Mr Koh Nai Teck, President of The Society for the Physically Disabled,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Boys and Girls
1 Good morning. I am happy to be here today to present the Society for the Physically Disabled Education Programme Awards. These awards were first made available in 1985, to provide encouragement and support for disabled students and students with disabled parents, who are pursuing their academic ambitions. Education is of paramount importance for all of us, regardless of the physical challenges we may face, and the SPD awards play a crucial role in propelling young Singaporeans towards higher levels of academic achievement.
Opportunities for the Disabled
2 People with disabilities can also be full and active members of society. They should be able to live as independently as possible and lead a full life. This should be the concern of everyone – the family, the community and the Government.
3 Government therefore works hand in hand with parents and the community to better complement each other and co-ordinate efforts to help the disabled. This “many helping hands” approach harnesses the passion and participation of the people sector. This in turn encourages an active citizenry and nurtures a strong spirit of volunteerism in Singaporeans.
Many Helping Hands in Education
4 The “Many Helping Hands” approach has worked well in the field of education. All our schools provide support for the learning needs of pupils, within the capacity of our educational resources. Parents play an important role in helping their child by providing a home environment conducive for their child’s learning. Community groups, including self-help groups, voluntary welfare organisations and other providers of professional services, form a key part of our overall learning support resources for pupils. By working together, we ensure that all our children, including those with special needs, have access to the opportunities they need to participate fully in the economy and society.
5 MOE and NCSS work closely with Volunteer Welfare Organisations (VWOs) to plan for and support children with special needs. Both are represented on the School Management Committees of special schools, which comprise volunteers. MOE also gives professional advice to schools and facilitates the sharing of best practices among the teachers.
6 Special schools are provided with funding for both development and recurrent expenditure. MOE funds 90% of development expenditure. For recurrent expenditure, MOE funds the normal cost of primary school education plus 50% of any additional cost up to 2.5 times the normal cost of primary school education. The cost-sharing formula involves the community at large in looking after the welfare needs of the less fortunate members of society.
7 Children with learning or physical disabilities, who are able to follow the mainstream curriculum, are provided places in mainstream schools. Since 1999, MOE has increased its provision of facilities and resources for pupils with sensory impairments and physical disabilities. Under MOE’s PRIME (Programme for Rebuilding and Improving Schools) project, 28 primary and 25 secondary schools are already fitted with full facilities for the physically disabled. These schools are geographically spread out so that pupils with physical disabilities are able to access them easily.
8 MOE has also been conducting school-based workshops for teachers covering topics on learning difficulties, reading difficulties, learning disabilities and behaviour management. We have published and disseminated information to all serving teachers on common learning disabilities like dyslexia, autism and ADHD.
9 To give additional support, MOE will provide Educational Assistive Devices (EADs) for pupils with physical disabilities in mainstream schools from March 03. Examples of EADs are specialised computer keyboards, typing aids, page turners and book holders. These EADs will help pupils with physical disabilities overcome their physical limitations, and will enhance their learning capabilities.
10 Currently, MOE is working with SPD and AWWA TEACH ME Services to identify pupils who will benefit from Educational Assistive Devices, and to assess their specific needs. This assessment ensures that pupils will get devices best suited to their needs.
11 Going forward, MOE will continue to support the work of Voluntary Welfare Organisations, such as SPD, so that, together we can succeed in our efforts to enrich the lives of the disabled and help them reach their full potential. I am glad to note that SPD has a wide variety of programmes and services, ranging from the provision of education awards to the running of rehabilitative centres, to enhance the well-being of the disabled. Many lives have been touched by your efforts. One example is Dr William Tan. He received a grant from SPD to pursue his post-graduate studies some years ago, which gave him the chance and means to excel, despite being wheelchair-bound. Today, he is recognised and honoured by the Singapore Red Cross Society, Reader’s Digest, and other organisations for his determination, strength and generosity. He makes it his life’s work to give back to the community, for example, by raising funds through numerous marathons for the physically disabled and other worthy social causes, by volunteering with different organisations, and by giving motivational talks at various local and international forums.
The Disabled in Society
12 Like everyone else, people with disabilities have a part to play in society. By showing fortitude, determination, creativity and resourcefulness in transcending your physical limitations, you are an example to all Singaporeans. By overcoming adversity, you encourage those around you to overcome their own difficulties and inspire others to excel and challenge themselves to discover their strengths.
13 Society, in turn, has a responsibility to people with disabilities. The successful integration of disabled people in society will require human understanding and empathy by the public. Society at large must reach out to people with disabilities, recognise their potential and accept them as fellow members of society. For disability programmes and services to succeed, they need willing and available Singaporeans to volunteer their time and energy. We need more Singaporeans to step forward and play a part in helping those who are in need. Singaporeans have to come together to encourage people who need just a little more help to keep up. The “Many Helping Hands” approach remains as relevant as ever as society faces new challenges and complex issues. A comprehensive provision of services and programmes for the disabled requires a strong collaboration between the government, citizens and the voluntary sector. By working together, we strengthen the bonds of society. By recognising our mutual obligations to fellow Singaporeans, including the less fortunate, we contribute to a more cohesive and resilient society, better able to cope with adversity and difficult times.
14 In closing, I would like to thank the Society for the Physical Disabled for supporting so many students in their educational endeavours. To the award recipients today, I hope that you will be encouraged by this award to pursue your education to the fullest measure.
15 Congratulations and all the best in your future endeavours.