Speech by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State, Minister for Education at the International Week of the Deaf Investiture cum Awards Ceremony

Published Date: 16 September 2017 12:00 AM

News Speeches

1. It gives me great pleasure to be here today for the launch of the International Week of the Deaf and SADeaf’s Investiture cum Awards Ceremony 2017.

2. It is heart-warming to see so many attendees at this event today. SADeaf has arranged for interpreters to help translate my speech for those who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing, and I thank SADeaf for ensuring that all who are here today are able to access what I have to say. Indeed, I must commend SADeaf for its efforts in serving the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the past and present staff, partners, and volunteers of SADeaf. Over the years, you have worked to raise awareness of the needs of the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community in Singapore since SADeaf’s establishment in 1955. You have also worked unceasingly to meet these needs, for example, providing free interpretation services to members and counselling services for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing adults and seniors with social and emotional issues, among other community services. I believe the work has not been easy with many challenges faced over the years, but I want to assure you that your efforts have not gone unnoticed.

3. I am very encouraged by the corporate ambassadors and volunteers who have come on board to partner the association in its services and support for over 5,300 clients. All of you have played a part in contributing to SADeaf’s rich history and heritage of serving the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community in Singapore. It is important for all of us to work together as one community to achieve our shared vision of an inclusive society.

Affirmation of SADeaf’s Contributions to Deaf Education

4. I understand the daily challenges faced by deaf individuals and I am happy that SADeaf recognises and affirms those who have excelled. I would also like to take this opportunity to extend my heartiest congratulations to the Deaf Sports Association (DSA) and the two Deaflympians; Ms Adelia Naomi Yokoyama and Ms Kimberly Quek for their achievements at the Deaflympics 2017. Naomi clinched the gold medal, and Kimberly the bronze medal, for the Women’s Master bowling event at the event held in Turkey in July. These are Singapore’s first ever medals at the Deaflympics. For their historic feat, Naomi and Kimberly will receive the Special Achievement Award today.

5. In serving the community all these years, SADeaf has always placed great importance on education for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing children. The recipients of today’s awards are strong testimony to this heritage. This year, the International Week of the Deaf brings together people with Hearing Loss all over the world under the theme ‘Full Inclusion with Sign Language!’ Article 24 in the UNCRPD states, and I quote, “that the education of persons, and in particular children, who are blind, deaf or deafblind, is delivered in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication for the individual, and in environments which maximize academic and social development.”

6. In this regard, the strong role that SADeaf has played in the education of students with hearing loss has enabled MOE to partner SADeaf to forge new educational models to improve the quality of education for these children in our schools.

Identification of Mayflower Primary School as Designated Primary School

7. Last year in September, MOE announced that an existing primary school will be identified as a designated school for students with moderate to profound hearing loss who sign and who are able to access the national curriculum. Today, I am pleased to announce that Mayflower Primary School will be this designated school. Mayflower Primary School is centrally located, and near Beatty Secondary School, the current mainstream designated school for secondary-aged students with hearing loss who sign. Together, the schools will form a nexus of support and opportunity for students to interact and share joint activities.

Benefits of New Designated Primary School Model for Students with Hearing Loss and Hearing Students

8. This new provision at Mayflower Primary School will allow students with hearing loss who sign to be fully integrated with their hearing peers, both academically and socially, at the primary level. This will be made possible through the provision of specialised teachers and educational interpreters who will work in partnership with the mainstream staff to support the holistic development of these students.

9. Students with hearing loss will be able to study alongside their peers in designated mainstream classes, co-taught by specialised teachers who are proficient in sign language.

10. It is my hope that this new educational model will bring benefits to both students with and without hearing loss. Mayflower Primary School will provide a conducive learning environment where students with hearing loss can build confidence and social skills as they integrate and interact with their hearing peers, and where hearing students can build empathy, acceptance, and respect for differences and diversity as they interact with their peers with hearing loss. I understand that Mayflower Primary School is keen for their staff and students to learn some sign language – this is a good start!

SADeaf’s Role in the Educational Model

11. SADeaf will be a critical partner to Mayflower Primary School in this educational endeavour. SADeaf will leverage her deep expertise to provide the specialised staff and supports for the education of students with hearing loss. In addition, with her strong cultural heritage of the deaf community, SADeaf will also play an important role in connecting these students to the larger deaf community. This will be done through providing them with opportunities to participate in community events and activities, and interaction with positive adult deaf role models.

Operationalisation of Mayflower Primary School as Designated Primary School

12. As with all new educational initiatives, MOE will take a more measured approach, and study the factors for success in order to grow a viable and sustainable educational model for this group of students. Mayflower Primary School will therefore start with its first cohort of Primary One students with hearing loss in January 2018, and build the rest of the levels up progressively.

13. In closing, I wish to thank all of you, for coming to this event today, and for allowing me the opportunity to be here with you. Let us continue to build on the strengths that exist in the community today, and forge partnerships through cooperation and mutual respect. I am excited for all the work ahead of us, and our joint efforts in striving towards an inclusive and gracious society.

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