Speech by Minister of State for Education Ms Sun Xueling, Special Education Teachers' Day Celebration and Virtual Awards Ceremony 2020

Published Date: 02 September 2020 12:00 AM

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Chairmen and Members of Social Service Agencies and School Management Committees

Principals and Staff

Colleagues from MOE

Ladies and Gentlemen

1 Good morning and thank you for joining me for this Teachers' Day Celebration and Awards Ceremony. As we have become used to these days, this is a virtual ceremony. However, though the setting may be a virtual one, our sense of gratitude to the SPED Teaching Profession is real. Today, we have come together to celebrate your efforts to nurture the children of our Special Education Schools and to honour the winners of the Outstanding Special Education Teacher Award, the Innovation Award and the Masters Scholarship Award. Today, it is also my pleasure to share about a Human Resource package that has been developed for you. Let me share more.

2 In 2018, MOE initiated an HR Consultancy Study for the Special Education sector. A Steering Committee was set up with representation from a range of schools, the National Institute of Education, and the National Council of Social Service. Over the course of 2019, more than 70% of SPED school teachers were engaged in focus group discussions, interviews and online surveys by the independent HR consultants hired for the study. The study's findings gave rise to a set of recommendations to support our SPED teachers in their career and professional development aspirations.

Sped Sector Changes Since 2007

3 The last time there was an HR review for SPED Teachers was in 2007. Since 2007, much has happened. We have seen the steady rise in numbers of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Roughly half of these students have mild ASD and are studying in mainstream schools but for those who need Special Education, we have created more places and are opening new SPED schools. Today, we have 19 SPED schools supporting students and within the next seven years, we intend to add a further seven schools.

4 Another major change took place at the start of 2019, when the Compulsory Education Act was extended to cover students with moderate-to-severe Special Educational Needs. This was an important change that signalled our society's commitment to go beyond the provision of care to ensuring the educational development of the 6,600 students in our SPED schools.

5 With these significant changes in recent years, it is timely that in 2020, we look at a new HR package for SPED teachers. This new HR package for SPED teachers has a rather long name. It is The SPED Teaching Profession: Journeys of Excellence Package. Let's call it The Journeys Package for short.

6 I know and deeply feel that, as professionals, SPED Teachers need and deserve a career framework and a salary structure commensurate with the heightened demands on teaching as they serve the complex learning needs of our students. The Journeys Package is a vital step to uplifting the whole sector to giving it the importance it truly deserves and to bringing about the quality of life we all want to see for persons with disabilities and their families in an inclusive Singapore.

Key Features of the Journeys Package

7 Let me outline key features of The Journeys Package:

  1. First, a new SPED Teacher Career Framework will provide eight levels of progression for trained SPED Teachers, including more clearly defined middle management roles via two tracks, the leadership and teaching tracks respectively. With the creation of different levels of SPED Teacher roles, we will also be able to adjust salaries over time, to recognise the differing competencies and contributions of teachers at each level. To bring this about, both NCSS and MOE have committed the additional funding that will be required.
  2. Second, the job roles of teachers at the different levels will be clearly defined, and the corresponding teacher competencies mapped out in the SPED Teacher Role Profile and Competency Framework. In the next few months, the MOE Special Education Branch will conduct townhalls, seminars and workshops together with schools to bring teachers through these frameworks.
  3. Third, Professional Development. To equip teachers with these competencies, a Training Roadmap has also been developed. And to start teachers out on their journey, the National Institute of Education will review the Diploma in Special Education (or D-I-S-E) and lengthen this full-time course from 9 months to one year. To assist schools in hiring, developing and managing new SPED teaching recruits, MOE will also provide funding over the contract teaching period as well as provide the allowance for teachers during their DISE course. This funding is over and above the 100% funding already provided for SPED School operations by the NCSS-MOE Joint Funding Agreement. The MOE is thus committed to allocating more resources to the SPED sector to uplift and support the sector.

8 With The Journeys Package, SPED teachers can look forward to progression and development opportunities which duly reference the Career Progression, Role Profiles and Competency Frameworks. The Teacher Aide Role Profiles have also been defined and their salaries were assessed and found to be competitive to the job market. A full review of the Teacher Aide scheme will be carried out in 2021. And for Allied Professionals (AP) both within SPED and across the social sector, a service review led by NCSS is already underway and further improvements to the AP schemes can be expected in due course. As you can see, this is but the start to an exciting journey ahead of us and there will be more announcements and changes to reflect our emphasis on and care for SPED in Singapore.

Journeys of Excellence

9 Let me now articulate the vision of the Singapore SPED Teacher encapsulated in The Journeys Package. What will be expected of SPED Teachers in future? What do we mean by Journeys of Excellence? In particular, why the 's' in Journeys?

10 In Special Education, when our children have such wide-ranging needs, strengths and dreams, we need to journey with each child. Hence, the term "Journeys of Excellence". A distinctive feature of Special Education is the need for a highly customised curriculum with Individualised Educational and Transition Plans. To develop and execute such plans, we need highly observant and nimble teachers. Our teachers embark on journeys with their students and their families, learning with them and from them even as they grow the abilities and dreams of the children in their charge. SPED Teachers have the courage to go into unchartered waters and the tenacity to keep on learning. They are explorers and adventurers, always improving their professional expertise. They journey into worlds beyond the school walls – worlds of education, employment and life to bring back treasures that will empower their students. They open their hearts to love and hurt and discover their students' talents on this journey. And they are the wind in their sails, carrying their students far and wide.

Examples of Excellence

11 It is fitting that at the launch of the "Journeys of Excellence" Package this Teachers' Day that we should honour excellence in Special Education. Today, in addition to scholarship awards, we will give out the Innovation Award and the Outstanding Special Education Teacher Award. Shortly, we will hear more about this year's awardees and their significant contributions to SPED.

12 Award Winners, I salute you for not only giving of yourselves to each of your students but also to their families. To the Innovation Award winners from Grace Orchard School, Metta School and Rainbow Centre Yishun Park School, what comes across to me is how your good ideas have contributed to the quality of life of your students. And to the three winners of this year's OSTA, Debbie, Gloria and Selvi, you are an inspiration to your respective school communities and beyond in the wider SPED sector. Together with Gena and Araxes, the winners of the 2020 Masters Scholarship, it has been my pleasure to meet you and I look forward to getting to know you better in the years ahead as I see you and your students in action!

13 Finally, on behalf of everyone dialling in to this celebration, may I wish each one of you a Happy Teachers' Day and good health!

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