guidance of teachers like Mr Chairul, Syazwi has completed an ITE Skills Certificate in Hospitality Services and is aspiring to continue his studies in ITE specialising in Western Culinary NITEC course.

17. As SPED educators, you are key to our efforts to improve the quality of special education. MOE will continue to enhance professional development opportunities to help you grow professionally.

18. For example, the Advanced Diploma in Special Education was introduced in 2014 to enable teachers to deepen their professional expertise. I would like to encourage schools to continue to support and nominate staff for such professional development.

19. We honour the stellar work that SPED educators do in helping our students realise their potential. This year, we made available more funds for SPED schools to increase the salaries of SPED teachers, allied professionals and staff. Moving forward, MOE and NCSS will continue to work with SPED schools to ensure that salaries remain competitive, so that schools can attract and retain quality staff.

Celebrating the Achievements of SPED Teachers

20. Now, I come to a very important part of today’s event, which is to celebrate the achievements of our SPED teachers and schools.

21. I’m pleased to share that our SPED teachers who attended the Management and Leadership in Schools Programme were awarded the Curriculum Project Book Prize for their research project on vocational curriculum. Well done!

22. Next, I wish to offer my sincere congratulations to the 2 recipients of the MOE Masters Scholarship in Special Education, who will be receiving their certificates later today. You exemplify the spirit of continuous learning, and we look forward to new knowledge and ideas which you will bring back to SPED.

23. As we celebrate SG50, I wish to recognise the contributions of our pioneer SPED educators whom we have invited to join us for lunch today. I would also like to acknowledge the contributions of pioneer staff who are serving in SPED schools today.

24. On this note, I would like to recognise two pioneer SPED educators. Mr Koh Poh Kwang has been the Principal of Lighthouse School for the past 29 years and is still actively leading the school today. Mrs June Tham served as Principal of Chao Yang Special School and Rainbow Centre Margaret Drive Special School, and was the Executive Director of Rainbow Centre when she retired. She still continues to serve the special needs community today. Through their long illustrious careers and dedicated service as SPED leaders, Mr Koh and Mrs Tham have touched the lives of many students, families and caregivers.

25. Our pioneer SPED educators have left a strong legacy which we must continue to build and strengthen. In charting new frontiers, we must not lose sight of our vision to provide quality special education and help our students lead meaningful lives and be integrated into the society.

26. At this juncture, I would like to invite all our pioneer educators to stand. Please join me in showing our deepest appreciation for their contributions and dedicated service to SPED.

27. Today, we come together as one community to reaffirm our hard work and dedication for continuous improvements, and to celebrate people. Let us work as one united SPED community in our continuing journey towards excellence.

28. My heartiest thanks to the SPED Learning Day Working Committee who have worked tirelessly to organise SPED Learning Day 2015. I would also like to thank VWO leaders, members of the School Management Committees, principals and all school staff for taking time to join us today, and for your dedication and commitment to special education.

29. As you continue on this journey of providing quality special education, I urge you to stay rooted to the mission of helping students achieve their potential, and soar to greater heights.

30. Thank you.

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