Kudos for special schools' industry tie-up

Kudos for special schools' industry tie-up
Fulbright exchange programme teachers (from left) William Grosse, Lee Mun Yee and (far right) Ivin Chan from Singapore, and Andrew Scheef (centre) and Murchelle Brumfield from the United States.

Special education schools here have been praised for their strong tie-ups with industry partners.

Two American special education (Sped) teachers, who are in Singapore on a scholarship programme, said such industry partnerships here play a vital role in helping struggling students or those with special needs to find full-time jobs when they leave school.

"Schools hire people from various industries to be teachers, so students are trained by people very knowledgeable about the industry," said Mr Andrew Scheef, a Sped teacher at Moscow High School in Idaho.

Delta Senior School in Choa Chu Kang, for example, has training facilities such as a restaurant and garden which its 380 Sped students can use.

Ms Murchelle Brumfield, a Sped teacher at Lynwood Unified School District in southern California, said she hopes to encourage more industry partnerships when she goes back home. "(It is) not just giving money, but coming in to talk to teachers about the jobs they may need," she said. "It helps to prepare the students (for employment)."

However, Mr Scheef said one downside of the Sped system here is that mainstream learners do not mingle regularly with Sped students, unlike at his school where "students in the top 1 per cent of the class learn alongside students with significant disabilities".

"They might be learning different things, but they are side by side," he added.

The two teachers are in Singapore as part of a United States study exchange programme, the Fulbright Distinguished Awards. They shared their experiences at the Education Ministry's Teachers' Conference on Tuesday.

Alongside them were three local teachers who went on a similar exchange to the US, awarded by the US Embassy here. Among them was Mr Ivin Chan, who heads the science department at Anderson Secondary School.

As part of the Fulbright programme, he worked on a project in Washington DC on assessing a student's learning. He said teachers should design tasks or projects for students which encourage them to exhibit traits such as resilience.

"There must be some situation or environment for them to exhibit such a concept," he said.

One way is to get students to work on projects where failures and conflicts are inevitable. The teacher can get students to re-examine the areas where they went wrong and how they could have made the project succeed, said Mr Chan.

"Don't just focus on the product of the project, but relook the entire process of learning," he added.

This article was first published on June 6, 2014.
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