Speech for SPD Education Programme 2012
18 Feb 2012
SPEECH BY MS CHIA YONG YONG, PRESIDENT, SPD BOARD OF MANAGEMENT & CHAIRPERSON, SPD EDUCATION PROGRAMME, AT THE SPD EDUCATION PROGRAMME AWARDS PRESENTATION CEREMONY ON SATURDAY 18 FEBRUARY 2012, AT 3PM AT SOCIETY FOR THE PHYSICALLY DISABLED.
Mr Heng Swee Keat
Minister for Education
MP for Tampines GRC
Mr Vivek Kamra, Chief Executive Officer
NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd
Ladies and gentlemen
Boys and girls
01. On behalf of SPD, I would like to thank our Guest-of-Honour, Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, and each of you, for attending the ceremony this afternoon.
02. At SPD, we would like to see Singapore become an inclusive community, where persons with disabilities live and think as a part of the larger community, where they are accepted as such.
03. The budget announced yesterday was farsighted and courageous in embracing the less privileged in our nation. As one commentator puts it: how we treat the disadvantaged among us reflects on the quality of our nation building. The budget sets a fundamental note in building an inclusive community. Just as important is the shaping of attitudes.
04. Here is where education and educators play a significant, if not critical, role.
05. The importance of education can never be over emphasized. It paves the prospects for the student.
06. But more than just an improved standard of living for themselves, we should look at the broader picture of one community. We hope persons with disabilities can be enabled, not just to be independent, but to contribute to that one community.
SPD, A HOLISTIC PROVIDER OF INTEGRATION SUPPORT SERVICES
07. SPD takes a holistic approach in integration. Nonetheless, since this is the Education Awards ceremony, I will focus on education.
08. There is no better way than to start shaping the values and world views of our children while they are young. We believe that when children learn and grow together, and learn to care beyond themselves, they learn to accept each other for their differences. When children with and without disabilities grow up together in mainstream schools, the process of integration is eased, and should continue into adulthood.
09. Recognising the power of mainstream school education, SPD has, through the SPD Education Programme, for over 25 years been helping to support students with physical disabilities in mainstream schools, as well as students whose parents have physical disabilities. With this year’s disbursement of close to $90,000 to more than 120 students, we would have disbursed nearly $2.8 million in education bursaries to help over 3,300 students.
10. We hope that the bursaries will lighten the financial burdens of our students and their families so that our students may put their hearts and souls into achieving their academic goals.
11. In addition, we have the SPD Youth Aspiration Award. The award aims to inspire talented youths with physical disabilities to pursue their interests in visual and/or performing arts, sports and community service, to achieve their fullest potential and lead productive and meaningful lives. The SPD Youth Aspiration Award provides a grant of up to $5,000 per recipient each year. We congratulate this year’s recipient, Tay Wei Ming. Wei Ming is very talented badminton player. He has represented and won medals for Singapore in many local and international competitions. He is training now to win gold medals at the next Asian Para Games in 2014, and is truly an inspiration and exemplary role model to all of us, showing us that physical limitations present no barrier to achieving our dreams and aspirations.
12. Apart from financial awards, SPD offers early intervention, therapy services, social support, subsidised tuition support, and even employment support to level the playing field for students with physical disabilities.
13. SPD’s Therapy Outreach Programme for Pre-Schoolers, or TOPPS, provides professional support to pre-school operators, teachers and parents to equip them with skills to meet the special needs of the children with mild learning difficulties under their care. A main objective of TOPPS is to help these children keep up with their peers in the education cycle.
14. The Ministry of Education has been very supportive towards children with special needs, providing each school with Special Needs Officers, Allied Educators and Counsellors. As students with mild learning difficulties face challenges learning in mainstream schools, we hope to complement the Ministry’s efforts by introducing TOPPS to mainstream schools to provide professional advice, information and strategies.
15. On top of the direct help we extend to our students and our current caregiver support services, we are also planning to conduct workshops, training and activities for our caregivers to help them cope.
16. SPD would not have been able to help our clients without the support of our partners, the community and their contributions towards the SPD Education Programme. We thank our main sponsor NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd for supporting the SPD Education Programme Bursary Awards for the last four years. Your partnership is one we value highly, and we are greatly encouraged that you share in our belief in investing in the future of our students through education. Thank you for playing a part in paving the way for a brighter future for each of them.
17. We would also like to thank the Ministry of Education for their continuing support towards inclusive education for students with physical disabilities. We hope to continue to work with the Ministry to better address the challenges faced by disabled students such as transportation, to create supportive networks within schools, and to provide support to these students’ enrolment to suitable schools. Although much has been done, we are aiming to do more to ensure a successful academic path for our students with physical disabilities.
18. If I may quote the Minister for Finance, in his Budget speech he said: “The real story, however, is not just helping families cover their fees and costs in school. What we are providing is breadth of exposure to every child regardless of family background in a way that few school systems overseas do.”
19. This aptly describes our aspiration for children with disabilities as well.
20. We congratulate our students and Wei Ming today and hope that what you receive from SPD and from the community will equip you for a successful and fruitful life. When you grow up, remember that you are also a part of this larger community and use your heart, abilities and skills to serve this community that helped put you where you are.
21. Thank you, and good day!