Provide Suggestions to MOE on Primary School Systems

Your Chance to IMPROVE the Primary School Systems

Change- Gandhi

You have heard the plan to revamp the Primary School Systems .    The Primary Education Review and Implementation Committee (PERI) was set up by the Ministry of Education in October 2008 to look at ways to raise the quality of primary education.   The preliminary plan presented by the Committee is not final and they are still looking for your valuable comments.   

If you’ve noticed, the plan is incomplete as it does not cover the whole landscape of the Primary School Systems.  It does not address on special kids and does not cover needs from children with autism.   

Some Improvement Ideas

Here are areas that I see having rooms for improvements to make the Primary Schooling systems a better place for children with autism, for children likely to have autism but not assessed and for children who need extra help in academic.

Hopefully some of these ideas get included in the Plan.

1. More children with Autism = More School Cater for Autism

As autism is slowly gaining recognition and more parents are aware of autism, the number of autism cases are also on the rise.   How many times we heard parents complaining that their child is not able to get into schools catering for children with high-functioning autism?   How many parents are “forced” to send their child to mainstream schools after being “rejected” by good schools such as Pathlight because of no vacancy?  The number of school cater for autism is simply not enough.

Instead of building 18 more new school, could there be at least 1 more additional Pathlight-similar?  Can more facilities be built and designed for making teaching children with autism easier?  For example, a small quiet area/room in every level (P1, P2, P3…P6)  to pull out children from main class and separate children who need extra attentions and intervention during the school time.  

2. Autism Trained-Teachers and More SNOs

It is a good proposal in the Plan to improve the quality of the current teacher and introduce more engaging teaching methods.  Plan is to have teachers trained and specialized in certain subjects at upper primary school which includes Speech and Drama and conducting hands-on experiments.

However, can some teachers specialized in skills and methods to help children with autism?   Can all teachers (existing and newly recruited) attend at least the basic fundamental course in autism such as those conducted by Pathlight?    Can the teachers be trained in useful methods (e.g. Visual Aids) cater to children with learning disability?  In additional to the plan to train teacher to employ a range of assessement techniques and giving feedback, can they be also trained to identify the needs of children with ASD, identify which children who are likely to have autism and providing constructive feedback to parents.

When recruiting teachers, do not just focus on those who are degree holders but also recruit teachers with specialized skills such as those trained to handle special kids.    Although MOE has already have plan for SNOs in Primary School,  the number of schools which have SNOs and the number of SNOs are just not enough in the mainstream.

3. Defined Plans and Alternatives

The current plan is focused on mainstream system.  We need a systems and plan that is defined for special needs as well.   The current study path for children with autism, especially for high-functioning children, are lacking.  We need more options for them from choices of primary school, subjects and path after primary school.   Many parents currently experienced frustration and desperate when enrolling their children to the Primary School.  They are stuck in between as their children with high-functioning autism are not suitable to attend the special schools and schools like Pathlight are limited in vacancies.   Many are “forced” to put their kids at the mainstream school.   There should be more schools that are somewhere in between the special schools and the mainstream school which has transitional nature.   The aims of these Autism-freindly school should be preparing children for possibility to rejoin the mainstream schooling system later on, may it be upper Primary or in the Secondary School.  A transistional plan for these children with high-functioning autism should made more readily available.

More option for choice of subjects and examination scheme will be good.  Many children with autism are facing challenges learning both languages.  If the mainstream are allowing replacement of Chinese to something else (e.g, Arts and Sports) for examination and qualification to secondary school, this will be a great help.    Undeniably, Chinese is important especially in our current economic and political world.    If Children with autism is able to just take Chinese as a learning subject without examination and exempted from exam, then it is very beneficial to children.  Right now, parents need to write in specifically to MOE for exemption and many are not aware of this at all.  I suspect many school staffs are also not aware of what  can be exempted for children with autism and other helps available to them.   A clear guide should be published for all.

4. Autism Friendly Atmosphere

Many Primary Schools are striving to improve their “ranking” and performance in the PSLE results.   As such, there are cases that School Principles and staffs are turning away or having deaf-ears for parents having autism related issues and parents are left strained.   Parents have limited venues to turn for advices in term of schooling issues.   Child are labelled as “lazy”, “inattentive”, “slow” or even “stupid” because of lack of awareness of autism.    If autism awareness programmes are initated and promoted among school members, it will help to make Singapore school system a more autism friendly place to study and eliminate inferior-feeling among students.  

Maybe among all the awards and credits, efforts to help autism could be recognised and added as a performance scoring criteria for schools.  Teachers, Principles and SNOs who are active in promoting autism friendly atmosphere should be rewarded and awarded. 

5.  Life Skills and Extras

Among all the other skills that are added to the curriculum, maybe some essential knowledge such as life skills, social skills and communication skills could be incorporated.     How many children are officially taught how to deal with life critical lessons at young age such as handling of bullies, cyber threats, be street-smart and handling of other real life situations?  These skills are essential and some skills are needed for integrating to the society and even survival. These skills will not only benefits children with autism but students as a whole.

Tip Of the Iceberg

What I have touched so far are just tip of the iceberg, there are many other improvement areas that need to be raised and refined.    To do so, will require your help.    If you want to fight for a better place for your child schooling system, here is your chance to take action.   Propose your recommendations to MOE now.


Unite our effort and do it before 20 Feb 2009. 

Time to Change, ACT NOW, before it is too late! 

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  1. *Michael

    If you have any ideas on how and what to change for our Primary School Systems, please comments.

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