Ms Chia Yong Yong
President of SPD
Mr Vivek Kamra
President & CEO, NatSteel Holdings
Parents and Students
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. It gives me great pleasure to be here with all of you this morning. I would like to start by extending my heartiest congratulations to all the recipients of the SPD Education Programme bursary as well as the winners of the SPD Youth Aspiration Award. I believe your family and friends must be very proud of you.
2. As many of you would be aware, the Government has been steadily improving support over the years, to uplift the quality, accessibility and affordability of SPED.
3. To raise quality, we have enhanced professional development opportunities of SPED teachers because we believe that quality teachers is key to quality Special Education. We have also developed the SPED Curriculum Framework, which serves as a guide to schools to achieve living, learning and working outcomes for our students.
4. To enhance accessibility, we have been upgrading our SPED school infrastructure and expanding the capacity of SPED schools to ensure timely admission of students.
5. To make SPED more affordable, the government provides SPED schools with higher per capita funding than in mainstream schools, and we have also put in place other measures, such as extending the Edusave Scheme through our SPED schools and introducing Financial Assistance Schemes to help parents with SPED-related expenses.
SPD’s Role for the Sector
6. But events such as today’s ceremony remind us of how valuable it is when members of the community come together to build an inclusive society where persons with disabilities are recognised and empowered. SPD has been playing a key role in this area over the past 50 years.
7. In particular, education is an important enabler and we are happy to see SPD’s commitment in providing youths with disabilities and those whose parents have disabilities with equal opportunities to quality education despite the challenges they face.
8. Last year, SPD signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Singapore Management University (SMU) to increase support for students with disabilities in SMU, and at the same time, develop and promote best practices for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in our institutions of higher learning (IHLs). Besides partnering SMU, SPD also works closely with organisations such as NatSteel Holdings to enhance educational support for students with disabilities through the very meaningful SPD Education Programme. Not only does the programme provide financial assistance through bursaries to families who need help, it also develops and provides these students with opportunities to fulfill aspirations and have their talents and abilities recognised.
Developments in the Disability Sector
9. Apart from SPD, there are other efforts made by people sector to plug gaps in the disability sector and to spur greater collaboration among agencies, voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) and research centres. MOE collaborates with VWOs to provide school-based support services for students with physical disabilities in mainstream schools. This includes conducting awareness talks for teachers and peers, to help school personnel better understand the learning and social needs of students with physical disabilities. VWOs’ professional teams also assess individual students’ learning needs and recommend appropriate educational provisions for them, including the use of assistive technology, if needed.
10. Another example of collaboration would be the Tote Board’s recent pledge of $30 million funding through the Tote Board Enabling Lives Initiative for projects in the sector. Projects funded include those related to caregivers’ support, innovation in assistive technology and transition management of persons with disabilities moving into different phases of life. Tote Board jointly administers this fund with the National Council for Social Service (NCSS) and SG Enable, with a portion of the fund channeled towards public education purposes to raise awareness on disability issues.
11. The introduction of such initiatives helps to ensure that persons with disabilities and their caregivers receive greater support. Public education efforts also serve to help our society become more inclusive. I am heartened to see joint efforts from various pockets of society coming together to empower and support more people with the quest to fulfill aspirations and better lives.
Award Winners as Lifelong Contributors
12. It is inspiring to hear the stories of our bursary award recipients. All of you deserve a big round of applause for your perseverance and achievement. I hope that you will continue in this attitude of diligence and conscientiousness throughout your lives.
13. My heartiest congratulations to the three recipients of the SPD Youth Aspiration Award of the year – 16-year-old Gregory Ong, 23-year-old Muhammad Diroy Bin Noordin and 21-year-old Sim Yu Xiang.
14. There is much more to Gregory than his shy disposition reveals. I am told that he is very active in sports and has not allowed the effects of cerebral palsy to stop him from excelling in hand-cycling. Gregory has participated in many major races. He is now training hard to be selected for Team Singapore for the next Paralympics. Similarly, Muhammad Diroy has not let dwarfism get in the way of his dreams. The self-motivated young man aspires to be a graphic designer. Diroy secured a place in a local polytechnic to further his dreams. Now, nearing graduation, Diroy looks forward to giving back to society with his design skills. Last but not least, we have Yu Xiang, a Sociology undergrad in NUS. Born with duchenne [pronounced “du-shenn”] muscular dystrophy, the avid music lover is passionate about singing and, encouraged by a professional musician friend and fellow YouTuber, started his first song video, a “happy birthday” song dedicated to his mother in 2009. Since then, he has been doing beautiful renditions of popular songs on his personal YouTube channel.
15. I hope that all of you would feel encouraged to pursue your aspirations – no matter how big or small they may seem. As Steve Jobs once said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking”. So to all the award winners today, don’t settle. Go as far as you can, to do as much as you can.
16. In conclusion, I would like to encourage all of you to go forth and build a bright future for yourselves, and to one day contribute to the community we call home.
17. Thank You.