S$3.6m Help for Dyslexic Students

S$3.6m Help for Dyslexic Students

Date
Thursday, 08 March 2012

Media Type
Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE: The Education Ministry is piloting a S$3.6 million school-based dyslexia programme in 20 mainstream primary schools.

The programme will target Primary 3 pupils identified through a screening process by the end of Primary 2.

It's part of the ministry's efforts to improve the quality, accessibility and affordability of special education (SPED).

Primary 3 student Lee Wei Jun had trouble understanding what he was reading because there were a lot of words he could not decipher.

Late last year, he was assessed to be dyslexic. But he is now improving, thanks to a special class taught by an Allied Educator, who is helping him visualise what he is reading.

The lessons, conducted four times a week outside school hours, are part of the school-based pilot programme.

Previously, students with dyslexia who needed more help could go for extra classes conducted by the Dyslexia Association of Singapore. But the Education Ministry said many of the younger students have found it difficult to travel to these centres for special classes outside of school hours.

Ms Junainah Sadar, Allied Educator (Learning & Behavioral Support) at Greenridge Primary School, said: "There's a close partnership between parents, teachers and us. Because it's school-based, the level of communication is very tight."

The ministry will also streamline the application process for special education (SPED) schools by setting up a Multi-Agency Advisory Panel.

The panel will develop a standard application process for all 20 such schools.

"With the standard application process, parents would not have to make multiple applications to different SPED schools - only one will be required. We aim to implement this fully by October 2012," said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Sim Ann in Parliament on Thursday.

Turning to affordability, as announced in Budget 2012, the household income ceiling for the SPED Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) will be raised from S$1,500 to S$2,500.

Larger families with per capita income of S$625 or less will also be eligible for the revised SPED FAS. About 1,500 SPED students are expected to benefit from the enhanced FAS, up from 600 students who benefit from the existing FAS.

Students on the SPED FAS will receive a full waiver of school fees, free textbooks and uniforms and a 75% waiver of examination fees.

Ms Sim Ann also explained how the Education Ministry plans to improve the quality of teaching and learning in SPED schools.

She said the ministry has already been actively expanding training opportunities for SPED teachers.

"All untrained teachers who join SPED schools have to undergo a one-year full-time training programme at NIE, leading to the Diploma in Special Education (DISE)," said Ms Sim Ann.

"Senior teachers and Heads of Departments in SPED schools can acquire management skills in the NIE Management and Leadership in Schools (MLS) programme. We also offer scholarships to SPED teachers to pursue Masters degrees at both NIE and overseas universities."

"We are exploring the possibility of working with overseas partners to offer a SPED undergraduate degree programme," added Ms Sim Ann.

Besides teacher training, the curriculum development in SPED schools will also be strengthened.

A draft Curriculum Framework launched last November, which specifies a set of Education Outcomes and Learning Standards that SPED students should attain after 12 years of education, will be developed further.

Curriculum Leadership Teams will also be formed in all SPED schools.

The Education Ministry is also looking at ways to retain talent in the sector so that expertise and knowledge can be continually built up.

She said: "MOE will support NCSS (National Council of Social Services) and VWOs in reviewing salaries in SPED schools, so that schools can continue to attract and retain talented and committed teachers, Allied Health Professionals and other staff members. Additional funding will be available for SPED schools to effect salary increases this year."

And with the recent announcement to extend the Special Employment Credit to SPED graduates, Ms Sim said the ministry will also focus on more ways to prepare these students for future employment. 

Source: Channel NewsAsia