Speech by Mr Ng Chee Meng at the Eden School 10th Anniversary Celebration

Published Date: 11 November 2015 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Ms Ho Ching, Patron Autism Association (Singapore)

Mr Eddie Koh, Chairman Eden School Board

Mr Ho Swee Huat, Vice Chairman

Ms Denise Phua, School Supervisor

Board Members from Eden School and AAS

Colleagues from the Special Education Branch

Staff, Parents and Key Partners

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Afternoon.

I am delighted to be here today to celebrate Eden School’s 10th Anniversary. It is a significant milestone for Eden School and the Special Education (SPED) community.

Introduction

Eden School was started in 2005 to meet an area of need which was not fully served at that time. In one decade, Eden School has come a long way in developing an autism-friendly learning environment and curriculum. It has developed many ASD strategies to support the students’ learning. As such, it is appreciated by parents of children with autism and the school has grown significantly over the years and today has a healthy enrolment of 300 students.

On my earlier tour of the school, I was heartened to see a learning environment customised for ASD students that facilitates engaged learning. I applaud the passion and commitment of the school leaders and teachers. In my conversations with them, what has come across clearly is their love and care for the students, which drives them to go the extra mile to innovate and enhance support for them. Through this work, Eden has transformed the lives of many children and youths with autism, nurturing them to lead dignified and fulfilling lives.

The Educational Work of Eden

Indeed, over the years, the school has impacted many students because of its guiding belief in each student’s potential to learn. Since the SPED Curriculum Framework was launched in 2012, Eden has forged ahead to strengthen their curriculum and put in place a holistic education underpinned by a strong foundation of core values.

The school has grown in its professional practices and established many innovative ASD friendly pedagogies that have helped many students learn better. The Student Profile which the school has developed documents students’ autism and learning needs, interests and preferences. This, together with a 5-Step Model in Individualization, enables staff to plan and deliver effective student-centric programmes.

I am heartened to know the strong customisation that Eden has put in place to support its students. To me, it makes a lot of sense in Eden that every student has an Individualised Education Plan (IEP) which is carefully developed and supported by a strong team of teachers and allied professional staff working in synergy and in close partnership with parents and caregivers. The IEP is reviewed regularly and clear outcomes are identified for the student. This helps the student and school to identify his or her interests, strengths and areas where support is needed.

Indeed, moving forward, in order to help our students achieve their potential, curriculum and pedagogical improvements in all SPED schools must be student-centric and outcomes-focused. As curriculum leaders, SPED educators must always focus on 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. And this is regardless of whatever the post-school pathway for the student.

For students who have the potential for employment, they will be equipped with work certifications such as the WSQ Food & Beverage, Environmental Cleaning, Hotel and Accommodation Services. Some will receive further training with partners such as the Autism Resource Centre’s Employment and Employability Centre or E2C. This has enabled students to find meaningful employment. For example,

Yu Ming Cheng who graduated in 2013, is employed in April this year at an orchid nursery.

Jonathan Kee who also graduated in 2013, is presently working with the cleaning crew at Pathlight School.

Syed Shahidir Bte Hassan Shah graduated last year, and is training in 2 data entry jobs. He had difficulty accepting feedback from his Job Coach at first but with training, has developed good work habits and will be employed by the end of this year.

Students who are more challenged and do not have the potential for employment, are equipped with daily living and self-management skills so that they can move on to one of the two Eden Centres for Adults upon graduation, where they will continue to further strengthen these skills, and engage in community activities such as gardening, bowling, and physical activities at the public facilities. Staff in the school advocate for and work alongside their students to help them overcome daily challenges to bring out the best in them so that their potential can be maximised.

I congratulate and thank the educators for their steadfast efforts in guiding the students.

Enhancing Professional Development of Teachers

As educators are the key to the success of SPED schools, MOE will continue to enhance professional development opportunities to help SPED teachers grow professionally. For example, we launched the Advanced Diploma in Special Education in 2014 and will continue to work with institutions like the National Institute of Education (NIE) to develop appropriate milestone courses for SPED teachers. At school-level, SPED schools must also take the initiative to develop and customise the professional development plan for their teachers and staff to suit the disability profile of students they serve.

On this note, I wish to commend the emphasis Eden School has placed on the professional development of its teachers, providing both local and overseas opportunities for learning.

All new teachers who join the school undergo a 6-month induction programme and have a buddy coach assigned to them. Teachers are equipped with a toolkit of skills which are further reinforced in class.

23 teachers recently attended the Asia Pacific Autism Conference in Brisbane, Australia where they were updated on the latest in autism research and pedagogy. 6 staff went for the TEACCH Autism Programme at the University of North Carolina in July. This has enriched the teachers’ perspectives on teaching and learning, and hence strengthen their pedagogical interventions in the classroom.

Forging Strong Partnerships

To build a supportive ecosystem that embraces persons with special needs as an integral part of our society, we will need the support of government, families, schools, employers and every member of the community. I am heartened that Eden School has reached out to various community partners to promote awareness of the strengths and needs of its students and to garner the resources and support needed to provide a holistic education for its students.

The School promotes meaningful interactions between children with special needs and students from mainstream schools through satellite partnerships. Jurongville Secondary School has had this partnership with the school since 2008. Students from Jurongville partner Eden School students in CCAs such as basketball and badminton. This invaluable experience builds inclusiveness and raises the self-esteem of students from both schools.

Eden has worked tirelessly with its key stakeholders to achieve positive living, learning and working outcomes for its students. I am happy that Eden’s partners are here with us today. Eden would not have succeeded without your support. With your continuing support, Eden will be able to scale new heights and achieve better outcomes for its students.

Conclusion

The growth of Eden School mirrors the progressive improvements that have been made in Singapore to support students with special needs. Over the last 5 years, MOE has built up a strong momentum of improvements to enhance the quality of Special Education (SPED). My team and I in MOE will continue to build and sustain this momentum and strengthen partnerships with schools, VWOs and the community.

On this note, I wish to specially thank the past and present Chairman, Board members, school leaders, teachers and staff of Eden for their dedication and many contributions. You have served Eden School with passion and energy. Through your visionary foresight, and by working in close partnership with MOE, National Council of Social Service (NCSS), Eden School has achieved significant growth over the years and achieved many key milestones.

In conclusion, I wish to extend my heartiest congratulations and best wishes to the students, staff and stakeholders of Eden School on your 10th anniversary. Your journey is one of love and perseverance - one that is student-centric which has transformed and nurtured the lives of many students. I am confident that in years to come, you will continue to push the boundaries to stay ahead of the curve to support your students and their families. Your journey ahead continues to be one of exciting possibilities. I wish you many more fruitful and successful years ahead.

Thank you.

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