More aid for special schools' training needs

PHOTO: More aid for special schools' training needs

SINGAPORE - On one special school's shopping list: digital cameras and iPads to enhance the learning experience of its students.

These items are what the Asian Women's Welfare Association (AWWA) School plans to buy with the extra funding it has received from the Ministry of Education (MOE).

From this year, all special education (Sped) schools will get a top-up of $400 for each teacher's training needs. This is in addition to the $1,100 already available, making it a total of $1,500 annually.

While the original sum was made available to all staff involved in special education - including psychologists or allied health professionals - only registered teachers will get the top-up.

Twenty special schools will be able to use the money to send teachers for training courses, or to buy teaching resources.

AWWA School's principal, Mrs Ruby Seah, welcomed the additional funding.

"We will be using the funds to buy assistive devices. For example, some of our students aren't able to turn knobs on household appliances, so we need flip switches so they can use them," she said.

The school, which has about 80 registered teachers, also plans to buy iPads and use them as communicative tools for students who have difficulty speaking or writing.

The increased funding was announced at the inaugural Sped Learning Day yesterday.

Minister of State for Education and Communications and Information Sim Ann, who spoke at the biennial event at the Singapore Expo, said that the additional funds were geared at improving the quality of special education.

"We need to make sure that every additional dollar placed in Sped is a dollar well spent - that every additional bit of resource... will help programmes that improve student outcomes and make a difference to their lives."

She also awarded three graduate scholarships to special education teachers who wish to further their studies.

One of the scholarship recipients was Ms Prathibah Pillai, who intends to take a year-long master's degree course in special education in Flinders University, Australia.

She used to work in the banking and finance industry, but decided seven years ago to switch to the special education field.

Now the 31-year-old teaches 17- and 18-year- old special needs students the basics of finance, such as how to manage their money.

"I felt that they needed the assistance, and I wanted to help them," she said. "Every day is a learning journey - for them and for me."

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