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Panel formed to look into compulsory education for special needs kids

Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng had announced that all children with special needs who are above six years old and below 15 would have to attend school starting 2019. 

SINGAPORE: A 17-member advisory panel chaired by Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary was appointed to study the implementation of compulsory education for special needs children, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced on Tuesday (Dec 13). 

Last month, Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng had announced that all children with special needs who are above six years old and below 15 would have to attend school starting 2019. 

The panel has been tasked with making recommendations, after consultation with stakeholders, in the areas of exemption from compulsory education and the placement of children with special education needs in appropriate educational settings.

The members of the panel, which include experienced special education leaders, educators and medical practitioners, are: 

  • Dr Janil Puthucheary (Chairperson), Minister of State (Education)
  • Ms Denise Phua (Vice-Chairperson), President of Autism Resource Centre and Chair of Government Parliamentary Committee (Education) 
  • Dr Mariam Aljunied, Principal Educational Psychologist at the Ministry of Education 
  • Mr Ang Wei Neng, Member of Grace Orchard School's School Management Committee and Member of Government Parliamentary Committee (Education) 
  • Ms Chia Yong Yong, President of the Society for the Physically Disabled  
  • Mdm Ruby Chiew, Principal of AWWA School 
  • Dr Chong Shang Chee, Senior Consultant and Head at the National University Hospital Child Development Unit 
  • Mr Gerard Ee, Chairman of the Canossian School SMC 
  • Mr Ho Jack Yong, Assistant Director at the Singapore Management University's Diversity and Inclusion Office
  • Ms Tina Hung, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at the National Council of Social Service 
  • Mdm Law Li Mei, Principal at Fairfield Methodist School (Primary) 
  • Dr Lee Tung Jean, Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Social and Family Development 
  • Mrs Pek Kwee Lan, Principal at Endeavour Primary School 
  • Ms Suzana Soo, Principle at MINDS Lee Kong Chian Gardens School 
  • Mrs June Tham, Former Executive Director at Rainbow Centre 
  • Mr Wong Siew Hoong, Director-General of Education at MOE 
  • Dr Faye Yang Phey Hong, Senior Principal Psychologist at KK Women's & Children's Hospital 

Dr Puthucheary said the work ahead for the panel "will not be easy".

"We need to look at the finer details of implementing compulsory education so that we can appreciate concerns and operational difficulties, and think through what are the best solutions for our children," he said.

He added that the panel would be mindful of the impact their work would have on children with special education needs, their families and the special education community, and would make "careful, considered recommendations to ensure a smooth implementation process". 

Ms Phua said she was "very encouraged" to be part of the panel with others passionate about helping children with special education needs.

"Education is an important stepping stone to a better life for every child. I look forward to a robust discussion with fellow panel members on how compulsory education can be implemented to best serve our children." 

The panel is expected to present its recommendations to MOE by the end of 2017.