Make education more inclusive, update curriculum to reflect changing times, say MPs

Make education more inclusive, update curriculum to reflect changing times, say MPs

To improve inclusivity in learning environments, MPs offered suggestions such as creating schools for ‘neurodivergent’ students as well as including people with special needs in SkillsFuture.

School bus
Students boarding a school bus in Singapore. (File photo: Wee Teck Hian/TODAY)

SINGAPORE: Spaces where learning takes place such as schools or SkillsFuture courses should cater to those with special needs, Members of Parliament said on Wednesday (May 16) in response to the President’s Address.

MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC Darryl David suggested the setting up of autonomous specialised primary schools to cater to “neurodivergent students” with unique learning needs.

Referring to President Halimah Yacob's speech on the importance of making Singapore a great place to have children and to enable people with differences to lead full and active lives, Mr David suggested that such schools can enhance current education options, especially for those of primary school-going age. 

He said that neurodivergent students possess neuroatypical conditions that are not so severe or challenging that would require them to enrol in Special Education (SPED) schools or Pathlight - which caters to children with special education needs - but find it challenging to cope with their conditions in mainstream primary schools.

“These students are not just able to merely grasp the mainstream primary school academic curriculum, many of them are even able to excel in it,” he said. 

However, the class sizes, environments and curricula of the mainstream school are "not ideal" for neurodivergent students who have differentiated learning needs, he added.

“Aside from the environment and learning spaces, such schools could be given the freedom to design their own curriculum, determine their own class sizes, hire their own staff with the specialised skill sets and even set their own fees. This would be in line with the Pathlight model, but perhaps on a smaller scale, and with more autonomy given to the schools,” he suggested.

The inclusion of those with special needs can also be extended to the national upskilling movement SkillsFuture, said MP for Jalan Besar GRC Denise Phua.

She applauded MOE for including adult learners in its mission and asked if the same can be done for adults learners with special needs who are most at risk of being left behind.

“For the non-traditional workforce such as those with special needs, the SkillsFuture movement has not yet made them its priority and accorded the attention it deserves. This will be a non-traditional workforce that can be tapped upon,” Mrs Phua said.

Competent special schools, lifelong learning institutions and Continuing Education and Training (CET) providers can be tapped on to develop a SkillsFuture plan for adult Singaporeans with special needs, she suggested.

SWITCH UP LITERATURE LIST TO FEATURE ASIAN CLASSICS

MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Chong Kee Hiong said that the education curriculum should be updated to reflect changing geopolitical environments.

“Geopolitics have changed much and so have technologies. Have we made the necessary changes fast enough? Take the field of education. We need to constantly review the relevance of what we teach and how we assess our young,” Mr Chong said.

Mr Chong suggested a revamp in the subjects taught and tested for O and A levels and that students should be exposed to literature beyond Shakespeare.

“With the pivot to Asia, shouldn’t our students be exposed to great Asian classics such as the Dream of the Red Chamber, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Ramayana in addition to works from Shakespeare?” Mr Chong said.

“Basic and general knowledge in all subjects lay a useful foundation but do we need so many students studying calculus or chemical interactions in such depth?”

Source: CNA/fs

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