Professional development roadmap for special educational needs training for mainstream educators to be rolled out
SINGAPORE: A professional development roadmap to enhance special educational needs (SEN) training will be introduced for all educators in mainstream schools, announced Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah on Wednesday (Mar 4).
“We want every teacher in mainstream schools to become more skilled in supporting students with SEN. The Ministry of Education (MOE) will work with NIE (National Institute of Education) to strengthen the inclusion of SEN support strategies in pre-service teacher training,” said Ms Indranee, speaking in Parliament during the MOE Committee of Supply debate.
For teachers currently in service, MOE will launch bite-sized online learning resources in phases from this year, she added.
The roadmap will also provide more professional development opportunities for educators who “play a more specialised role in SEN support”, including allied educators in learning and behavioural support, teachers trained in special needs, as well as the school’s management team, said Ms Indranee.
According to MOE, the number of in-service training places for allied educators has increased from 60 to 600 from July 2019.
In a separate release, the Education Ministry said the roadmap will help educators to better support students with SEN who are able to cope with the national curriculum and learn in large group settings.
All educators will be equipped with a basic understanding of SEN, and the skills and strategies to support such students through more coverage of SEN in the pre-service curriculum, said MOE.
“To ensure our education system provides opportunities for all, MOE is also committed to supporting students with SEN to reach their fullest potential,” said Ms Indranee.
Ms Indranee also announced that the SEN fund available in polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education (ITE) will be extended to support students with a wider spectrum of learning needs, beyond those with sensory or physical impairments.
From April 2020, polytechnic and ITE students with learning and language difficulties such as dyslexia, or social and behavioural difficulties like Autism Spectrum Disorder, can use the SEN Fund to purchase assistive technology devices, with a cap of S$5,000, she said.
Adding that feedback on the SEN Fund has been positive, with about S$675,000 disbursed to benefit more than 120 students, she said: “It has helped students to keep up with academic learning and improve day-to-day interaction with peers.
"In my engagements with students with SEN at the polytechnics and ITE, they told me it would be helpful to extend the SEN Fund beyond physical disabilities. And they’re right ... Advancements in assistive technology devices have made it easier for students with other types of challenges to access education and prepare for independent work and life."
Autonomous universities will be extending the same support to their students with SEN for the purchase of assistive technology devices, said Ms Indranee.
“MOE will continue to work with schools and IHLs to strengthen support for students with SEN, to ensure that they, like all other students, receive the support they need to maximise their potential," she added.
SKILLSFUTURE FOR EDUCATORS
The SEN professional development roadmap is aligned with the SkillsFuture for Educators initiative announced by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung on Wednesday. One of the six areas of practice for educators is support for students with SEN.
The five others are assessment literacy, differentiated instruction, inquiry-based learning, e-pedagogy and character and citizenship education.
According to Mr Ong, the ministry surveyed teachers to ask them what skills they needed the most, and these six areas came up.
He also noted that others are concerned that with professional development, teachers “will have one more thing to worry about” beyond teaching and administrative duties.
“But professional development is not new. Teachers have been doing so for years,” said Mr Ong.
"Our teachers were very forthcoming with their inputs because they want to learn, be good at what they are doing, and grow in their careers. They do not see professional development and teaching duties as a zero-sum game."