Theme: Going Beyond…
Mr Gan Kim Yong
Minister of State for Education and Manpower
Mr See Cher
President, The Society for the Physically Disabled
Mr Harry Elias
Founding Partner, Harry Elias Partnership
Ladies and gentlemen
Boys and girls
1. On behalf of the SPD Board of Management, I would like to thank our Guest-of-Honour, Mr Gan for taking time off his busy schedule to attend the ceremony this morning. I would also like to congratulate the students for the hard work you have put into your studies in the past year and making it to the next level of your educational journey. Some of you are at the beginning of the journey while others have come a long way. In a year or two, some of you will be entering the next phase of life, of putting the skills learnt in employment and be self-reliant.
2. I would like to take this opportunity too to commend parents and caregivers for your dedication and perseverance in overcoming the barriers that come along the way, be it in school or in everyday life. You deserve our deepest respect and admiration.
Beyond Financial Assistance
3. Why is it that some people grew up to be confident and resilient individuals, while some under-achieve, despite their educational background? There are at least two different schools of thoughts about this; nature or nurture.
4. I believe that while personality and for some of us, physical disability are inherent factors, the major determinant is really how much learning opportunities children and youth with physical disabilities have access to in order to develop them into confident and well-rounded individuals. This is the reason why SPD Education Programme is going beyond providing financial support, to a holistic approach of support, to address their educational, socio-emotional development, rehabilitation and pre-employment readiness of children and youth with physical disability.
5. Children and youth now have the opportunities to participate in the academic and non-academic programmes, which are often limited due to their disability, disability of their parents or financial circumstances. In partnership with reputable training providers such as British Council, we hope that the academic programmes would supplement the efforts of mainstream schools while the non-academic enrichment programmes focusing on self-development and career development would prepare children and youth with disability for adulthood and work life. So look out for the 2006 training calendar on our website.
6. It is a known fact that the first few years of a child’s life are crucial years for development. Hence, it is also important that children with disability are extended the necessary support and rehabilitation early. Operational since November last year, the SPD Paediatric Rehabilitation Programme will provide early intervention, school preparatory programme and continuing therapy support services to children age between 0 to 16 years.
Beyond the child or youth with disability
7. We believe that integration does not take place in isolation. SPD must work with people of significance to the child or youth with disability. It is not difficult for anyone of us to identify at least a teacher, a friend or a family member who is a source of encouragement and has a positive impact on our lives.
8. SPD is committed to working with the schools, teachers, caregivers to enable them to be effective agents of inclusion and integration.
9. For example, it is not uncommon that physically disabled students are exempted from physical education classes. We will impart physical educators and teachers with the knowledge and skills of adapting their lessons so that physically disabled students too can learn from such valuable experiential lessons about teamwork, perseverance, etc.
10. SPD is also partnering with Methodist Children and Youth Centre to extend and customise the Positive Parenting Programme for physically disabled parents and parents of physically disabled children and youth. Apart from getting tips on parenting, parents could also learn from one another’s experience of parenting children with special needs.
A Case Example
11. As an example of how the various SPD supports yield positive results, I wish to share the case of Anthony Tan. Anthony has been a recipient of the SPD Education Programme since he was studying in primary school. Beside the bursary award, Anthony participated actively in the various learning & development activities. He recently completed a digital filming and video editing course and Macromedia Flash 8 Basic course to learn e-card designing. He was also assessed by our Specialised Assistive Technology Centre and was assisted in modification of his motorised wheelchair. This will facilitate his mobility. Today, Anthony is a confident young lad and he wants to pursue a career in Information Technology. His prospects look bright, having obtained 9 points in the N level examination last year and he will proceed to do his O level studies this year. SPD will continue to support and nurture him through educational and care management support. SPD will continue to work with different partners to provide an inclusive education for students with physical disabilities.
Call for partnership in inclusion
12. We believe that Ministry of Education, schools and teachers are best positioned to create an environment that facilitates integration as students spend about half of their waking hours in schools. Schools are small communities within a larger one. However, the level of support for and integration of physically disabled students varies from one school to another.
13. We hope that the government would take a concerted approach to supporting students with disability in the mainstream school by putting in place a structured system of support within the education system, akin the creation of Special Needs Officer positions in mainstream schools to support the educational needs of children with mild autism spectrum disorder and dyslexia.
14. We are pleased that MOE is willing to extend its helping hand to families with physically disabled children. We understand that the Ministry assists these children to locate and obtain a place either in the nearest school with handicap facilities or nearest their home that can best suit their needs. This demonstrates that in order to make inclusion happen, apart from ‘hardware’, which is physical access, ‘heart ware’ is equally important as it enables families to exercise choice of school that is willing and can best meet the special needs of the student with physical disability.
15. SPD will continue to complement the schools’ efforts through providing a range of support services and programmes namely care management, school support, learning and developmental programmes and paediatric rehabilitation. Designated as the Specialised Assistive Technology Centre for people with physical disability, SPD had also enabled 50 students in mainstream schools to improve their learning through the use of assistive technology. We hope to work closely with MOE schools to enable the rest of the physically disabled students harness on the benefits of assistive technology.
16. This year, SPD saw a 35% growth in the number of physically disabled students eligible for the bursary award. In total, SPD will be supporting 282 families with either physically disabled students or students whose parents are physically disabled.
17. To sustain the Education Programme in the long run, we hope to forge a formal partnership and collaboration with MOE. To facilitate the discussion with Ministry, SPD has submitted a proposal in September last year to be a major service provider to support students with physical disabilities in mainstream schools. We look forward to hearing from MOE the outcome of our proposals and the role SPD could play in helping students with physical disability.
18. The SPD Education Programme was made possible by the generous contribution and involvement of corporate partners who share our vision and hope for people with disability.
19. I wish to record our thanks to Harry Elias Partnership for its generous contribution towards the SPD Education Programme Bursary Award 2006, and will continue to support the bursary for 2007 as well. We also thank StarHub for setting up the StarHub-SPD Learning & Development Centre launched in Sep last year. This Centre will provide both academic and non-academic programmes to enrich our students. To Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation, we are grateful for the scholarship scheme it initiated in 2004 to encourage and nurture academically talented physically disabled students. And to the Singapore Exchange and Caltex Singapore for being our valued partners in supporting the other needs of our students.
20. Once again, I congratulate you for your achievement in education and we look forward to walking this journey with you.
May I take this opportunity to wish one and all a happy and fruitful year ahead.