If they really care, then fund special needs education

October 1, 2014
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Mr Teo Ser Luck, chastised Mr Roy Ngerng and Ms Han Hui Hui for frightening the children with special needs during the protest at Hong Lim Park on Saturday.$CUT$

He said: “The children are my utmost concern.” His party mates wasted no time in piling it on, waxing eloquent about how special needs children need to be protected.

Below is a compilation taken from the blogsite Singapore Notes of what the PAP MPs said:

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin: “I am appalled. We now heckle special needs children? Vile. Total and absolute disgrace.”

Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing: “To cause alarm and distress to special needs children, and disrupting their routine cannot be right no matter how righteous you think your own cause may be.”

MP Janil Puthucheary: “No excuse for bad behaviour, but especially not directed at kids.”

MP Zaqy Mohamad: “A pity that special needs children were heckled by protesters at event by YMCA at Hong Lim Park.”

MP Ang Wei Neng: “There was no good reason for the bloggers to heckle children with special needs and hurl vulgarities.”

MP Tin Pei Ling: “What have these special needs children done to deserve being heckled down?”

If these MPs cared so much for children with special needs, it would save everyone a lot of trouble if they amended the Compulsory Education Act (CEA).

In 2003, the Government passed the CEA to make it compulsory for families to enroll their children in school. The stated objective of the Act is to “give our children a common educational experience which will help to build national identity and cohesion.”

But the CEA excludes children with special needs, that is, it is not compulsory for these children to attend school. Education for them is left entirely to their parents who are often unable to afford sending them to special schools.

At the moment, only children with mild disabilities attend regular schools. The rest have to attend special schools run by Voluntary Work Organisations (VWO).

The question is why. Why are they not given a similar experience to “build national identity and cohesion”? Are they lesser Singaporeans? Are they any less worthy of government support? Why are they discriminated against?

We raised this subject in our alternative education policy paper Education for Creativity and Equality: An Agenda for Transformation which we launched in May this year. We proposed, among other measures, the following:

  1. Amend the CEA to include all children. Don’t discriminate against children with special needs, they are Singaporeans too and they deserve to be treated equally.
     
  2. MOE takes over Special Needs Education instead of leaving it to VWOs. In this way, special needs children from poorer families can also attend school.
     
  3. Provide effective training for MOE teachers to enable them to undertake special education.

Click here to read the full paper.

The MPs can take the lead by proposing these measures at the next Parliament sitting and show Singaporeans that they genuinely care for children with special needs. 

Otherwise, they run the danger of being accused of using the children to take potshots at the protesters and score cheap political points.

Singaporeans will be watching.