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More support for students with special needs coming: Sim Ann

Tailored programmes and customised training pathways and job opportunities in the works, said the Minister of State for Education. 

SINGAPORE: More support will be given to students with special needs, Minister of State for Education Sim Ann said in Parliament on Friday (May 30) as she outlined how the ministry will help every student fulfil his or her potential.

Speaking in Mandarin, she said there are 13,000 students in mainstream schools with conditions ranging from physical impairment, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism and dyslexia. Another 5,000 students in special education schools have moderate to severe special needs. 

To address the needs of these students, the Ministry of Education (MOE) is already increasing support in areas such as teacher training and curriculum development but more will be done, she added.

For example, the school-based dyslexia remediation programme - which trains school personnel to help students with dyslexia on-site - will be extended to more primary schools. Currently, the programme has been rolled out to about one-third of all primary schools.

"We are doing all we can to speed up the training of qualified personnel to deliver this intervention to more students in more schools," said Ms Sim.

MOE, working with other government agencies and the community, will also provide more customised training pathways and job opportunities for special education students. Disability Support Offices were set up this year to better support such students who progress to Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs).

"Our ITEs, polytechnics and publicly-funded universities have each set up Disability Support Offices this year, to provide first-stop support for prospective and current students with special education needs," she said. 

MOE and IHLs will continue working with other government agencies, voluntary welfare organisations, parents and students to provide support for IHL students with such needs. 

Across the education spectrum, the ministry has also made sweeping changes from the pre-school to tertiary sectors. A key strategy deployed to bring out the best in every child is to broaden the pathway to success, and introduce customised teaching and learning to cater to the different needs of students, she said.

At the secondary school level, Ms Sim said there is now more flexibility in subject offerings, so more students can study various subjects at different paces according to their own strengths. This means that the "differentiation between various academic streams will gradually fade", she added.

"We are implementing initiatives along these lines throughout our education system. Although we have yet to reach the ideal state, we are constantly experimenting and enhancing our processes," Ms Sim said. 

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