ITE-SPD Conference Inclusiveness: From Learners to Earners – Speech by Ms Chia Yong Yong

Ms Low Yen Ling, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Trade and Industry, and Mayor, South West CDC

Dr Yek Tiew Ming, Principal, ITE College East

Ms Jessica Tan, Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore

Distinguished speakers and guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,



1. Good morning. Welcome to the today’s conference jointly organised by the Institute of Education (ITE) and SPD. We are a voluntary welfare organisation that supports persons with disabilities. This is the first time that we are organising a conference together with ITE and we are very excited at the partnership formed in aid of people with disabilities and the community at large.

2. I understand that today, more students with special needs are continuing their studies in post-secondary institutions, including polytechnics and ITE. Many of these students are talented and can be nurtured to become effective contributing members of our community. However, we need to begin the preparation while they are still in school.

3. Through the conference today, themed ‘Inclusiveness: From Learners to Earners’, we aim to reach out to representatives from MOE schools, universities, polytechnics, ITEs and employers in Singapore, to bring everyone together to see possibilities, and initiate change with and for students with special needs, as we believe that every child should be nurtured to maximise their abilities and be given equal opportunities to realise their potential.


Support from the Government

4. We are encouraged that the Government has been stepping up efforts to assist students with special needs. The setting up of Disability Support Offices or DSOs in 2014 in all publicly-funded tertiary institutions was a significant step to aid students with disabilities in such institutions. Singaporean students with physical or sensory-related impairments in tertiary institutions can also make use of the Special Education Needs (SEN) Fund to purchase assistive technology devices and supporting services, such as sign language interpretation and Braille printing.

5. SPD has been engaging DSOs, some of which are represented here today, and we hope to work closely together to play a bigger role in integrating students with disabilities into your campuses. At the same time, we believe that we can also collaborate in building up capabilities to provide effective support for students with special needs as they grow and transit into the workforce.


SPD’s Focus on Education

6. SPD has always been supportive of education. It offers children with disabilities opportunities to an enhanced life. We believe that every child, including those with disabilities, has equal rights to education and we want to help them fulfill their educational aspirations. SPD started the SPD Education Programme 30 years ago to provide financial assistance to students with disabilities in mainstream schools. Today, the programme has evolved to become one that extends a holistic support to children with physical disabilities in their physical, intellectual as well as psychosocial development.

7. We also administer two tertiary education scholarships for students with disabilities – the Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Scholarship for Persons with Disabilities and the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship.

8. Today, we will witness four outstanding young people receiving their scholarship awards. Thank you Microsoft Singapore and Managing Director, Ms Jessica Tan, for seeing the potential in students with disabilities and offering the Microsoft YouthSpark scholarship for them to pursue tertiary education in Information Technology. While these students may have disabilities, they have demonstrated their ability to do well. So, my heartiest congratulations to Noah Si, Tan Jian Hao, Tan Jun Long and Raymond Zheng.


ITE’s Efforts in Supporting Students with Special Needs

9. Similarly, I applaud ITE for putting in place multiple measures to ensure that ITE students with special needs get the care and assistance required through their studies in ITE. At this point, it gives me great pleasure to share an uplifting story of a young man named Yi Wei, who is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at five. Yi Wei has a penchant for aeroplanes from young and aspires to be an aerospace engineer. In 2013, he completed his Nitec in Aerospace Technology course. With a strong desire to upgrade himself, Yi Wei went on to enrol for the Higher Nitec in Mechatronics Engineering course. This time, with a hungrier resolution, he approached the Learning Support Specialist team in ITE College Central and SG Enable to help him seek internship opportunities. During the course of the young man’s 10-week internship, he earned the admiration of his employers and co-workers for displaying stellar work performance and a positive work attitude. Naturally, he completed his Higher Nitec course swimmingly and achieved a GPA of 3.9. Today, Yi Wei is a student in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, pursuing his diploma in Aerospace Engineering and is one step closer to achieving his ambition.


SPD’s Collaboration with ITE

10. While SPD and ITE each drives our own efforts in education, we have also been working closely to facilitate the studies of students with special needs. SPD has supported ITE in the assessment, prescription and training of assistive technology devices for students with special needs, participated in roadshows and bazaars in the ITE campus to create disability awareness among students, and conducted a disability simulation exercise with one of the classes in Business School as a form of experiential learning.

11. At the corporate level, our professionals have conducted courses on accessible training materials and accessibility features on mainstream devices to ITE lecturers and staff, as well as a half day workshop involving ITE management in December 2015.

12. Moving forward, SPD and ITE will continue to work together to assist students with special needs in their pursuit of higher education. It will not and should not stop at higher education, and hence we are discussing how we can facilitate students’ transition to the workplace in today’s conference. We hope to see more partnership among schools and institutes of higher learning with SPD and other VWOs to facilitate students with special needs in their growth, be it academically or professionally.


Transition to the Workplace

13. With greater support from the Government, as well as schools, institutes of higher learning, teachers and professionals, students with special needs can receive better education and go on to have better job prospects. Students with disabilities will need the support of employers when they progress to the workplace. We are heartened that more employers are receptive to hiring persons with disabilities, providing them with opportunities to contribute to the economy and the society. If employers need assistance in hiring persons with disabilities, they could tap on schemes such as the Open Door Programme, the Special Employment Credit and the services of SG Enable. SPD also offers accommodation and job redesign consultancy services for employers, pre-employment training for job seekers with disabilities, as well as up to six months of post-employment support. With these available resources, we hope to see more employers practise inclusive hiring and offering more internship opportunities for students with special needs.


Today’s Conference

14. For today’s conference, we have invited a diverse range of speakers to share their specialisation in higher education and disabilities, assistive technology and accommodations, transition from school to the work place and various employment support services available to employers.

15. We hope that the conference will spur further discussions and encourage greater collaboration between VWOs, institutes of higher learning and employers to create more possibilities for students with special needs and enable them to transit smoothly from learners to earners.

16. I wish you an enriching day. Thank you.