SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Education (MOE) said on Friday (Nov 17) it has accepted recommendations from a 17-member advisory panel on having compulsory education for children with special needs.
The panel, chaired by Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary, was appointed in November 2016 to make recommendations to look into how compulsory education can be implemented in a way that best serves the needs of these children.
It was formed after Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng announced that all children with special needs who are aged above six years and below 15 will have to attend school from 2019.
STRENGTHENING GUIDANCE TO PARENTS BEFORE PRIMARY ONE
Among the recommendations were to provide more guidance to parents before their children start Primary 1 and help them make decisions in placing their child in a school.
Parents will get more support in obtaining a diagnosis for their child, while the ministry will work on improving confidence in special education schools (SPED).
"Any intervention to place a child in a more appropriate educational setting should be done only after the child has been observed in his or her original school setting," the panel said.
PARENTS MUST PROPOSE PLAN FOR EXEMPTED CHILDREN
Additionally, the panel recommends that certain groups of children with moderate to severe special educational needs be exempted from compulsory education.
Children who are home-schooled will only be granted exemption if parents are able to show evidence, based on MOE guidelines, that they are able to provide quality education for their child, the panel said.
This must be laid out in an individualised educational plan. "Parents should be required to submit annual progress reports and updated IEPs for the following year and submit to home visits as necessary," it added.
For those deemed unsuitable to attend national primary schools, parents would be required to justify why the child’s needs cannot be met in these schools and be responsible for making education and care arrangements for their child.
"Where there has been evidence that the child’s educational interests are not being met in the alternative educational setting, MOE should consider revoking the exemption granted and require the child to be placed in an appropriate education setting, where possible, or be referred to social support agencies," the panel said.
In deliberating its recommendations, Dr Puthucheary said the panel kept in mind the following key principles - that all Singaporean children should be supported in the educational settings appropriate for their needs and parents have the primary responsibility for ensuring that their child attends school.
"HEARTENING" THAT EDUCATIONAL NEEDS OF CHILDREN WAS KEY CONSIDERATION: MINISTER
Accepting the recommendations, Mr Ng noted that the panel had taken in the views of a wide range of stakeholders, including parents, special education and mainstream school leaders and staff as well as voluntary welfare organisations and advocates for children with special needs.
Mr Ng said that through the report, and the many discussions the panel had with the special educational needs community, it was "heartening to note" that that the educational interests of children with special educational needs was "the key consideration".
He added that MOE will continue to work closely with community partners, and ensure that SPED schools are affordable, accessible and provide quality education.
MOE said it will release further details on implementation processes at a later date.