Standards, practices not laid down for Sped schools: IB Singapore

Standards, practices not laid down for Sped schools: IB Singapore

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Media Type
Channel NewsAsia

Singapore: It had hoped to be the first special education (Sped) school in Singapore to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum to its higher-functioning students. But the new St Gerard's International at Mountbatten Road had its suggestion turned down last week. 

IB Singapore said it has not laid down standards and practices for Sped schools, and that a great deal of research would be needed before one could be allowed to offer the IB curriculum.

This is despite the fact that of the 17 schools that offer the IB curriculum here, some - the Australian International and EtonHouse International schools for instance - do have special needs pupils who take the same IB syllabus as do the other students.

St Gerard's principal Vasugi Raman had planned to incorporate a modified IB syllabus so as to help its students integrate into mainstream education sooner. "Some students may be able to take on an IB curriculum, and offering them the option may be beneficial," she told MediaCorp.

Without the IB authorisation, the school will now run classes based on an international curriculum instead.

According to IB Singapore, the number of special needs students taking the IB syllabus remains small and each request is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

How do these few special students cope? At the Australian International School, special attention is paid to a child with learning needs and learning support teachers help guide the child during lesson time.

The Broadrick Road branch of EtonHouse International School has over 20 special needs students. The school's learning support coordinator, Ms Lorraine McGhie, said she has on occasion helped such students complete their tasks.

A child with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may need to be taken out of class for a while to work with alone, without distractions. "We will try to support the child in a variety of ways to ensure that he is not left out," said Ms McGhie.

The other 25 Sped schools here undertake a spectrum of curricula to address the different learning capabilities of their students. None has taken the IB route yet.

Pathlight School, for one, had previously considered offering the programme but decided on the Ministry of Education curriculum instead, as this would allow its students to integrate more easily with mainstream students in most local schools.

The school's founder, Ms Denise Phua, also pointed out that an autistic child who might be weaker in communication and social skills would find the IB curriculum challenging, as it focuses on teamwork and self-directed learning.

"It is important to analyse the learning needs and profile of the special-needs students before claiming categorically that the IB or modified IB programme is appropriate," she said.

Special needs professor at the National Institute of Education, Dr Noel Chia, said the IB syllabus would have to be modified to make it more suitable for a child with learning needs - such as allowing a longer time for examinations, using assistive technology or incorporating "hands on" aspects.

Source: Channel NewsAsia, sph