At the Special Education (SPED) Conference today, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced the launch of the MOE-Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) Work Experience Programme; the introduction of the draft Outcomes and Curriculum Framework for all SPED schools; and the launch of guidelines for the assessment of children with special needs for professionals in the sector.
These measures will improve the quality of the curriculum and vocational education, and appropriate educational placement of special needs students.
MOE-SNEFWork Experience Programme
The MOE-SNEF Work Experience Programme aims to encourage more employers to offer authentic work experience opportunities to students with mild intellectual disability (MID). In 2010, MOE and SNEF had partnered seven employers from a wide range of industries to pilot a work experience prototype for 31 SPED students in four schools undergoing vocational preparation programme. From 2012, the formalised MOE-SNEF Work Experience Programme will be open to SPED1 schools which are preparing students with MID for vocational certification or open employment. Schools should have a comprehensive vocational education programme or curriculum in place.
The Work Experience Programme will be a structured educational experience in which students carry out a job or part of a job in a real work setting for a period ranging between a few weeks and a year. This is a critical component of the Vocational Education programme in SPED schools as it allows students to become familiar with the demands of a real life work environment while being supported by job coaches from the schools. As such, the support of employers and a sustained partnership with SPED schools are important.
MOE and SNEF will reach out to more employers to offer work experience opportunities to SPED students. Organisations can offer these opportunities to SPED students as one of their Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. Employers can also assess the suitability of these SPED students as potential employees. Besides training SPED students, the Work Experience Programme will also allow other employees of the organisation to develop and enhance their leadership and mentoring skills.
Outcomes and Curriculum Framework
A SPED Outcomes and Curriculum Framework will be introduced to guide all SPED schools in their curriculum design. The draft framework will be circulated to all SPED schools by the end of November 2011. It sets out the vision for special education, the desired outcomes that SPED students should achieve when they graduate, and a common set of curriculum standards to guide teaching and learning to achieve the outcomes.
By specifying the outcomes, the framework will enable SPED schools and the sector to meaningfully measure and report student outcomes related to living, learning and working and make further improvements to curriculum design. SPED schools are encouraged to examine how best to align their curricular goals with the draft framework, and map the standards to suit the needs of their unique student populations.
The draft framework was developed by a workgroup formed in March 2011. The workgroup comprised Principals, paraprofessionals, teachers and curriculum specialists from SPED schools spanning all special needs groups. In developing the draft framework, the workgroup had consulted the wider SPED community, reviewed literature and held several discussions.
MOE will continue to conduct extensive consultations with all SPED schools in 2012 to refine the framework and ensure that it is meaningful and relevant for the different special needs. The final version of the framework is targeted to be released at the end of 2012. From 2012, MOE will also support schools in implementing the framework with suitable training in curriculum development and design, as well as pedagogy.
Professional Practice Guidelines on Appropriate Education Programmes
To better help parents make informed decisions about the education programmes that are more appropriate for their child, MOE, in collaboration with key stakeholders in the sector, launched a set of Professional Practice Guidelines (PPG) on the Psycho-educational Assessment2 and Placement of Students3 with Special Educational Needs at the SPED Conference today.
With the diversification of the landscape and the availability of more specialised education programmes for students with special needs in recent years, it is important to ensure that professionals providing assessment and advice to parents regarding their children’s special needs have a shared understanding of best practices that are appropriate to the local context and needs of our students.
The PPG, developed by an inter-agency workgroup4 formed in March 2010, establish a shared understanding so that professionals5 providing recommendations to parents offer consistent views on a child’s special educational needs, and help parents make informed decisions about the education programmes that are appropriate for their child. The guidelines for parents will be developed next year.
Building on the guidelines, MOE will continue to partner the various stakeholders and set up a Multi-Agency Advisory Panel in 2012 to study more ways of helping parents navigate the special education landscape and facilitate appropriate educational planning and placement for their child with special needs. This could include streamlining admission processes in SPED schools. MOE will also study ways of providing educational counselling and support to help parents cope with and make informed decisions about school placement of their child with special educational needs.
- The schools are Metta School, Delta Senior School, Grace Orchard School, Tanglin School and Katong School.↩
- Psycho-educational assessment is a systematic process of gathering information about a student and his interactions with the environment to understand learning and developmental concerns, and to assist with appropriate educational planning.↩
- There are currently two broad categories of educational placement in Singapore: mainstream schools and SPED schools. SPED schools offer a specialised curriculum to cater to the needs of students with different types of disability. In addition, some SPED schools offer both mainstream and specialised curriculum.↩
- The inter-agency workgroup included specialists and professionals from MOE, Department of Child Development from the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Department of Paediatrics Unit from the National University Hospital, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry from the Institute of Mental Health, National Council of Social Service, and voluntary welfare organisations running SPED schools.↩
- These professionals include psychologists, medical and allied health professionals (e.g., occupational therapists, speech and language therapists) who are involved in advising parents about the special educational needs and placement of students with special needs.↩